Personalize Your Sketchbook Covers

Decorating a sketchbook cover serves a number of functions. First, it’s like any other book cover. If you have a whole bunch of similar or identical sketchbooks, the cover art can be a way to tell them apart. Or maybe the cover art can remind you of which drawings are in the book. Second, the cover can be the inspiration that gets your drawings started. It could be an image or idea; maybe a quote or even a cookie fortune taped on the front—something you can refer to that’ll help get the creative juices flowing when you’re in a drawing funk. Third, decorating a sketchbook helps make the book special and precious. For me, a sketchbook is just a place that collects a bunch of throw-away drawings from my daily activities. Until I name it. Then it is like a cat or a dog; I can’t give it up once it’s been named. Now it’s part of the family. And once the book becomes precious, all the drawings within—whether they’re already drawn or to be added in the future—they all take on more meaning. They become part of the sketchbook entity. They become part of what makes it whole.

Joe Bosch says that sometimes he decorates or names a sketchbook before ha has begun using it. That has been the case with the one titled Coffee Shop Sideshow. He uses this method when he wants the book’s cover to influence the contents. When he pick up this book, he is reminded that its purpose is to record all the characters he encounter while out and about. He does draw other stuff in there, but really, this book exists to record the daily circus on parade. For this cover, he used Molotow Markers, Faber Castell Pitt Pens, Alvin Graph Paper, Richeson Transfer Paper, DANIEL SMITH Watercolors, Winsor & Newton Gouache and a Golden MSA Spray Varnish to help keep the design intact.

Other times, Joe uses a sketchbook for a while and wait for it to name itself. This was true of his sketchbook featuring the fist of the Bear Revolution. Upon paging through this sketchbook when it was half full, he noticed I was drawing an awful lot of poorly-drawn bears (one of my specialties), most of which were engaged in very un-bear-like activities. Joe designed a logo for the revolution and slapped it on the cover. This cover was created using only a white Faber Castell Polychromos Pencil which worked well on the cloth cover material.


Jodi Steele, was inspired by a recent article and technique by Brenda Swenson and, using a similar style, featured Cherry Blossoms on her cover. Jodi plans to document Spring in Seattle, so her cover reflects both the theme and style of future contents. Her painting was executed using a limited palette of DANIEL SMITH Watercolors over DANIEL SMITH Buff Titanium Watercolor Ground and a Pitt Pen sketch, protected with Golden MSA Spray Varnish.

Please head over to our FaceBook page and let us know how you do it. Or pop over there to read some of the ideas posted by your fellow artists. Creativity can be contagious. And, as always, keep those pencils moving!