Set Up Your Sketchbook

Earlier I told you that there was one resource that launched me from wishful thinker to surprised sketchbooker. Sketchbooking: How to Create a Delightful Journal of Your Travels at Home and Abroad by Barbara Stecher

If you didn’t read that story from the beginning, you can catch up here:

To recap, I praised the author’s two humble ambitions:

  • create a limited type of sketchbook
  • use a very simple supply list.

With supplies procured, you’re ready for the third secret "I could do that" ingredient.


I don’t know about you, but I am easily enthused by a new project and quickly cool once it becomes routine.  So a bunch of random sketches that lack purpose are easier to abandon than a purposeful place where you state your intentions up front.

For this reason, setting up your book with a ready-to-go layout not only gives you something to do on that perfect blank canvas but helps ensure you’ll try to keep it up.

What does that look like?

"Sketchbooking" author, Barbara Stecher, suggests you set aside your beginning pages to resemble a published book.


Imagine your sketchbook has been published. How would the publisher design the book? First a title page, followed by publishing information, an introduction, table of contents. Finally page one and the content of the book.

You don’t mind wading through all this structural stuff when you read a book. You expect it.

So how does this translate to your sketchbook?

Here is how I have used the ready-made layout. I leave the first sheet of paper blank and, turning to the first double spread, I make that my …


With most published books and articles the first thing you read is the last thing that was writtenSo simply write, “Title,” faintly at the top of the double spread in pencil and turn the page. Once the book is finished, you’ll know the essence of its theme and can give it a name. Heck, Sketchbook Number One will do.

Even if you do have a catchy title in mind, jot it lightly in pencil so you can gussy it up later.

You have made your first mark on paper. And it probably won’t be there when the book’s finished. Nothing to hesitate over.


You can skip this step if you’re using a very slim sketchbook. Otherwise, in pencil, chronicle the start date and place where you’re working and leave space for the final entry’s date and place. You can even dedicate the finished product to someone. (I don’t mind books dedicated to me!)


What are you hoping to accomplish with this book? Is it the first one you've made? How do you feel about that? What do you think this book is going to be about?

One day you won't be able to recall the details that seem so obvious now. Jot down your thoughts and perhaps leave an extra double spread for completing them when the book is finished. 

So far not much is happening in your book. But you have now set aside the first three or four double spreads for future important information. And none of this has been hard to do.


Again pencil in the words, this time "Contents," at the top of the next double spread, or two, depending on how large the book is and how small your writing. Obviously since this is being produced by hand you won't be able to change it easily as you go along.  So as with the title page, I leave the contents until the end. No page numbers are needed. Just sections, themes or individual page subject matter as it appears in your sketchbook: a guide to what to expect.


By now this book is not looking crisp, new and intimidating. It has been thoroughly divided up and subdued. You’re ready to bring out the sword. I mean pencil. And begin your first sketch. 

Well-used sketchbooks.

Working title page from a book in progress

Introduction in progress

Contents waiting for content!

As you continue your book you can also add Section Title Pages.