I think that more people would keep a sketchbook if they had ideas for content to put in it! With that in mind, I decided to come up with a sketchbook layout formula for today’s tutorial. We’ll talk about what to draw and write, where to orient it on the page, tricks to fill up space, and helpful supplies to have on hand! Today’s layout will take you an entire afternoon to create, so we’re just focusing on doing that for now. Then, next week, we’ll add watercolors, some gold, a smidge of decoupage, and tea spatters to make the page pop!
You can use any sketchbook for this sketchbook layout tutorial, but in case you’re curious, I use a Shinola sketchbook. I absolutely love that thing! It’s the perfect size, the paper is a nice weight (heavy, but not too heavy), and it tolerates many mediums quite well.
To make the perfect watercolor-ready layout, you’ll also need:
The Layout Formula
Before we begin, let’s take a look at the finished layout. The idea is for you to be able to use the image below as a quick reference as you’re making your own “Day in the Life” page. You’ll find a quick explanation about each number below the image!
- Banner with date (and description of day: “New Year’s Eve”, “My Birthday”, “An Unusual Friday”, etc.)
- Clock showing a significant moment in the day
- Quote of the day
- Illustrated element the complements the quote of the day
- Food eaten throughout the day
- Cup with beverage that was drunk at some point in the day (tea, coffee, beer, wine, water)
- Blank space for beverage spatters (we’ll cover this in the next tutorial)
- List tree
1. Banner with Date
Begin by using your pencil to draw a slightly wavy banner in the middle of the page. Make the banner pretty long, and try your best to center it!
Next, draw two faint pencil lines inside the banner. One should sit around 1/8″ (3 mm) below the top of the banner, and the other should be around 1/8″ above the bottom of the banner. Both of these lines should be parallel to the banner’s wave! Use the lines as top and bottom guidelines to write out the date in George Style lettering. If you still have space left on the right, use Sans Serif lettering to write a description of the date, like “New Year’s Eve” or “An Unusual Friday”.
Once you’ve made the draft, use a dip pen and waterproof ink to trace over everything. After you finish tracing, wait for a couple of minutes until any “wet ink” shine has disappeared. Then, use a good eraser (I like Staedtler Mars Plastic) to erase the pencil guidelines!
Now, you’re going to flesh out the space around your banner by drawing a clock. To do that, use your pencil to draw a circle about 2.75″ (70 mm) in diameter, then draw a slightly smaller circle inside of that. Draw two additional smaller circles on the inside, which will serve as guidelines for the numbers on the clock.
Next, draw the numbers on the clock with Roman Style lettering. Put the hands of the clock at a significant time of the day, and wherever you have negative space left inside the clock, explain why the time matters. My significant time of the day here was midnight (since that’s a biggie on New Year’s), but you might depict what time you woke up day, what time you went to dinner with a friend, when someone arrived at your house … whatever!
Just like in the previous step, you should go over your pencil draft with waterproof ink. Then, once the ink has dried, erase any pencil guidelines.
3. + 4. Quote of the Day + Illustrated Element
For the quote of the day portion, use a pencil and Kaitlin Style calligraphy to draft out large “Quote of the day” calligraphy on the left. Then, on the right, use Sans Serif lettering to write out the quote. It can be anything! Once you’ve written the quote, fill in the negative space beside it with a graphic element that complements the quote. In my case, that’s lemon slices.
Then, use your pen and ink to draw over the quote and the illustrated elements. Don’t cross your t’s yet! We might incorporate those crosses with another element of the layout.
For this part of the layout, you’ll draw out (most) of the things that you ate throughout the day to fill out the top of the page. If you can’t draw your food items from memory, conduct a Google Image Search to find photos of them to sketch out! Label each item with George Style lettering, and fill in any remaining space with flourishes.
Once you’ve drawn the food in pencil, use your pen and ink to trace over everything. Again, wait for the ink to dry, then erase the pencil guidelines.
6. Beverage Cup
Think back to what you drank during the course of the day. Did you have tea or coffee in a teacup? Maybe just water in a water bottle? No matter what it was, use your pencil to draw the vessel in the lower left part of the page. Then, draft out an explanation of when/why you drank the beverage using Kaitlin Style calligraphy. If it was a hot beverage, you can draw flourishes coming out of the top to fill up space (and signify steam). If it was a cold beverage, leave that area blank.
Go over your cup with ink. If you’d like, you can add shading to the cup with tiny crosshatched lines.
7. + 8. Blank Space + Tree
Now, fill in the space on the right side of the page with a tree that serves as a list. My tree lists the people who I spent New Year’s with, but you could use the tree to list people you interacted with, emotions you felt, or places you went. The tree should feature calligraphy (I used a modified Janet Style), flourishes, and a few leaves.
Once you finish the pencil draft of the tree, you’ll notice some leftover space in the bottom center of the page. Leave that blank! We’ll fill it in next week with beverage spatters. Then, go over your tree and lettering with ink.
Add Additional Contrast to Your Sketchbook Layout
Finish up your sketchbook layout by adding a little bit of additional contrast. For example, you might fill in the frame around the clock or add a bit more ink to the lettering inside of the banner!
Once you’re pleased with how the page looks, give yourself a pat on the back and set your sketchbook aside until next week! I’ll teach you how to bring these graphics to life with watercolors, metallics, decoupage, and beverage spatters then.
Breaking it Up
I initially planned to present everything to you in one tutorial: the sketchbook layout, the coloring, and adding finishing touches. As I worked on this, though, I realized that I should explain how to make the layout, then move on to the color portion in another post. I was conflicted about breaking the tutorial into two, but then I realized that breaking it down makes the project more approachable — and realistic. After all, very few of us, myself included, have a block of 8-10 hours to devote to making a single sketchbook page!
I encourage you to follow this tutorial to make your own “Day in the Life” sketchbook layout this weekend. Then, check out the How to Add Color to Your “Day in the Life” Sketchbook Layout to learn how to bring the page to life with tea, watercolors, and a bit of decoupage! This is a project that it’s best to make over a period of 2-4 days so you can benefit from a couple of breaks. In my experience, the sketchbook pages that take the longest to make end up being the best pages.
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and I hope that you enjoy a weekend of creativity that includes this sketchbook layout!