If you’re anything like me, you can never get enough good sketchbook ideas. I’m always looking for ways to engage students so that they truly want to work in their sketchbooks. Whether you use sketchbooks for project planning, skill development, brainstorming, or something else, you’ll find ideas here that will work for you. My sketchbook assignments and prompts take an “all of the above” approach, making the following list well-rounded.
The list covers many bases and is organized by category. There are prompts about animals, food, people, and other things that will spark interest among students. This list is geared toward secondary students, but you’ll find a lot here that will work for younger students as well. Take a look and see what will work best for you and your students. Add your own favorite sketchbook assignment in the comments below!
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100 Sketchbook Prompts Your Students Will Love
- Draw someone you sit by in an odd pose.
- Draw family members with things that are important to them.
- Draw yourself (or someone else) painting toenails.
- Find a quiet place in a crowd. Draw the crowd.
- Draw a relative by the light cast from a TV/Phone/Computer or other screen.
- Make a portrait of yourself in twenty years. Or in fifty years. Or both.
- Draw a masked man (or woman) that is not a superhero.
- Draw the ugliest baby you can imagine.
- Draw two sports figures–one in a dynamic pose, one in a static pose.
- Draw two self-portraits with odd expressions.
- Draw something or someone you love.
- Draw hair. A lot of it.
- Take a picture of someone near you on a bus or in a car. Draw them.
- Draw an animal eating another animal.
- Draw your art teacher in a fight with an animal.
- Draw an animal playing a musical instrument.
- There is an animal living in one of your appliances. Draw it.
- Draw a dead bird in a beautiful landscape.
- Draw something from a pet’s point of view.
- Draw an animal taking a bath.
- Draw an animal taking a human for a walk.
- Combine 3 existing animals to create a completely new creature.
- Draw a family portrait. Plot twist: It is a family of insects or animals.
- Draw an animal playing a musical instrument.
- Draw the most terrifying animal you can imagine. Or the most adorable.
- Draw a pile of dishes before they get washed.
- Tighten a C-Clamp on a banana. Draw it.
- Draw a slice of the best pizza you have ever seen.
- Draw junk food and the wrapper.
- Draw your favorite food.
- Create your own restaurant. Draw the restaurant, your executive chef, and a 12-item menu.
- Draw the ingredients or process of your favorite recipe.
- Draw salt and pepper shakers.
- Draw fresh fruit or vegetables, or something fresh from the oven.
- Draw a salad.
- Draw the oldest thing in your refrigerator.
- Draw a piece of fruit every day until it becomes rotten.
- Draw everything on a restaurant table.
- Draw what is in the rearview mirror of the car.
- Draw moving water. Draw still water.
- Draw an object floating.
- Make a drawing of all of your drawing materials.
- Find a trash can. Draw its contents.
- Draw tools that belong to a certain profession.
- Draw three objects and their environments. One of the three should be in motion.
- Draw the interior of a mechanical object. Zoom in, focus on details and shading.
- Create three drawings of messes you have made.
- Draw five objects with interesting textures: wood grain, floors, tiles, walls, fabric, etc.
- Draw a collection of purses, wallets, or bags.
- Draw your favorite well-loved object or childhood toy.
- Draw a watch or another piece of jewelry.
- Draw something hideous that you keep for sentimental reasons.
- Draw something with a mirror image.
Technical Skill/Skill Development
- Draw all the contents of your junk drawer with one continuous line.
- Make a detailed drawing of a rock.
- Draw a dark object in a light environment.
- Draw a light object in a dark environment.
- Make a detailed drawing of five square inches of grass.
- Draw a transparent object.
- Draw a translucent object.
- Do several studies of eyes, noses, and mouths in a variety of poses.
- Draw an interesting object from three different angles.
- Value Studies–Draw three eggs and part of the carton with a strong light source.
- Draw three metallic objects that reflect light. Focus on highlights and reflections.
- Refraction–Create two drawings of separate objects partially submerged in water.
- Make three drawings (your choice of subject) using materials with which you are not familiar.
- Draw a piece of patterned fabric with folds.
- Draw a bridge and all of its details.
- Draw yourself as an original superhero.
- Make a drawing that looks sticky.
- Draw a mysterious doorway or staircase.
- Draw an empty room. Make it interesting.
- Draw a flower. Make it dangerous.
- Draw an object melting.
- Draw an imaginary place, adding all kinds of details.
- Draw a gumball machine that dispenses anything but gumballs.
- Danger! Draw yourself in a dangerous situation.
- You are on the back of the bus. Figure out who is with you, where you are going, and why. Illustrate and explain.
- Draw what’s under your bed (real or imagined).
- Draw the most incredible game of hide-and-seek you can imagine.
- Create a new sport. You can improve an existing sport, combine two existing sports, or come up with something completely new.
- Make a drawing that is totally truthful.
- Make a drawing that lies all over the place.
