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?
Get a heavy duty stapler that can go through 100 or more sheets like this one, or this one, use Google to find other "Heavy Duty Staplers." Fill it with free school copy paper, but focus on a nice cover. Wrap cardboard, chipboard, or flawboard with a nice watercolor paper, fold it over your sketchbook pages, and staple them all together. It's personal and will be treasured for many years. More lessons HERE too.
Whether you assign regular sketchbook assignments or need something to give kids when they finish too early, this a list of some of my favorite sketch book prompts.
If you would like a resource you can get any of these books, cut the spine, and each page has a prompt at the bottom and space to draw. I put them in the "I'm Done" bin, and students know to go there and select an assignment. They turn it in with their current project as proof of being actively engaged during class time.
The Nearly Empty Coloring Book (Best for classroom use)
The Inspirational Sketchbook (Incorporates Writing & Research)
Draw a wall with windows, and details of what is nearby like bookshelves, chairs, etc. Then draw something completely crazy in the window!
Trace your hand and draw what might be inside if you were an awesome robot.
Paste down half a face from a magazine. Choose an attractive model. Finish the other half of the face as if they were an alien.
Draw a design you think would make a cool tattoo for you. Remember that tattoos are often symbols of things important to the person wearing it.
Draw the imaginary thing that lives under your bed.
What might a flower look like on an alien planet?
Design a new perfume bottle for either a great smell, or something very bad. Include a label.
Willy Wonka remade whole room out of candy, can you draw the room you are sitting in or your bedroom as if it was all made out of candy?
Draw yourself in a mirror but DO NOT look at the paper while you do it.
Draw what it looks like sitting in the front of your car, make it look normal, but put something crazy in the mirrors.
Take 2 unrelated objects and create a mixed image of this new object. (Like scissors and a bird)
Draw part of the room, but do it as if you were a bug. What would it look like?
Draw an object that makes noise. Draw what you imagine that noise might look like if it could be seen.
Draw two objects side by side that should never be put together.
Draw a soft object with a steel skin, screws, rivets, and bolts.
Draw a cute animal as if it were Frankenstein’s pet.
Draw an animal you consider unappealing, as cute.
Draw an object from observation but re-arrange its parts in an unexpected way.
Draw an advertisement for a product you would not like but make it seem cool. (Toilet Plunger?)
Draw two objects side by side but change their scale. For example, you might have a giant ant next to a tiny teacup.
Take a common object and draw it as if it was a skeleton. What would the skeleton of a banana look like?
Draw a mysterious doorway.
Do a drawing of an object you have or have nearby, but make it look like its melting.
Draw a landscape with a house, car, or man-made object in it. Give the man-made object natural textures like leaves and grass, and give the natural elements mechanical textures found in the object.
Draw someone eating, and illustrate the background behind them. Use expressive colors, textures, and shapes that you feel would describe the flavor.
Also: Caricatures - Cartooning - By Nate Kap: Create your own WiLd Caricature of a friend, neighbor, or family member in Nate Kap's wild style. (contains some how-to videos and a few artistic nude studies)
Consider the cover: This example is by Aniko. She uses polymer clay to create fantasy covers for sketchbooks. Take a look at THIS article for some more ideas.