5 Tools for Sketchnoting on your iPad

Five great tools to help you Sketchnote in Concepts on your iPad.

If you’re looking for a tool that makes Sketchnoting a breeze, Concepts has unique features designed for visual thinkers that will change the way you approach communicating your key ideas - for yourself and to a bigger audience.

1. An Infinite Canvas

Concepts’ infinite canvas is endless, so when the flow is going and you need to draw, you can. Sketch freely in any direction without hitting a page edge. Zoom in to draw details or zoom out to take in the bigger picture, and your notes will stay crystal clear.

When you’re ready to share your work, you can define a boundary that fits your drawing. Export bits and pieces or the entire thing, and while you’re at it, feel free to reframe for a PDF or social share.

Sketch one page or twenty on the infinite canvas. Go where your thoughts go.

2. Every Idea is Movable

As everything you sketch in Concepts is a vector, you can literally pick it up and move it around the canvas, just like picking up notecards or post-it notes to try new idea combos. Drag your finger to “lasso” your sketch and not only move it, but smooth it, change its color, brush, size, layer or rotation with a tap, pinch or drag. Great for those real-life conversations where ideas grow and tangents happen.

Select and “pick up” anything you sketch, then move or edit it. Add a bit of smoothing for beautiful handwriting and linework.

3. Automatic Organization

Concepts can sort your tools automatically by layer so when you’re drawing full notes with fills, highlights and colors, the pen always stays on top. This keeps notes tidy, and makes it easy to come back later to edit details for extra polish in a final version.

Smart brush layering means your pens and pencils always stay on top.

4. Make Your Own Objects

Every idea you draw can be a unique vector object. With Concepts’ Make Your Own Objects feature, you can sketch and save unlimited libraries of “objects” aka icons you can simply tap onto your canvas. These are fast, editable, and handy for those rush moments when you need to capture an idea so you can sketch the next key point.

Select what you draw and tap it into a new object library. Make as many libraries as you need.

5. Present Live

Concepts comes equipped with an instant presentation mode that starts when you connect a larger screen to your iPad via AirPlay or cable. Discuss ideas, communicate freely and sketch live with your team or audience, then take the notes and export them directly to those attending the workshop. Choose whether you want to display or hide your interface and touches by tapping the “Presenting” status up in the status bar.

Connect your iPad to another display and draw live with clients, teammates and friends.

Combine these great tools with

•  responsive, pressure-sensitive pens

•  customizable brushes so you always have the perfect tool

•  live stroke smoothing for beautiful handwriting

•  a vector eraser for all kinds of erasing or trimming

•  designer Copic colors from Too Corporation

and you’ll always have a note-taking tool on your iPad that feels natural and delivers great-looking Sketchnotes.

Ready to Sketchnote?

Download a free Sketchnoting template with brushes and canvas all set to help you draw your key ideas.

1. Download the template file onto your iPad or iPhone.

2. Tap+hold the file. Tap "Open in..." and select Concepts App.

3. The file will automatically open in a new drawing for you.

Feel free to customize the background, tools and layout to fit your needs. Left-handed? Tap+hold the outer ring of the tool wheel and drag the wheel to the other side of the canvas. Do this for each menu and discover your optimal layout.

Template Tools

  • Fountain Pen - Dynamic with velocity, this pen flows with the speed of your thoughts.
  • Marker - Highlight important ideas with this marker tuned to draw beneath your pen.
  • Pen - This pen gives you an alternate ink to work with. It will draw in the same layer as the fountain pen. 
  • Filled Stroke - Color and fill your pen lines with this freehand fill tool. Great for highlights, too.
  • Watercolor - A softer way to color your ideas, watercolor blends colors on the same layer. Feel free to switch it out for an airbrush if you’d rather - just tap the active tool to bring up more brush options.
  • Slice - A vector eraser for trimming strokes and slicing lines. Make it bigger to erase with a swipe.
  • Nudge - When you’re drawing fast, lines can get messy. Use Nudge to grab the end of a line and connect it with nearby stroke ends, or encourage a curve in another direction for polish. Make it small for tighter curves, make it big for gentler nudging.
  • Select - When this tool is active, just drag your finger or stylus around your sketch, then move it, scale it or edit it on the canvas. Amazing for reorganizing ideas and editing linework.

Template Settings

  • Layers are set to Automatic Mode for smart tool layering. Toggle to Manual by tapping the mode at any time.
  • The Grid underlay is on for even drawing and writing. Tap it off in the Precision menu.
  • Your gestures are set to two-finger tap-to-undo, and tap+hold to select with the lasso. Customize these in Settings -> Gestures.

For more free templates or to learn how to create your own, check out our Project Template tutorial.

Tips for Setting Up Your Sketchnotes

  • Set up each of your eight tools like you like them. Choose a favorite color and set up to four presets for size, smoothing and opacity for each tool.

  • If you love a brush and are toggling colors or smoothing a lot, try adding a second brush to the tool wheel and set it to your alternate settings.

  • Slide your pen’s smoothing up to ~20% for lovely handwriting. Set it to ~50% for smooth linework. Set it to 100% for instant straight lines and borders.

  • The Dynamic Pen is pressure sensitive and doesn't overlap itself within the same stroke, even at lower opacities. Use it for consistent ink and shadows.

  • Adjust the opacity of your fills and markers for lighter, layered colors and strokes.

  • For a fresh look, change your paper background to darkprint, heavyweight or custom color in Settings -> Paper Type. Use black for chalkboard.

  • If you use an Apple Pencil, try setting a separate finger action or double-tap in Settings -> Stylus. Choose from selection options, displaying the color wheel, showing the brushes menu and more... whatever makes you faster.

  • If your notes are all over the place without meaning it, try locking your canvas zoom or rotation in Settings -> Gestures. Uncheck the boxes by "Enable Canvas Rotation" and "Enable Canvas Zoom", or set these to a two, three or four-finger tap gesture.

  • Maximize your sketching space by minimizing your menus. Swipe outward on any menu tab to minimize it, swipe outward again to hide them completely. Tap the tab in the upper corner to show them again, swipe inward again to bring them all the way back.

  • Try taking notes of your favorite podcast or YouTube tutorial by using your iPad's split screen feature. Open the tutorial, then open Concepts and sketch as you listen.

Learn More About Sketchnoting

Graphic Recorder Tobey Busch offers a great intro to Sketchnoting with Concepts in our interview.

Learn how to clearly communicate a sales strategy with Visual Selling.

Browse the Sketchnote Army blog and podcast by Mike Rohde, founder of Sketchnoting, and check out his awesome Sketchnoting Handbook to learn the tools of the trade.

By Erica Christensen

We love to see your Sketchnotes! To share your story with us or ask questions about Sketchnoting with Concepts, email us at concepts@tophatch.com or chat with us in-app via Help -> Ask Us Anything. Thanks!