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Although analogue sketchnoting tools like pen and paper are great, you’ll probably want to use some digital sketchnoting tools at some point, especially if you are thinking of using what you or your students create online or in a digital medium. As such you’ll need some digital sketchnoting tools. There are two broad groups, those where you make an analogue version and then digitize it so you can use it digitally, or those tools where you make a digital version of a sketchnote from the start. I’ll look at both starting with scanning tools which you can then adapt.

Scanning tools

Although you could use a flat-bed scanner or a DSLR camera to scan sketchnotes, the easiest tool for most people is their smartphone. It’s something that is so widespread that most people have them where ever they are. Plus the fact that they are a mini computer with an internet connection lets you get your scan where it needs to quickly. There are a lot of different scanning apps that you can use but I’d recommend checking out

  • Scanbot (for sending scans to different locations and the ability to turn scans into PDFs)
  • Adobe scan (you can send this to a graphics editing program as a vector or a picture. This is more useful for editing.)


There are lots of different hardware options for making sketchnotes but there are two options that stand above the rest in my opinion

Wacom tablet

These plug into a laptop or desktop computer and allow you to use a pen as your input style. They come in a wide range of sizes and styles with different features. If you want to write and draw directly into your computer, this is probably the best option.

iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

Personally, I use an iPad Pro for everything I do, not just drawing but it is exceptionally good at helping to make sketchnotes and doodles. The pencil is an incredibly accurate stylus and the portability of the device makes it great to use at a desk, at home on the sofa or on the go.

Of course, there are some android tablets (and windows ones) which also have styli. Some of which are apparently very good but seeing as I’ve never used them, I can’t vouch for them.

iPad Sketching Apps

I’ve tried a few different sketching apps on the iPad and I honestly don’t think there is a best app, there are just apps which are better at different things than others. Some of these are more expensive than others and they can all help. Here are some options

  • Paper by 53 (simple, few options and fun. The pen tool works well. Plus it’s free. If you have a non “pro” ipad, you can buy their stylus)
  • Concepts (free with an in app purchase. It uses vectors letting you adjust afterwards, not a wide range of brushes)
  • Procreate (beautiful brushes, lots of options, can record videos)
  • Adobe sketch (one that I don’t really use but apparently it is good and support Adobe’s creative cloud apps)

Icons to use in graphics

If you really “can’t draw” then you can steal icons that other people have made and use them in your own work. There are a few services and sites out there which offer this service but the best is the noun project. They have a wide range of icons which you can pay to use royalty free, or give attribution and use for free. A great way if you really can’t do a good drawing of something tough. It’s also a great source of ideas for nouns (both concrete and abstract) which you can then adapt.

Check out these great digital sketchnoting tools!

These aren’t the only tools but they are a great start that will help you get ahead.

Do you know of any great digital sketchnoting tools?