Need Inspiration for Drawing? Listen Closely…

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Need Inspiration for Drawing? Music could be the answer!

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

~ Hans Christian Andersen

Need inspiration for drawing? The answer could be right there in your music collection.

It’s no big secret that music can be extremely inspiring. However, there’s a certain type of music that I’ve found to be far more effective for enhancing your creativity…

  • This type of music usually has no lyrics
  • Its tempo can range from the slowest of the slow to the fastest of the fast
  • It’s music that is often created to enhance emotional response to visual images

Can you guess what type of music this is?

The answer is soundtracks. There are actually a few other types, but soundtracks is the big one…

When you listen to a powerful soundtrack you can’t help but feel something inside your body. And, when you listen to them without watching the movie they were created for, you can use this to tap into a deeper level of creativity.

Why Listening to Music Will Give You Inspiration for Drawing

Because we’ve all watched many movies, or at least seen some television programs, we already have a connection between music and what we see.

Even if you’ve never thought of it before, you already have a huge library of situations in your head that you associate with certain music.

The cool thing, however, is this:

When you are listening to soundtracks, it may be difficult for you to remember the exact scene the music was playing on. And, because of this, your brain will come up with new images associated with the music. Basically, you’re drawing inspiration from what you hear!

You may want to create a happy drawing, so you can find some happy music to go with that.  Or maybe you’re looking for deep emotion and sadness…

It’s as simple as choosing a song that speaks to you.

Or you may not even have any idea of what you want to sketch when you start…

In this case, you can just start listening until something really grabs you.

Soundtrack Thumbnail Sketching Exercise

This exercise is great for both thumbnail sketching as well as storyboarding.

You can listen to the music and come up with a series of quick sketches showing what kind of pictures could accompany the music.

Take out your sketching tools…

Listen to the song below (This is one of my personal favorites):

Sketch out at least 10 thumbnail sketches while you are listening to the music.

(If you need help with making your thumbnail sketches we have a full storyboarding and sketching class here)

That’s it!  You can use the above exercise with any song to come up with all kinds of new and interesting thumbnail sketches that you can then use to create your full drawings.


Music can be a great source of drawing inspiration

Using this Exercise to Tell Stories With Your Drawings

First you can listen to the music once just to get a feeling for the song.

Then listen to it again in 20-30 second ‘chunks’ while drawing what kind of action would be happening during this part of the song.

While you are working like this, think of yourself like an animator or a movie maker who is going to show exactly what’s on screen to go along with that certain section of music.

Once you are finished, you should have 1-2 pages of quick thumbnail sketches that tell the story of the song.

You can use this with characters… but you could also use it with environments or objects.

I think characters is the easy one, but if you wanted to draw environments…

How about thinking about how you could show a really interesting space through the use of creative angles, close-ups and faraway shots of different areas of the environment…

Or, if you wanted to use this to illustrate an object, think about how some car commercials play out.  The car is never just sitting there, and the main focus of the commercial is always the car.


Listening to music is just one of many inspirational drawing ideas for your sketchbook

What to do Once you Have a Bunch of Thumbnail Drawings

Once you’ve been inspired by the song and have a bunch of thumbnails, you can look at them all and see which one you would like to work on to create a more finished piece.

The cool thing is that these thumbnails have all been infused with a deeper level of emotion through the songs. So, hopefully, you can tap into those feelings and try to bring them through in your finished work.

Or maybe you find that you don’t really like any of the thumbnails you came up with…

That’s totally OK – simply choose a new song and repeat the process for more inspirational drawing ideas.

If you’re working quickly, it should only take you the length of a song to come up with a whole new batch of drawings.

Another Big Benefit to Listening to Music Without Lyrics

Listening to music can help you find inspiration for drawing, but it can also help you in many other ways.

I’ve personally found that listening to music without lyrics can really help your concentration.

This could mean drowning out the noise of chatty co-workers so you can focus…

It could mean really getting in ‘the zone’ while you are drawing or painting…

Or it could even mean feeling like a superhero while you walk down the street… (seriously, have you ever tried listening to the soundtrack from one of the recent Batman movies while going for a walk?! Try it sometime!)

