Struggling to find a stock image for your next blog post?
You browse Flickr for ages. You settle on a picture that’s okay. You’d love to hire a professional illustrator, but you don’t have the budget. Not yet.
Sometimes you wonder if a better source of images exists.
What if you could create your own images to clarify your ideas? What if your custom images could make readers smile and draw them closer to you? Images that make you stand out online?
Read on and we’ll show you how anyone — even you — can draw images. No art school required. No fancy tools necessary.
First, let’s take a quick look at the benefits of simple images.
Why simple drawings?
Photoshopped images make your site look slick.
But do they connect with your readers? Clichéd images make you look like millions of other blogs on the web.
Have you ever arrived at a blog for the first time and wondered if you’d been there before? Generic images trick you into thinking you’ve already been to the website because you’ve seen them before.
Hand-drawn images add a personal touch to your website. They’re unique — crafted to match your content.
Just as your writing voice is one of a kind, your imagery can be unique, too. Just as your voice adds a dash of personality, your images can add an authentic touch.
But drawing your own images produces more value than just personality and branding. These drawings aren’t simply decorations. These images explain the essence of your ideas.
They communicate your message. They captivate your audience. They make your message more memorable.
Research has suggested that:
- Images can increase the credibility of your content.
- Images require less brain processing time than text because text is a symbol system that first must be decoded.
- Images improve understanding and memory recall.
Research also suggests people read only 28 percent of words on an average web page. And they decide within 10 seconds whether or not to linger around.
Could simple images draw people into reading your content?
Simple images are quick to draw, and you don’t have to buy them. You might even find that readers engage more with hand-drawn images because they are more personal.
As bestselling author Dan Roam, suggests, the roughness of these simple images makes them more inviting and less intimidating.
Think you can’t draw?
Worried you lack talent?
Everyone can draw. Everyone is an artist.
Didn’t you think you were an artist when you were four years old? Didn’t you enjoy drawing as a kid?
So long as you can draw a stick figure, you’re well on your way to being able to create simple stories that explain your ideas better than any well-crafted words could. – Kevin Cheng
Here’s a simple exercise to get you started.
Step 1. Draw a square, a circle, a line, and a triangle:
That’s easy, right?
Step 2. Notice how almost any object can be drawn using squares, circles, triangles, and lines. Try drawing a few objects with this method:
Step 3. Images don’t require any words to transmit ideas. Review these examples:
You don’t need to draw a masterpiece to communicate your message.
How to translate your ideas into simple drawings
Communicating your ideas with stick figures isn’t about whether or not you have drawing talent. It’s about distilling your idea into a simple drawing. It’s about making abstract statements concrete, so you can communicate your ideas with clarity.
Want to know how?
In his book, The Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam suggests a four-step process for visual thinking.
- Look at the material in your blog post.
- See which point in your content is most valuable to your reader.
- Imagine the best way to convey your message.
- Show your message in a simple drawing.
Let’s see how visual thinking works in practice by looking at Henneke’s Copyblogger guest post about 37 email marketing tips.
How could you create a simple drawing by hand to accompany the post? Follow these three steps:
- Read the post a few times and consider which of the 37 points you should illustrate.
- Note that the key takeaway is to treat people on your email list like friends.
- How can you illustrate the idea of treating people like friends? Perhaps people hugging each other, children playing together, a love letter, or …
Let’s look at another example. Here’s how we brainstormed the featured illustration at the top of this post:
- We outlined the post and wrote it together, covering the reasons why simple images work and tips for creating your own images.
- While discussing the post, we found that its essence is the contrast between simple drawings and clichéd stock photos — a drawing is more than a mere decoration; it’s a clarification of your idea.
- We then decided to draw a simple stick figure confused by the ubiquitous call center gal.
Here’s a drawing of the process:
Distilling the essence of your post into simple drawings forces you to focus on your big idea. What do you really want to communicate?
The process makes your content clearer and more persuasive.
How to upload, publish, and share your images
Once you’ve written a post and hand-drawn a few images, what’s the quickest way to upload them to your site? And how do you get your images shared on social media?
Follow these six simple tips:
- Use basic tools. The easiest way to publish your images is hand-drawing them on paper, making sure the paper is clean and not crumpled. Scan your drawing or take a picture with your smartphone or tablet.
- Add text. Raw handwriting works, but if you’d like the text you add to your images to appear in a polished font, you can use a free editor like the one you’ll find on Pixlr.com.
- Re-size appropriately. Keep in mind that large images increase loading time. When re-sizing your image, be careful not to change your drawing’s proportions because your image will look squashed or stretched.
- Make your pictures the same dimensions. For a consistent look, you can crop your drawings with free photo editing tools to remove excess white areas.
- Prepare image ratios for social media. The recommended image ratio is different for each social media channel. Use metadata to properly display different images on different channels. Or find the optimum size that works on the most popular channels.
- Optimize for search engines. Use descriptive title and alt tags so that search engines recognize your images. Keep in mind that alt tags are also used by screen readers for visually impaired people.
Visual content encourages social shares. Buffer found, for instance, that tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets.
Stop worrying about perfection
You don’t need to be the next Picasso to draw an image to communicate your ideas.
A clean sheet of paper. A pencil or a pen. And a scanner or your smartphone camera. That’s all you need for simple drawings that clarify your ideas and captivate your audience.
You’ll be amazed by your readers’ reactions. They’ll “get” your ideas at a glance. Even days later, your latest drawing keeps popping up in their minds, reminding them about your blog post, your idea, or your advice.
Readers will feel closer to you because your drawings humanize you and display a sense of fun.
Start scribbling. Let your inner child play. Have fun.
And let us know over on LinkedIn ways you’ll be able to clarify your ideas with simple, captivating drawings.
About the Author: Mike Davenport helps people become the superhero they have been waiting for through simple images and sport coaching. See more of his drawings here. Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent marketer and writing coach on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook. Get her free snackable writing course for busy people and learn how to write more seductive content.