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What to Do with Old Sketchbooks (Even Make Money with Them)

Finishing the last page of a sketchbook feels like victory. You’ve done it! You’ve filled an entire sketchbook with art. Now what? There is so much pride that comes with filling up sketchbooks, but we’re often at a loss for what to do with them. Eventually, they pile up on a bookshelf for us to riffle through whenever we happen to get around to our yearly spring cleaning. So, what should you do with these old sketchbooks?

Use old sketchbooks to create new art projects, reflect on your past, or even start an online store that can bring in some extra income. Selling your original art, or making copies to sell on mugs, t-shirts, and other products can put your old sketchbook art to good use.

Old sketchbooks don’t have to collect dust. Let’s dive into my top suggestions for putting your sketchbooks to good use…and even make you a few extra dollars!

Make More Art Out of the Ones You Like

Our sketchbooks aren’t like novels. They’ll be ok if they lose a few pages or two. Don’t be shy about pulling out your favorites and turning them into bigger art projects. Here are some ideas to trigger some inspiration.

  1. Add to them. If you have unfinished drawings or works that could use a refresh, liven them up a bit by adding more to them.
  2. Make cards out of them to send to friends and family.
  3. Make collages.
  4. Decoupage them onto furniture, boxes, and more.
  5. Frame them.

Let’s talk a bit more about framing. I feel like there’s WAY too much shyness about putting our own art on the walls. We worked so hard at our art, but we want to hide it away in sketchbooks for no one to see?! Yet, we go to Ross and buy a $10 painting that was mass produced. Now, I’m not saying I’m good at this at all. I have a LOT of hidden sketchbooks as well as a LOT of $10 Ross canvases. 

If you’re better than me and can muster the courage to fill your walls with your own amazing art instead of Ross art (not bagging on Ross art at all. I actually like Ross art), make sure to frame it properly. Properly? What does that mean? 

The number one priority is to protect your art from sun damage.

Any old regular  glass will protect your art from food fights, crumplings, and stray insects. But, any old regular glass won’t protect your art from sun damage and fading. Of course, you DON’T want your art fading away. Luckily, there’s a fairly easy solution. Be sure to get glass for your frames that blocks UV rays. 

I’ve written an entire article about why you need to protect your art from sun damage and how to go about doing it. I’ve also outlined some great choices for UV blocking glass so that you don’t have to do the research yourself. Check it out and save yourself the frustration of your art fading into oblivion.

protecting your art from sunlight
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Sell Your Art, Especially Digitally and with Print on Demand

You may be thinking, “who wants to buy my old sketchbook artworks?” Well, you’re probably underestimating yourself. Scratch that. You’re DEFINITELY underestimating yourself. There’s a style and aesthetic for every type of buyer and there’s no doubt that you have your own raving fan club that you haven’t discovered yet.

I have two Etsy stores and they’re REALLY fun to run. There’s something SO neat about having someone spend their hard earned money on something you’ve created. The extra money is nice too.

hopscotch shop gifts
My physical products shop on Etsy!
Hopscotch Shop Designs
My digital products shop on Etsy!

Selling traditional art: on Etsy, or even eBay, you can sell your sketches just as they are! Advertise them as sketches or as prints that buyers can hang on the wall. 

Selling digital art: both of my Etsy stores revolve around my digital art. I love playing around with fonts, colors, illustrations, and funny sayings. The digital nature of the art gives me a lot more options for selling it. Mugs, t-shirts, stickers, digital cards, and more. The options are endless! Let’s dive into it a bit more.

Even if you want to sell your traditional art, it’s a good idea to scan them so that you can sell multiple copies without losing the original. Firstly, let’s talk about selling your art as a digital file.

This can be a REALLY simple way to share your art with the world. I have an Etsy store fully dedicated to digital files. I sell digital greeting cards that people can download and print at home. Easy peasy! You can also sell prints of your artwork that people can print and hang on their walls. No shipping or hands-on work!

But, my bread and butter has been Print on Demand, putting my art on mugs, t-shirts, and anything else you can think of.

If this is new to you, let me explain Print on Demand (POD). This means that they, well, print products on demand. Here are some of the benefits of that:

  • no inventory
  • no upfront costs or investments
  • easily add an unlimited amount of products to your shop, from t-shirts to prints and mugs
  • the POD company handles the production and shipping
  • no need to be hands-on with your product
yes, you can really make money with PoD
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Print on Demand has been a game changer for online store owners and people who want to start side hustles selling the artwork that they would be creating anyways. 

About 5 years ago, I used print on demand to dip my toe into the world of selling my art. With no upfront costs, shipping hassles, or inventory, I had nothing to lose. What started off as a fun experiment and a few extra dollars suddenly turned into a serious side hustle that was bringing substantial money through the door every month. 

I LOVE being able to create designs and share them with the world without all of the stress that comes with printing and shipping. 

print on demand service that integrate with etsy
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If you’re nervous about getting started with selling your art, Print on Demand is a great choice for getting started in an easy and low cost way. Again, you don’t even need to sell anything right off the bat.

Let Them Pile Up, But Find Time to Look Through Them

Just like journals, sketchbooks are amazing telescopes into the past. The “how, what, where, why, and who” of your drawings can say A LOT about who you were as a person and an artist at the time. 

  • How were you drawing? Faces, shading, perspective, animals. Examine how your art skills have grown.
  • What were you drawing? Landscapes, portraits, abstract scenes. Examine the subject matter you’ve been drawing and how they reflect what you were going through at the time.
  • Where were you drawing? Vacations, study abroad experiences, moves. Examine where your sketchbooks have been and how your art was influenced by where you were at the time.
  • Why were you drawing? Working on new skills, processing an emotional event, enjoyment. Examine why you were drawing and what was going on in your life at the time that sparked it.
  • Who were you drawing? Portraits of family and friends, sketches of pets. Examine who you were drawing and how they impacted your life at the time.

Looking through my own sketchbooks dating back to my tiny human days, I can see exactly when I had an obsession with Disney (still do, but that’s where it was born), when I finally mastered shading, and how I have always struggled with drawing fur and hair. I can see points in time when I was a perfectionist, when I lacked motivation, when I had huge bouts of creativity. 

I can almost see myself grow up through my sketchbooks.

Give it a try. You might actually learn something. Remember that hindsight is 20/20. Have you ever read back on a journal entry from 10 years ago and, despite having been clueless back then, you suddenly have crystal clear insight into what was going on and what you learned from it? Looking back on your artwork can do the same thing.

Study your art from the past. What skills were you still working on? What personal challenges were coming through in your art? What have you learned since then? Enjoy the ride and be open to a dose of insight.

Don’t feel bad if your sketchbooks pile up on your shelves. I mean, we have no problem with books piling up on bookshelves, why do sketchbooks have to be any different? But, like your favorite books, be sure to take them down from time to time and appreciate what’s inside of them.

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