Sharpie, paper, ScanSnap, Keynote. Or: My presentation routine

Some time ago, I tweeted about using both low- and high tech tools for creating presentations. Some of you that know me, know what I'm talking about; for those that don't, a quick run-through of the way I create simple graphics or highlights for my presentations. The bottom line: I use this setup because it's the quickest way to get an image out of my head, onto paper, and into my computer.

Why would I use hand-drawn images? I grew tired of all the run-of-the-mill graphics people use in their presentations, and I'm not exactly a graphics guru with all the nice tools. Also, I'm highly impressed by Sacha Chua's The Shy Connector; while I don't strive to have all hand drawn presentations, I like the personal touch of something made by my own hands.

The tools

My not-so-permanent setup consists of

How does that work?

As stated above, I need a quick way to get something out of my head, and into my keynote. Here goes.

1. Draw

I like to put a piece of cardboard under the paper I'm drawing on, as these Sharpies tend to bleed through.

2. Scan

I have a preset that takes the image from the ScanSnap, scans it in the second-best quality, and opens the result in Preview.

3. Move to keynote

Once opened in Preview, it's easy to copy-and-paste the image, or a part of it, to Keynote. Sometimes it's useful to enhance the image a little in Preview, e.g. by increasing the contrast or saturation, it depends on whether or not you want the images to have a paper-like texture.

4. Post process

You now have an image in keynote, to which you can apply all the snazzy keynote effects. I'll take you through two of my favorites.

The 'scribble'

If you have an image that should visually 'stay together', draw a line around it, then only apply an alpha filter on everything outside that line. There's no need for the lines you draw to be straight.

The black-on-black

When you use a theme that has a black (or dark) background, it's hard to use any of the Sharpie-colors directly. You could invert the colors, but this gives an unnatural feel.

In stead, I like to saturate the image to full black (or red, or whatever), and use a two-pixel white outline. Simple, yet effective!


I like to use this technique for most of my presentations; for some examples, see