Whenever I’m working on a new project, one of the hardest things for me to do is start. Regardless of whether it’s digital or traditional painting, illustrating, or designing something cool, staring at the blank page can be a rather daunting task. Luckily, for people like me who may find it hard to put that first mark on a page, there are a few strategies and techniques I’ve come to learn to really help bring your ideas from your head to the page.

The Inspiration

Sometimes, I will only have a faint idea of something I want to do. It may only start out as a string of words that popped into my head while shopping, but suddenly I have the idea for “High-End Crystal Jewelry.” But stretching out four words into an entire branding project is harder than it seems, so collecting inspiration into a mood board can really help get the momentum going.
In my case, when a situation arises where I’m working off four words, I like to make a word bank to help figure out what this project should be. Added words can range from answering what it is, who it is for, what colors it should be, and other keywords associated with the topic. From there, I can use the word bank to help find inspiration.

If you’re unacquainted with some of the larger creative outlets, a good place to start is on social media. Instagram and Twitter are filled with rich creative communities that you can jump into. You can also find some amazing projects through Pinterest, Dribbble, and Behance to help find inspiration and create your mood boards.

The Actual Canvas

So we have our inspiration. We know what we want it to be, how it should look, and what it should make people feel, but we still have a blank page. Here’s what I want you to do in this order.

  • 1.) Grab a pencil
  • 2.) Sketch everything

Do you have logo ideas? Sketch them all out, every variant you can think of. Looking over the perfect spot with your easel and paints? Sketch out a rough drawing.

The hesitancy to make a mark on a fresh and clean canvas is a lot more psychological than you might think. There’s a lot of pressure to feel like you need to get it right on the first try, but when it comes to this sort of thing, that just isn’t the case. Even the most skilled designers can go through dozens of revisions, and even the most famous classical artists make mistakes. So don’t be afraid to sketch, because pencil marks can be erased and painted over, and anything digital can be hit with the good old Command + Z (If you use a Mac).

What you want is for everything to build on itself, until suddenly you look back and realize you’ve got a solid outline for your project. Not only that, but when you take the time to research, sketch, and plan, it can really help to stay focused on what’s important. You have to remember that you want to work constructively, not destructively.

Things to Remember

There may be a time when you’re finding your inspiration or creating your mood board that you’re overwhelmed by another creator’s talent. You are not them. And now that you read that in your head, you can go ahead and say it out loud to yourself in the mirror.

Far too many times, when it was still very early in my designing journey, I gave up because I couldn’t perfectly recreate the style of someone else. Essentially, I was frustrated over not being as skilled as someone who had 5, 10, or even 20 years more experience than myself. As I kept trying and failing, I learned new skills that made it easier to translate my thoughts into the desired final result.

So if you’re ever overwhelmed that your sketches aren’t perfect, just remember that the adage of “practice makes perfect” is quite true. And instead of comparing yourself to someone who’s got a couple of years ahead of you on experience and practice, bust out some of your old work so you can really appreciate how far you’ve come personally.