How to create good-looking notes on the iPad


If you ever came across GoodNotes on Instagram, you may have thought to yourself “how in the world do people take these absolutely beautiful looking notes?”. You’re not alone. In fact, we get this question a lot and decided to share some tips & tricks on creating good-looking notes with the iPad.

Spoiler-alert: The tips will help you make your notes look better, even if you don’t have perfect handwriting.

Why you should make your notes look good in the first place

Let us point out that good-looking notes aren’t important for everyone. Often, you may want to scribble something down quickly and then forget about it. For some people, creating good-looking and well organized notes is super helpful. Here are three reasons why:

1. Well organized and good-looking notes aid information retrieval

If you’re planning to get back to your notes in the future, for example in order to prepare for an exam, you’ll benefit from notes that you can read through easily. Instead of having to decipher what you wrote weeks ago, you can focus on actually understanding the content.

2. Well organized and good-looking notes are easier to share

Any person that needs to read your notes will thank you a thousand times if they don’t have to call you to clarify every third sentence.

3. It is more delightful to read good-looking notes

Note-taking and delight? While we don’t have scientific proof, it is something we hear from users of GoodNotes on a regular basis. They do enjoy studying or reading their notes more than they used to on real paper.

Tips & tricks on creating good-looking notes on the iPad

Who would be more suitable to answer the question “how in the world do people take these absolutely beautiful looking notes”, than someone who’s creating absolutely beautiful looking notes herself?

Tip 1: Trial & Error

In GoodNotes, there are lots of possible combinations of paper templates and pen thicknesses and it takes some time to find the one that works best for you. Jen suggests playing around with different paper templates because it “changes how her handwriting looks like on the paper, even if she keeps the pen size the same”. So go ahead and try different paper templates until you find the perfect choice for you. Consider changing from GoodNotes standard size to A4 or maybe even A3 and write the same sentence with the same pen thickness until it feels right.[1]

You don’t need to create a new notebook or new page for trying out a new template. GoodNotes lets you change the paper template of the current page in the … menu.

Jen swears on A3 narrow-lined paper in GoodNotes because it works best with her preferred pen thicknesses, which are either 0.3mm, 0.5mm or 1.1mm in GoodNotes 5.

Play around with the pen styles too and see which one suits your writing style. For her notes, Jen prefers using the ball pen, as it isn’t pressure-sensitive like the fountain pen or the brush pen. Thus, she can apply as much pressure as she wants and the notes won’t look any different, which gives her a lot of control.

Tip 2: Edit your iPad notes subsequently

This is where note-taking on the iPad really shines: The ability to resize or move ink on the page after jotting it down.

If you want to create good-looking notes, you should definitely do some subsequent editing. Arrange paragraphs or sections on the paper so that they make more sense. Consider deleting or replacing sentences that you wrote down if they don’t add any value. Move bullet points around so that they are perfectly aligned.
To do that, choose GoodNotes’ lasso tool. Now draw a circle around the objects on the page you want to select. Once they are selected, you can move them around the page freely or take more actions in the contextual menu which you can evoke by tapping on the selection once.
Jen shares another helpful tip for subsequent editing of your notes in order to make them pretty. She told us that her handwriting gets messier the larger she writes, which is why she tends to write headers smaller and increases the size afterward. Using different sizes also helps to create a visual hierarchy for your notes and indicate importance.
At the same time, consider staring big and then going small for objects that require more precision, like graphs and sketches. Draw them as big as you need to and then size them down so that they fit in where you want them to be. time-lapse video of Jen taking notes in GoodNotes 4

Another small trick that can make a big difference in how your notes look like is changing the paper template.
Paper with lines helps you greatly to write more neatly and — well — aligned. For reading, however, these lines lose their purpose. When you’re satisfied with how your notes look like, change the paper template from one with lines, squares, or dots, to a blank one. You’ll notice how much cleaner the pages look like.

Tip 3: Make smart use of zooming

If you’re a long-time GoodNotes user like Jen, you’ll know how much zooming in and out on the page improves your whole note-taking experience. Using the pinch-to-zoom gesture allows you to zoom in on your page and write much more precisely than on real paper. Alternatively, you can also use GoodNotes’ built-in Zoom Window.

Tip 4: Practice makes perfect

Paper hasn’t always been the number 1 choice for writing something down, even though it sometimes seems so. iPad note-taking is still a new way of writing, so it also requires some time and dedication to get used to it.
Jen puts it to the point: If digital note-taking doesn’t feel right to you, don’t get discouraged and just keep writing notes.
After a while, writing on your iPad screen will feel completely normal.

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