Step 4: #Sketchnotes: Headers, Titles, Captions, and Speech Bubbles

Let’s face it; notes are notes because of the text. Sketchnote text is…well, your handwriting. Duh. Again, there are no rules to Sketchnoting. These are just tips and techniques I’ve come across or developed over the years. The rule I pose on myself for the two are:

  • Text: headers, titles, statements, bullets.
  • Dialogue: captions, quotes, and anything conversational which are in speech bubbles.

Now that we have that established, let’s look at the styles of text and dialogue. Simply put, your handwriting is (or should be) the default style.

The additional styles you choose are infinite, but just like designing any document more than 2-3 font styles can be distracting and too busy. And yes, your handwriting is a font style! My handwriting as long as I can remember is an all caps style. I never really learned cursive writing – sad I know – so printing is my natural style. In fact, I have to slow down when writing upper and lower case.

I place a few rules on myself only to keep from getting too creative. While Sketchnoting is of your own design, placing a few boundaries will help you focus on the talk instead of what style your notes will look like. With practice you will find what’s most comfortable for look and speed.


Headers and sub-headers are the text that stands out and draws (no pun intended) attention. Think of these as BOLD type. The style however, can be flexible as long as you’re comfortable with being able to quickly add another header to a section or a sub-header.


Everything else is for the most part your natural handwriting whether you print in all caps or upper/lower case. For example, major points could be all caps and then bulleted lists could be lower case. Speaking of bullets, change up the style of the bullets other than just dots…err, I mean bullets.


Captions and quotes can be argued they are just the same as any other note. Why a different style of font? I like to distinguish a caption to a visual concept or drawing than other notes, and add quotes around text that the speaker quoted so it stands out a bit more.




Speech bubbles are nothing more than drawing a line around a block of text and adding a tail. They do not however need to be associated with an actual character. Think test messaging where my text bubble tail is pointing to the right and your text bubble is pointing to the left.


The style of a speech bubble can actually have a meaning that helps communicate the message. Some of the more common styles used in the comic industry are shown here.


No matter what your core handwriting style is or if you write in all caps or not is irrelevant. The important thing is to develop a Sketchnoting style. A style that over time becomes second nature where you know what your default headers and titles look like, what type of bullet styles you like best, and when you use speech bubbles you know which style you like best.



Simple. Sketch practice your handwriting. Practice several styles of headers, titles, sub-headers, captions, quotes, and of course various speech bubbles. For example, sketch out 100 speech bubbles to where it’s so easy it’s second nature.


Introduction – 6 Steps to Great Conference Sketchnotes.

STEP 1 – Preparing: Live sketching or Post-sketching?

STEP 2 – Preparing: Format, Visual Flow, and Materials.

STEP 3 – Characters and Locations: Who and where?

STEP 4 – Text and Dialogue: Headers, Titles, Captions, and Speech bubbles. [You Are Here]

STEP 5 – Icons and Concepts: Developing your own style.

STEP 6 – Action, Emotion, Color, and Adornments.


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