Okay, maybe not fake it, but can you develop your creative side even if you can’t draw or paint a stick figure?

Some people seem like they have natural talent while others would love to be more creative but don’t think they can.

In this article, I am going to explore ways that non-artistic people can develop their creative side so they can use it in their business. While I am assuming most people reading this either create low content books or printables, it can apply to any sort of business where you need original artwork.

1. Practice

Practice makes perfect. That’s not just a cliché. Even people with artistic talent—get this—go to art school! I know, shocker right? We all start with what we have and work to get better. How much and how quickly we progress depends on 1) our innate abilities and 2) how much time and effort we put into practice.

Tip: I loved the book The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufmann. In it he explains how the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert is not what most of us need to hear. Rather, we can get reasonably good at most things with 20 hours of practice. It’s the 80/20 of developing skills or knowledge.

We don’t need to be an expert artist for a lot of what we do to create books and printables. We just need to get good enough. So practice until you are good enough.

Kaufman also explains how repetition gets us a lot further than perfectionism. So, practice doing something often without judging yourself. Aiming for perfection just ends up being an exercise in frustration. Once you are reasonably good at a skill, then you can start refining your work.

2. Get digital

There are lots of options for making digital art. It takes a bit of getting used to, but overall digital art has a few advantages:

  • when you erase something, it is completely gone without a trace
  • you can zoom in and erase individual pixels to refine your work
  • you can draw straight lines and other shapes perfectly
  • you can build simple clipart from shapes and just tweak it
  • you can easily trace over an image you own or is from the public domain as a reference

And much more.

Here are some options for creating digital drawings:

Procreate app—this app in only available for the iPad but is just under $10 and an absolute bargain for what it can do. This app plus a stylus (like the Apple Pencil) is the most like drawing on paper of my suggestions. Yet, there are plenty of tricks available in the app that can improve your art as well as a growing number of options to extend it such as brushes and grids.

Affinity Designer—I love this program. It is the younger cousin of Adobe Illustrator but is much simpler to use. You can draw with it, or build images from shapes. You can create patterns, including seamless repeating patterns. There aren’t as many add-ons available as for Procreate or Illustrator but this software is still young.

Adobe Illustrator—this has long been the pro option and it can do a lot. At this point there are only a few reasons to go for this over Designer. One is the image trace feature and the other is for the available add-ons. I have some mandala making plug-ins that only work with Illustrator and I do regularly use the image trace feature. Everything else I do in Designer these days.

3. Re-define “art” based on your abilities

When making printables, journals or planners you don’t necessarily need to be a fantastic artist.

We are not trying to paint the Mona Lisa. Rather, often all we need is a background that we can place text over (like for a cover) or a border. That is not that hard to create from scratch.

You can grab a piece of paper and mess around with watercolor or acrylic paints to create a background. We’ve been doing that kind of painting since kindergarten.

Or do the same thing digitally. There are numerous brushes available that work with Procreate, Affinity or Adobe that mimic paint, inks, crayons, charcoal and more.

Creating a digital watercolor splotch in something like Photoshop is as simple as choosing a brush, choosing a color, and clicking once on your canvas.

Or do the same in any of the other programs I have mentioned. Another lesser talked about program that allows you to paint on screen is Corel Painter Essentials (or the full Corel Painter, but that is pricey).

4. Explore collage and mixed media

Digital collage is an ideal medium for people who can’t draw or paint because you are assembling found images. These can be images you purchased a license for (e.g. Creative Market, Hungry Jpeg…) or from the public domain.

Collage is perfect for people who have an eye for what looks good but sometimes lack the ability to execute (raises hand).

Photoshop is probably the best program for collage, but plenty of people get good results with Photoshop Elements or Affinity Photo. You could even use Canva in conjunction with an online “remove the background” tool or service.

You can also combine a collage of images with digital paint. Use your imagination and experiment without judgment.

Explore collage with Kelly Schaub’s online class G is for Grids. It’s free or you can donate a cup of coffee if you like.

5. Use software and other assets

A lot of what is available on sites like Creative Market are add-ons and tools that extend software such as Photoshop, Procreate, or Affinity. These offer easy ways for non-artists to create pro results that are original.

When you look at sites like Creative Market or Design Cuts, browse through the actions, presets, and brushes for Affinity, Adobe, or even Procreate.

For example, there are brushes that can make it easy to create floral borders or zentangle borders.

There are plugins that turn photos into watercolors or make it simple to create mandalas.

There are endless brushes that mimic paints, inks, and any artistic media imaginable.

There are also pattern or stamp brushes that act similar to a rubber stamp.

There are countless apps and software that can also help you including:

  • software to create patterns, backgrounds and filters (e.g. FilterForge)
  • software to create patterns (Repper, Adobe Capture, Photoshop plugins, and the pattern maker at BookPublisher tools)
  • phone and tablet apps that will turn photos into sketches, line art, paintings or pastels (just make sure you have the rights to use the source image). Check out JixiPix which offers most of their creative software as stand alone, a Photoshop plugin, or an app (though apps are less fully featured). Get on their mailing list because from time to time they have sales.

Browse through the creative apps in the app store and see what looks interesting. Most of them are only a few dollars so if it doesn’t work out for you, it is not a huge investment.


You don’t need natural artistic talent to create beautiful books and planners. It has never been easier to use digital tools and software to create beautiful and original assets for your business so get busy creating and practicing!

Want more advice? Maria Silvo of Artsy Challenge published a great post with creativity tips from 18 entrepreneurs. Read it on her blog.