- Make a drawing that is completely and utterly impossible.
- Story Illustration: Fix a story that you don’t like, or reflect/improve upon one you do.
- Let someone else choose your subject and tell you what to draw.
- Draw your greatest fear.
- Use song lyrics, quotes, or poetry to inspire a drawing.
- Find the three most useless objects you can and draw them.
- Draw an interesting form of transportation.
- Draw something for which you are thankful.
- Go somewhere new and draw what you see.
- Draw something that can’t be turned off.
- Draw something soothing.
- Draw something you think sounds or smells incredible.
- Draw something that needs fixing.
- Draw something you’ve always wanted.
- Draw something out of place.
- Draw something that should have been invented by now.
- Draw something you keep putting off, or something that causes you to procrastinate.
Does this list inspire you to take some sketchbook assignments head on in your art room? Or maybe the opposite is true and you are finding that you feel underprepared to teach drawing skills. Maybe you fall somewhere in between and you just need a little more inspiration to tweak your drawing curriculum. These are all great reasons to take a peek at AOE’s Studio: Drawing Course. The class is jam-packed with hands-on learning experiences, advanced technique tutorials, and opportunities to share and learn with art teachers just like you.
What are your favorite sketchbook prompts to use?
How do you use sketchbooks in your classroom?
Sketchbook Ideas for Elementary
Compiled from ArtsEdNet Talk mailing list
Grades: 1 to 6
Input from Art Teachers
I have found that my students work more in the Sketchbooks they make themselves. So therefore I always begin the year by having them make their sketchbooks. For the youngest ones they are very simple and not so many pages. For the older ones we make hard covers for them and usually we do printmaking on the paper we glue on to the hard cover. We also make pens out of bamboo sticks.
As far as favorite things to draw there are many.
Sometimes we take time to keep a colour diary in the sketchbook of the colours in the sky at the same time everyday for a week. Close up drawings from different parts of their gardens or other outdoor places are also fun. The family members and friends, their shoes or other specific things. For the young ones, their favorite toys or stuffed animals.
From Rosa Juliusdottir
Sketchbook ideas one art teacher has used:
1. List 10 things a color such as red reminds you of.
2. Look at Van Gogh's Bedroom. What objects are paired? When you look at this painting do you get the impression that the artist was a happy person with many friends? Why? What kind of mood has he created?
3. Draw your greatest fear.
4. When do you get angry and why? Draw a picture of yourself with an angry expression.
5. Draw things that float.
6. Draw things with wheels.
7. Draw things that roll.
8. Draw things that close.
9. Draw things that come from eggs.
10. Be an ant- describe and draw what you would see.
11. If you had a candy bar named after you,what would it look like and what would it be called?
12. If I had been a pilgrim, I would have looked like this.
13. If you were a flower, what kind would you be? Draw a picture of yourself as this flower.
14.Express in a drawing your happiest moment in the past year.
15. Express in a drawing something you are good at.
16. If I could be any color, I'd be____ because...
17. Draw a picture of something you'd like to become better at.
18. Using any type of line or shape, create a picture with only the 3 primary colors.
From Sandy Poos (archives 9/13/96)
Grades 1 to 8
1. An alien spaceship has landed in the schoolyard. Draw a picture of it.
2. High in the Himalayan Mountains lives an abominable snowperson. Draw what the snowperson look like.
3. You have made a startling discovery while skin diving! Draw what it is!
4. Have you ever been to the circus? Draw a picture of your favorite act, with yourself as the ringmaster!
5. Draw a picture of your Mother or Father at work.
6. Draw a picture of your shoe, overlapping three different views on the same page.
7. Draw a picture of your pet.
8. Fill a page with drawings of bugs, sea shells, or something you collect.
9. Draw a family member or a friend from memory.
10. Draw a picture of yourself as you think you might look in ten years.
11. Have you ever had a daydream instead of doing your work? Draw a picture of a daydream.
12. Draw a picture of your house and yard, then draw a big dinosaur in the yard!
13. What is the best story your grandparents tell about the old days? Draw a picture of it.
14. Draw a picture of your favorite part about school.
15. What does your dream car look like?
16. What does the bogeyman look like?
17. If you could cast a magic spell, what would it be? Draw a picture of it.
18. The famous American Pop artist Andy Warhol said, "Everyone will have at least fifteen minutes of fame in their lifetime." Illustrate your fifteen minutes of fame.
19. A new musical group has asked you to design a CD cover for them that illustrates their music. Be sure that your design is original and does not use any other group's images!
20. Draw a picture of your dream house. You are rich, so include anything you want in this house.
From Mark Alexander (archives 9/1/97)
Grades 3 to 5
I teach K-5. My 3,4,and 5th graders have sketchbooks. I love them and the kids love them. I am constantly showing them my sketchbooks and drawings and they show me theirs. I give homework to my students for them to do in their sketchbooks. Here are some ideas I have used in the past.