Four Other Genres of Music to Help Your Creativity:

Soundtracks are great, but you may want to find something that fits your style more.

Just keep in mind to limit the lyrics, and experiment with different things.

You never know what may come from listening to different music and all the new things it may enable you to create when you start mixing music with your own existing library of mental images.

Try listening to some of these:

World Music (Explore instrumental music from around the globe)

Trip Hop (Downbeat hip hop beats)

Yup, we know some of tracks on this playlist actually have lyrics, but it’s the best mix we could find for you on Soundcloud!)

Electronica (Techno etc – but just remember to keep it with minimal or no lyrics)

Classical Music (I’m loving anything by Nils Frahm right now!)

I hope this article has helped you find plenty of inspiration for drawing.

When you give this a shot, I’d love to hear how it worked for you in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “Need Inspiration for Drawing? Listen Closely…”

  1. Awesome article! Soundtracks are an absolute staple for me, in all walks of my creative life. When writing, especially, anything with lyrics just gets in the way.

    Some soundtracks are absolutely incredible, others have amazing tracks and weaker tracks, so be careful what you’re listening to and always listen to it first to see if it’s appropriate for the mood you’re trying to create. I’ve had things I intended to be uplifting turn out a bit melancholic because the tracks changed as I was working! 😛

    There’s tons of great stuff out there to explore, but while you’re at it have a look at a production company called “Two Steps from Hell”. They write soundtrack type music that hasn’t actually been used in any soundtracks, and their work has had them writing for more of the well known ones as well (like Harry Potter, X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbean etc.) They’re absolutely amazing, and I listen to them every single day. Inspiring & powerful music I’d recommend to any fellow artist! 🙂

    1. Chris at PencilKings

      Hi Jon and thanks so much for your feedback! We had a blast putting this article together and picking the playlists 🙂 It’s awesome to get suggestions from fellow artists like you, so I’ll definitely be checking out “Two Steps From Hell” and adding them to my personal playlist. You also raise a very valid point about music influencing your mood, and it’s incredible how powerful this actually is. Just like you, I’ve found myself creating darker pieces than I intended to – just because the soundtrack playlist took on a more melancholy tone!

  2. Well, that was interesting. i normally don’t listen to anything, as most things disturb my concentration. Though movie sound tracks do sound like something I could try. I suppose my big problem is I am a visual , not audio based so I tend to look at things rather than listen to them. This will be something I should try and do.


  3. I call this kind of music “Epic Music”. In my last tutorial I’ve already said “Only with Epic Music playing in the background you can create Epic Scenes.” I recommend to go to YouTube and search for “Epic Music Mix”. Here is one of my favorites:

  4. I’m a huge fan of the whole Inception soundtrack so I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one. I have a Pandora playlist dedicated to songs without lyrics that I zone out to while drawing. It also helped me find a bunch of artists I didn’t know existed before. One of my favorite recent discoveries was Thomas Bergensen’s album “Sun” which doesn’t have a bad song on it. I could fill a blog with other suggestions but I’ll just stop here and say I agree wholeheartedly with using music without lyrics as a source of inspiration.

    1. Hi Jonathan and thanks so much for your feedback 🙂 It’s great to hear from another music lover and I’ll definitely be checking Thomas Bergensen’s album out v soon. Here are some more recommendations for you: Nils Frahm, Boards of Canada, Anna Meredith, Baltic Fleet ( and Mark Pritchard. Let me know what you think! 🙂

  5. I totally agree with you, that music is important. I work as a fashion designer and listen to music almost ALL of the time. Preferably without lyrics as you write. For me it’s mainly trip hop/techno/deep house/lounge…

    1. Hi Fredrik and thanks for getting in touch – it’s great to hear from another music lover! It sounds like we have very similar tastes and could talk for hours about it 🙂 Yup, for me, music is absolutely vital to the creative process – it seems to unlock parts of the imagination that you’d struggle to reach sometimes. Imo, visual art and music are inseparable – that’s probably why so many musicians also love to paint and draw 🙂

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