The Science-Backed Ways that Sketch Drawing Improves Mood

hand drawing a sketch of a man's leg

Artists of all disciplines use sketching as a means to record ideas, memories, and observations. Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first creatives to take a notebook outside the studio and to the streets, with the belief that it was imperative to have direct contact with life and observe human’s actions to truly harness your talents. Da Vinci’s approach easily translates today, where the benefits of drawing and sketching can offer a great way to disconnect from technology.

Experiencing artfrom the act of painting and sculpting to a visit to an art museumoffers a variety of benefits to well-being including decreased stress and stronger critical thinking skills. Drawing and sketching in particular have been connected with improved creativity, memory, and stress relief, and are also used in art therapy.

To reap these benefits, you don’t have to draw with da Vinci’s level of accuracy. Instead, sketching can be used by anyone as a means to decompress and fine tune a range of critical thinking skills. Below, explore the ways that drawing can be beneficial, plus, learn sketching ideas for encouraging a positive mindset.

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” –Pablo Picasso

The Benefits of Sketching

Sketching is an exercise for the hand, mind, and eyes, and the activity provides benefits that can be applied to many aspects of life, from work to relationships. Understand how you can utilize the healing capabilities and cognitive benefits of drawing, which are outlined below.

1. Enhances Creativity

According to research from the National Center of Biotechnology Information, drawing enables the ability to think in a different manner, encouraging open-ended thought and creativity. The personal development and problem-solving skills that emerge from uninterrupted sketching can be applied to everyday occurrences. These traits enable critical thinking skills, which can produce new insights and creative thoughts.

2. Strengthens Focus and Strategic Thinking

In addition to creativity, there are cognitive and cerebral benefits to sketching. We use our brains when we draw, and this not only releases endorphins, but helps build new connections and pathways. When drawing, we actively use both sides of our brain, the right for creativity, and the left for logical thinking. This strengthens both and helps develop the ability to focus and think strategically.

3. Improves Holistic Health

Drawing, like many other art forms, aids in relaxation and stress relief by forcing us to pay attention to details in the environment, which mimics the experience of mediation. Spontaneous drawing is also said to relieve stress and improve focus, as it relieves your brain from the strain of continuous concentration. This, in turn, allows you to relax.

sunil das sketches

Sunil Das sketches. Sold for INR3,120,000 via Osian’s – The Auction House (June 2017).

4. Develops Communication Skills

Sketching is a visual language, comprising symbols, notations, lines and figural representations. Without words, an artist must find a way to communicate through pictorial representations, and this affords us better decision-making skills. It also provides the ability to better understand feelings and emotions without focusing in on the meaning of specific text.

5. Helps Coordination

The more we draw, the more our hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills develop. With continuous line-drawing and blind contour drawing, for example, artists are forced to rely on their instincts, using both senses of sight and touch. According to Jeremy P. Tarcher, author of The New Side of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, as you sketch without looking at the paper, the left side of your brain begins to rejects the details and complexities of spatial awareness, allowing the right side of your brain to take over. This, in turn, allows artists to trust the movement of their hands instead relying on memorized drawing patterns, improving overall coordination.

Drawing Ideas for Improving Mood

There are a variety of easy drawing ideas that can be leveraged to improve mood. Whether drawing mindlessly or meticulously completing figural illustrations, the ideas below will help foster positive thinking.

George Morland, Sketches, c. 1800. Offered via Chiswick Auctions (February 2019).


For those who don’t know where to start, begin with simple, freeform drawing; a therapeutic way to get ideas onto paper. Start with your writing tool in the middle of a fresh, blank sheet of paper and create loose lines without stopping. Make sure to fill the entire page, then go back and fill in any meaningful shapes that stand out.

3D Patterns

3D patterns allow for a sense of creativity and self-discovery. Begin by placing a series of dots at the center of your sheet of paper (in no particular order), then connect them in a way that forms shapes. Continue by shading the sides of the resulting shapes in medium and dark tones to imply three-dimensionality.

Abstract Shapes

If ever you’ve studied the work of abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, each creates abstraction through the use of lines and shapes. Emulate their methods by creating flowing, curved lines with some straight lines in the mix. Complete your composition by coloring in various spaces enclosed by the lines you created.


Zentangles are abstract, creative drawings made by sketching patterns at random. This meditative form of drawing is both relaxing and fun; deliberate yet unexpected. Much of the joy in creating zentangles is in the process itself, not the act of finishing, allowing one to truly get lost in the act of sketching.

Additional Sketching Ideas to Inspire Creativity

Below are a variety of other sketching ideas you might consider:

  • Create a flow sketch
  • Outline a skyline
  • Repeat a shape you find intriguing in different sizes
  • Depict the interior of a room
  • Sketch plants and flowers
  • Recreate a family photo
  • Outline a building exterior
  • Draw a landscape you find serene
  • Draw a maze
  • Create a mandala

We’ve compiled a quick checklist of sketching ideas to ensure you always have one at hand. Keep it handy in your sketchbook as inspiration.

sketching ideas infographic

Much like da Vinci’s use of sketching as a means to record thoughts and develop ideas, the benefits of drawing are equally useful today. From the positive effects it has on our mental state to the sharpening of creative and analytics skills, sketching has proved to be a powerful tool.

Additional sources: A List Apart | SideTrend | Odyssey | My Modern Met | Presto Sketching