1. What is art?
3. Draw your window.
4. A Value scale. Still life using as many of the grays as you can.
5. Design your own bedroom ( a floor plan)
6. What would you put in that room, where would you put it, how would you put it.
7. Think of three different animals. Draw the head of one, the body of the second one, and the legs of the third one. Name it.
8. Camouflage something (a bug on a leaf, you in your room, a lizard on a rock) by texture or color.
9. Draw yourself screaming.
10. Sequence drawings. A vampire turning into a bat and flying away, three frogs playing leap frog and the last one falls into a hole, flower growing. These are great later in a zoetrope or a flip book format, animation on a computer.
11. Draw yourself at 16 years old, 30 and 80 years old. Triptych
12. Draw the silliest thing you ever saw.
13. Draw someone picking something up.
14. Draw the Thinker as an animal.
15. Distort something. A short fat pencil. A glue bottle the thickness and length of a pencil. A ruler made with curved lines ( not a bad idea). Great for adjectives. You could start by students listing adjectives and then pick two + an object and draw what it might look like. Kind of like visual "MadLib".
From Nancy Knutsen (archives 9/12/96)
Grades 4 and 5
• Book: Sketch-books: Explore and Store, by Gillian Robinson ISBN: 0-435-07018-5. excellent information affirming the use of sketchbooks. The implementation of sketchbooks is difficult work if done consistently. Supplies to assemble: about $1300 for 500 students.
My 4th and 5th grade students use the journal for
• notes on project procedure, including the nifty handouts from School Arts if applicable
• word searches which include the vocabulary of the unit being taught for reinforcement
• ongoing sketching using still life set ups in the room
• self evaluation and critiques
• When we do color mixing and exploration, students cut and paste samples in the sketchbook
• also samples of tie dye, batik, printmaking etc.
We really put a lot of good "stuff" in the sketch-book. It is such a good hands-on documentation for them to refer to and a great resource to share with the parents.
from Barbara (rboville)
1. Making it. We begin by folding a 12 x 18 sheet of paper in half, then gluing subsequent pages inside with a thin line of glue to the front cover, or most recent page. I order and use 8 ½ x 11 copy paper for this purpose. We can always add pages, as needed, to the sketchbook in this manner.
2. Cover designs. Examples: Who Am I? pictorial statements about the student, i.e., sports, hobbies/leisure activities, accomplishments, food preferences, pets, 6th grade. Name Design (typography) 5th grade. Portrait, Landscape, or Still Life, 4th grade.
3. Transition (from playground/classroom). Class begins with 6 minutes of "Silent Draw" time. At the beginning of the year, I introduce this time as mental exercise for the right side of the brain, and as a visual diary.
4. More Art Starters. Reproducible pages from "School Arts," or idea stretchers such as: imagine yourself/your world as a bug, a bird, an alien, etc.
5. Art History/Study Guides. I compile information about an artist, or period, or style of art (that we may be studying), and type this up. Sometimes, I'll photocopy a picture of the artist, or artwork, and include it as a small thumbnail print with the text. Students take turns reading aloud in class, and every student then has his/her own copy for future reference.
6. Demonstrations. Feature placement, shading, 3D drawing, perspective; these are just some of the topics that, as I demonstrate, the students practice in their sketchbooks.
7. Idea Refinement. Thumbnail sketches for assigned projects.
8. Review. Pop quiz, critiques, or self assessments are written on blank sheets in sketchbooks.
From Cheryl (Ckart)
Grades 5 and 6
Three things the children particularly enjoyed and took very seriously!
1. We had our principal come in and model for us. (The AP came in one time and the librarian too.) We split it up but all were honored to model for us.
2. Outdoor -around the school mini draw time... just don't sit in a fire ant hill!
3. It just so happens that our maintenance man dresses like the holiday certain times of the year... The day he came in like a scarecrow... I nabbed him. Not all classes had him... but it was just one of those things you couldn't pass up.
4. Have a mini still life set up so that kids who are finished early can go work on the still life in their sketchbooks. Also I did not make weekly assignments in the sketchbook. I wanted the sketchbook to be fun, not a burden to them. I also let the class decided on what they wanted to do for an assignment... They would vote: Something out of a window... or on a playground... or in their bedroom.... They were proud to carry them around and were selective with what they put in it. Several really got the hang of putting ideas in it for future work.
A single focus sketchbook called "The/My Special Interest Book" that students were responsible for maintaining throughout the year/semester/quarter. I have assigned such a book for my 6th graders to work on when they are all "done!" We have been in school for three weeks, but already they are showing me their "books" that they will work on as the year goes by. The topics range from horses to Monster trucks, and they can write, draw, add clippings, photos, whatever they want.
Charlotte Griswold (archives 9/1/97)
Also see IAD's Drawing Drawer for other ideas.