Hand Lettered Note Taking

Last month, I decided to try something new on Sunday mornings. I have to confess that despite my best intentions, I sometimes have trouble focusing on the pastor’s message. My mind wanders to my next creative project, my afternoon activities, or even to what I’m planning to have for lunch. I find myself missing things because I’m caught up in my own thoughts. So, I decided to see what would happen if I put my lettering and doodling to work to help me take notes on the message instead. What I’ve found is that rather than distracting me, my doodling actually helps me to focus and to pick out the key points.

Hand Lettered Notes

As I’ve posted my notes on Instagram, I’ve gotten an overwhelming response and tons of questions about my method. I promised to do my best to walk you through how I take my notes so that you can give it a try too, so here’s a step by step look at the process from start to finish. I’m using last week’s notes for this example and have recreated them for you each step of the way.

My Materials:
{affiliate links}
Sketchbook {5.5 x 8.5″}
Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen

Of course, you can use any type of paper and pens you have on hand. When I recreated these images for you, I used my new iPad Pro, combined with the Apple Pencil and the app Procreate.

The sermon, as you probably already guessed, was about the parable of the Prodigal Son. The first thing the pastor mentioned was the definition of the word, “prodigal.” I thought it was worth noting, so I wrote it in the upper left hand corner of my page.



As the message continued, the pastor noted that the story of the Prodigal Son was not told in isolation; instead it was the third in a series of three related parables. First, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, in which a shepherd leaves 99 of his 100 sheep to search for the one who is lost. Next, he tells of a widow with ten silver coins who searches her entire house for the one that goes missing. Finally, He concludes with the story of the Prodigal Son. All together, they tell of how incredibly valued each of us is by the Father. So, I made a note in the upper right corner of my page to remind myself that these three stories are connected.


The next point the pastor made was that when the son returned, he had absolutely nothing to offer his father. No money, no honor, nothing but himself. We also learn from the story that when the son returns, his father spies him while he is still quite far away. He has clearly been waiting and watching for the prodigal child to return home. I made note of both of these things at the bottom of the page.


We moved on to discuss the three gifts the father gives the son upon his return. The pastor detailed why each gift was significant and how it showed not just acceptance, but the reinstatement of the young man as a son. I wrote these below the definition of “prodigal” then drew a line to clearly separate the two notes.


The next two notes I made were interesting insights I’d never thought about or known before. First, the pastor noted that the fattened calf would have been something a Jewish family was preparing for the celebration of the Feast of Atonement. I found that interesting, in light of the fact that the son’s return was his own atonement and repentance for the choices he had made. I also had never noticed that the elder brother refers to the Prodigal as “your son” rather than “my brother.” He is disassociating himself from the family and disowning his brother for his actions. Unlike the father, he can’t seem to forgive. I made these notes on the sides of my page. I also added a simple frame around one of them to separate it from the notes above it.



As the message wrapped up, one statement struck me as a central theme of both the parable and the sermon: “nothing is more important than the restoration of a child to our good, good Father.” I lettered this in the empty space in the center of the page. Under it, I wrote, “it’s about relationship.” I knew there wouldn’t be any more notes at the bottom of the page, so I finished that part off by adding some swirls and vines. I also outlined the central message and gave it a shadow effect to make it stand out.




The last thing I made note of was the pastor’s comment that the son’s story continued because he chose to return. As it was, his story had all but ended. He was desperate, starving, and alone. His story was about to come to a close. But his return changed everything. There was a bit of empty space on the left side, so I squeezed the final note in and also added a little border around the feast of atonement note to separate the two.



All that was left was to fill in the remaining blank space with embellishments. I chose to add two arrows, a handful of swirls, and a grouping of flowers. There you have it…my notes!

Hand Lettered Sermon Notes


Of course, each week’s notes look slightly different, depending on the topic and the message. Here are a few other examples from previous weeks. They were part of a series on Joy based on the book of Philippians. Unfortunately, since I needed square images for Instagram, the bottom of the notes got cut off…but it still gives you an idea! For these, I used the image for the series as the central focus point, then wrote my notes around it.

Hand Lettered Sermon Notes

These examples have some different embellishment ideas, including doodles related to the topic, banners, and bubble letters of important words.

Hand Lettered Notes

I hope that gives you some ideas of where and how to start with your own lettered note-taking. Here are a few quick FAQ’s to help you out.

Q: Do you take these notes in “real time” or do you take normal notes and rewrite them artistically later at home?

A: Real time! I do it in the moment as I’m listening.

Q: How do you know how to space it all out?

A: I don’t! I enjoy the challenge of making everything work together. I tend to start out by hitting the corners and then filling in open spaces as I hear things I think are significant. At the end, I can always fill the rest of the blank areas with embellishments.

Q: What if you mess up?

A: Well, it’s just for me, so a mistake isn’t the end of the world. I am anxious, though, to try lettering on the iPad Pro this week because of that nice “undo” option.

Q: Do other people and/or the pastor give you side eye because they think you’re not paying attention?

A: Not usually! The people around me can usually see at a glance what I’m doing, and some even like to see the finished product at the end of the service. Last week, I even mentioned to the pastor what I did so that he’d know, and I sent him a digital copy of the notes at his request because he liked it so much.

Q: How do you know what fonts to use?

A: There is no “right” or “wrong” font for the job! Just use whatever fonts you happen to know {I like to use brush calligraphy combined with whimsical print and “regular” all caps print} and mix them up a bit for variety.

Got more questions? Ask away! Leave a comment or come join us in the One Artsy Mama & Friends Facebook group so we can chat about it. I’d love to see your lettered notes too, so feel free to share them there!

Here’s a quick super-speed video of the process I thought you might enjoy…


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  1. This was so, so helpful!! Thank you so much for taking the time to break this down! I feel much more confident giving this a try now!

  2. I love your notes . They are beautiful and so meaningful…
    It’s so kind of you to share this with others…
    You are quite an encouragement to others.

  3. I was able to land here! Thanks for sharing this! And I’m seeing that I will spend a fair amount of time around your blog -not tonight, though- but it looks super useful.
    Just as it happens to you, I loose myself thinking about whatever if I’m not taking notes, although just drawing also helps. I started taking calligraphy/doodle notes about three months ago, but surely not as pretty as yours and since I’m dyslexic I always messed it up and won’t show them Being in a foreign language and not having the auto-correct also helps me misspelling tricky words!

    God bless you and keep growing through your notes!

  4. love this. I usually scribble my notes on the bulletin, mull the message over for a few days and letter it midweek. I took have shared mine with my pastor. But, I do have an unanswered question… Do you add the extras (arrows, flowers & swirls) still in the pew or later when you are elsewhere? Do you get up when everyone else does or stay seated until you are finished? Do you stop during prayer or multitask it mom style?

    1. Depends on the week…I often find myself adding embellishments later after the service. I do stop when it’s prayer time! 😉

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