Advantages of Pen and Paper Before Designing on Computer

By . Filed in Web Design

Tell me, when was the last time you actually wrote using pen and paper? It’s not surprising to know that you seldom use them, as we’re entering the digital age when technologies like laptop and tablet blossom all over the world. However, the crucial fact here is that using pen and paper are definitely more efficient than using computer when it comes to sketching, writing, designing, any activity that involves brainstorming!

pen and paper
(Image Source: Mike Rohde)

It’s safe to say that with pen and paper, your creativity will truly be unleashed in a very fast manner, making your work more efficient than ever. What’s really greater is that they save tons of your energy and time, with the chance to decrease your head-scratching moment!

Read on to know what are the reasons behind the claims, then dig out your papers and start doodling on them today!

1. It Combats Designer’s Block

The first and foremost reason that you should sketch on paper before designing on computer is your idea will flow more naturally. This fact is even applicable to the Wacom pen tablet’s holder. It’s apparently not a preference issue but a predefined habit of the human, after all sketching on the paper is certainly more user-friendly than typing on the computer, as you can draw or write anything on the paper so freely and naturally.

combat designers block
(Image Source: Mike Rohde)

This is my first-hand experience. When I’m trying to come up with a short story I find it easier to generate the ideas on a legal pad than type the ideas out in computer. Even though I know that I’ll still be typing them on my laptop, I still wrote them via hand. Why? Because I noticed that ideas flow naturally with every letter I wrote.

So, are you having the writer’s block while you’re sitting in front of Microsoft Word, or Adobe Photoshop? Take some time off and bring out some papers and your pencil, then start sketching anything comes into your mind. If you’re trying to come up with a logo, you can start with a circle, and after several minutes you’ll notice that you’ve made several variations.

2. It Greatly Saves Your Time & Energy

This point is especially true for web designer. In web design we often have so many things to be planned, says home page, product page, contact page and even details like how the link button should look like. Sketch the ideas on Photoshop and modify them when changes are needed will prove to be exhausting and time-consuming.

more ideas
(Image Source: Mike Rohde)

The question is: why waste your energy and time on the computer while some papers and a pen can do the same job? You can sketch on the paper any way you want, and tear the idea down any time you want without pressing buttons here and there, talking about productivity!

What’s greater is that as you sketch faster, more ideas will pop up in such a short time and you can even alter them to spawn more ideas, talking about creativity!

3. It Gives a Clear Perspective

There are many professional web designers and graphic artists who always bring their sketchpad to meetings with their clients. This is because sketching is actually faster than using computer when brainstorming with the clients.

clear perspective
(Image Source: Mike Rohde)

Besides, in the design industry it is very important that the designer understands what the client wants to see, and the paper and pen come in really handy for this situation. Always bring a sketchpad and a pen/pencil to meetings, your drawing doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect, just the rough representation of what the client might see as the final product.

In terms of programming, sketching is like drawing a flowchart. In terms of writing a novel, it is like writing an outline of all the events and characters. Actually there’s a term for it in web design, it’s called wireframing. It is only composed of lines, squares, and shades to represent how the website will look like.

4. It’s Here Whenever You Need It

There are times when a designer simply forgets what he/she has thought of. Having a pen and paper at ready will prove useful to record the great ideas which you might simply forget them in seconds. It also allows you to immediately get into the work like prototyping, even while you are waiting for the bus to arrive.

combat designers block
(Image Source: EddyMixx)

Would it not be perfect to have a sketchpad with you wherever you go so that those random ideas can be recorded? Like when you’re traveling or you’re waiting in a queue and a great idea comes to mind. You wouldn’t want to lose that precious idea just because you weren’t bringing anything that you can use to record your thoughts, right?

A great example of this is the writing of the poem, “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Samuel allegedly dreamt of the whole thing, and upon waking up he went to his notes and wrote down everything before he forgets them (but he was interrupted by someone in the end). What if he was not with his notes at that time? A great poem might not be born at all!

Modern Technology’s take on this:

Sketching and writing with paper and pen is fun, but it can also be a pain especially when you hope to carry your ideas with you always, and you only want to bring a computer but not several legal pads to everywhere. Besides, in most cases, you certainly don’t want to re-draw or re-type the ideas into the computer.

The good news is that the technology is so advanced that certain digital products can help you tackle the issue of integration and sharing while you are still able to enjoy sketching on the paper.

livescribe pen

Livescribe is a digital pen that is able to write on real paper like ordinary pen, with a twist! You can stick in Livescribe to your computer and everything you’ve written is converted into “searchable” images on your computer. Livescribe can also be used to record audio, and with additional apps it can do simple mathematical computations, and many others functions!

wacom inkling

I’m fairly certain that you are acquainted with Wacom and its pen tablets for digital painting and sketching, but did you know that they have a product that actually uses an ink and paper? Inkling is Wacom’s product that records every stroke and shade on a paper, and later on enables the user to transfer the whole art to Photoshop for additional improvements. Inkling can be used on any paper or any surface as long as it’s flat.


As the current technology advances intensively, I believe it is our duty to keep up with it while not leaving the traditional things behind, especially those from which creativity came from.

Marrying technology with tradition results to great things. While designing on the computer has its great advantages, it’s good for you to leave your mouse and keyboard for several minutes and get really creative by start sketching/writing on your paper!


Rean is a writer, editor, web developer, and an adventurer. He loves coffee, tea, and chocolate. No permanent workplace. He works anywhere the wind takes him. Check out his latest blog: