Lettering for sketchnotes … Isn’t that just called “handwriting”? It’s actually much more than that!

Everyone has their own preferences. Some find it easier to write on large formats, others feel more comfortable writing on smaller formats. If you’d like to improve your lettering skills in your sketchbook, or learn some new lettering styles to add more variety to it, you’ve come to the right blog.


First, you need the right tools. As you don’t want your markers to be too big, the Neuland FineOne® is your best friend here. And since there are four different types that are water-based, we’ll give you a quick overview of each one. By the way: Just like all of our markers, the FineOne is refillable, too. 😉

The FineOne Sketch is available in different strengths. All of our FineOnes are refillable.

As the name suggests, the Outliner is perfect for strong, black lines that won’t smear when other markers go over it. For thinner lines, we recommend the FineOne Sketch with a fineliner nib of 0.1, 0.3, 0.5 or 0.7 mm, depending on what suits you best. The FineOne Sketch 0.5 also comes in many different colors, and so does the FineOne Art. When it comes to the latter, many sketchnoters like to use our Tones of Grey for shadows.

The only thing missing now is an adequate sketchbook. This is something very personal and intimate, which means you should actually put some thought into it and get one you really like. Of course, the paper should have around 120 – 150 g/m² but it’s even more important that you choose a sketchbook you love to fill with creativity. One that makes you smile.

The stars in this picture: FineOne Outliner and FineOne Art

Now that know everything about the material, let’s get started on the practice. You’re lucky ‘cause sketchnoting expert Mike Rohde gave a Workshop at the IFVP 2020 online conference and he kindly let us use some snippets of the recorded video to show you five different lettering styles.

2-line lettering

The first style is perfect for headings and to put more emphasis on a word. You simply start using single-line lettering, then add a second line parallel to the letters, and in the end fill in the empty spaces with your Outliner. After that, you can go over each letter and adjust it. After practicing a bit, you can add your own style to it and try to go a bit faster. You’ll see, it’s easier than you think.

3-line lettering

Here, you start with single-line lettering again and then add two parallel lines to your letters, so you should leave a bit more space in between. After filling in the empty spaces, you can start adjusting again. This might need a bit more practice than the first one but it’s still another easy way to make your headings more prominent or highlight certain words in your sketchnotes.

What’s fun about these two lettering styles is the way you build up your lettering. The single-line lettering can either work as a template that can be adapted with no effort, or it can be turned into a 2-line or 3-line lettering later when you come back to it and feel like you need to put more emphasis on it.

Condensed lettering

When it comes to condensed lettering, you should first draw a structure with a pencil to let you estimate how small or big your letters should be. Of course, you will develop a better feeling for this after a while but at the beginning this definitely helps a lot. In the video above, you’ll see what Mike’s guidelines look like.

Now you can either leave it like that or add another line to it, just like we did with the 2-line lettering. It’s very important, though, not to overcook the goose. When you like your lettering to look a bit more “messy”, that’s totally fine. In fact, it shouldn’t look like it’s written by a computer. That’s what makes it beautiful and unique!


In typography ligatures are letters joined together. But you don’t necessarily have to let them touch. In this video, Mike shows you his version of ligatures, which is another great way to save space and give your writing personality. By using the dead space of a letter, you can create interesting combinations that will make your lettering look more exciting.

You should start by practicing different letter combinations, such as TT, TE, TOT, ITI, LE, LL, LO, LA. Soon, you’ll get to know the ones you need most and apply them in your sketchnotes. It’s so much fun!

Another way to make things a bit more edgy while saving space is to draw a line underneath a letter that you wrote a bit smaller than the others. Mike shows this at the end of the video above, you should definitely give it a try. 🙂

Faux script

Do you find it difficult to write with a brush pen? We have to admit, script is a difficult font to start with and it takes some time until you can do nice brush letterings without getting nervous. 😉 But don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to use the FineOne Art to use this lettering style in your sketchbook.

When you’re lettering on small formats, it’s much easier to use faux script with the FineOne Outliner round nib, or the FineOne Sketch, which is available in different strengths. And it’s also a style that is very forgiving, so you can easily adjust your lettering if you don’t like the way it initially turned out.

Of course, there are many variations of faux script. Mike shows a few in his video that will help you get inspired and find your own individual style. And again, this is not supposed to look perfect, it’s supposed to be something personal and unique. 🙂

This is it!

Now you have five new lettering styles to practice and you’re always welcome to share them with us on social media. And don’t forget to drop by and visit Mike’s Instagram page!