Remote Sketching: Tools and Tips for UX Designers

Back when I worked alongside my team in an office, we'd grab some paper or use a whiteboard to sketch ideas and designs together. It always stretched my brain and rarely looked pretty, but it was a useful method to get alignment quickly without getting bogged down in detail or technology.

These days I’m working from home and sketching together isn't as straightforward as it used to be. I've fallen out of the practice in favour of diagramming in white boarding tools or sketching on my own to share later. I still think there's value in real-time drawing alongside these methods, it just needs to be adapted for remote work.

If you've struggled with the practical aspects of taking visual collaboration digital like I have, here's three different methods I've been trying out.


Use a sketching app on a tablet

Procreate on the iPad is my go-to for sketching digitally, so it's where I have the most muscle memory in sketching ideas. I plug in my iPad and use Quicktime with "New Movie recording" of the iPad screen so that it's displaying on my computer, which I can then screen share in Meet or Teams. I'm sure there are similar Android and Windows tablet options that will work too.




Use a phone or camera

Sometimes going analog just feels right, especially for early ideation. The easiest way I've found to share sketching on paper in real-time is to use my phone pointed down at the page, capturing what my hands are doing as they sketch.

My iPhone 13 mini supports continuity camera, which means it can act as a secondary camera in a video call without any extra software. If your phone doesn't support this or you're using a camera, you can use the Zoom hack or software like Quicktime to bring your camera's view up on your computer screen which you can then screen share.

Getting your phone or camera pointing directly down whilst still allowing you space to draw can be tricky. After trying various hacky solutions, I've stuck with a goose-neck style phone holder or a phone stand, which both allow me to position my phone so that the camera can easily capture an A4 page. If you're using a camera or have other use for it, splurging on a proper tripod with the extra arm for overhead shots might be worth the cost and setup effort.




Use a white boarding tool on a tablet

As a user experience designer, these days I spend more of my time in whiteboarding tools like Miro more than I do in drawing or UI design tools. When I'm working with others, often it's in Miro with all of us contributing.

The simplest way I've found to use these tools with a stylus is by using my tablet as a second screen. I can drag Miro over to that screen and use my stylus to draw, touch for gestures, and still use my keyboard and mouse when those make more sense, such as pasting in a screenshot or typing a comment. Others in the board can of course see what you're doing and also edit or draw on the board too in real-time. This should work with any white boarding tool such as Figjam or Jamboard.

I've also started to add illustrations to boards that I'm preparing before a meeting - adding them directly in Miro saves the hassle of having to export them from Procreate.




Sketch and share

Sometimes it makes more sense to sketch ideas separately, then come together to talk through them. Although this won't show drawings happening in real-time, it does give space for everyone to get a chance to draw and come up with ideas independently without any one person dominating the discussion.

To make this work digitally, participants can take a photo to email to a facilitator to share or post in a white boarding tool.



To wrap up, remember that sketching together won’t make sense for every meeting, and all of the ideas I’ve suggested have their strengths and weaknesses. Visual collaboration with sketching is just one more technique in your UX toolbox to use when the situation calls for thinking outside of the box. Happy sketching!