An Introduction to Google Drawings


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

GAFE Summit Session Description

For some Google Drawings is just a dumbed down version of Paint not allowing for much. However, the collaborative and constrained nature opens up so many different possibilities. This session will explore some of the different possibilities associated with Google Drawings from making collaborative brainstorms to developing complex flowcharts to creating engaging graphics. It will be jam packed with practical samples and examples. Aaron hopes to spur on new ideas and start the conversation about why you should start using Google Drawings more today.

Often Google Drawings is overlooked as being a simple graphic program, offering not much more functionality than Microsoft Paint. You are able to add images, text, shapes, links and lines, while in regards to images, you can crop, re-colour and adjust the basic image settings. That means no touch-ups, no effects, no textures. However, what makes this more than Paint is the collaborative nature. The ability to easily share opens up many possibilities, whether it be working on a project, creating a brainstorm or just sharing a file to be remixed. In some respect the perceived limitations of Google Drawings are often its strengths.

For example, there are some out there who use Drawings to create eye catching visuals. Bypassing the many applications, instead using Google Drawings to create infographics. Tony Vincent has made a fantastic video documenting how he did this to create an infographic associated with Periscope.

Features of Google Drawings

Google Drawings has many features, this is a list of some of them:

  • Resize the canvas, either by manualliy dragging the edge at the bottom or in Page Setup within File to make something specific.
  • Insert a range of objects, including text, images, shapes, word art and tables
  • Draw lines
  • Format shapes: This includes colour fill, as well as width and style of the border.
  • Group, order and arrange objects
  • Access different fonts from the Google Fonts Library
  • Edit images, including cropping to a shape, adding borders, inserting links and adjusting the colour settings.
  • Red and blue guidelines helps you to organise the different objects both in regards to alignment and size.
  • Share shapes with other applications using web clipboard in edit
  • Publish to the web, not only is this useful in its own accord, but it also provides the means to embed within a website

For a thorough step-by-step introduction to Google Drawings, I recommend looking at Kasey Bell’s Cheat Sheet.

Tips when using Drawings

Here are some tips to help working with Google Drawings:

  • Holding SHIFT will allow you to make finer adjustments, constrain movement to the nearest axises and maintain relative proportions when resizing.
  • Holding down Ctrl/Options allows you to choose multiple objects, when clicking and dragging off an object it allows you to create a duplicate, while when adjusting the node of an object allows you to maintain the dimensions
  • Holding ALT/Command temporarily disable ‘Snap to Grid’
  • Canvases are transparent, but will turn to white if you download them as a JPEG. If you want to change the backgrouund colour, right click on the canvas to get the different options.
  • Clear formatting can be useful when copying in text to clear the formatting
  • Replace image, not only will this keep the same dimensions as the previous image, but it will crop it to fit
  • Use the workspace around the canvas to store elements and instructions offstage.
  • For my tips, here is an extensive list of shortcuts.

Ideas for using Drawings

There are many ways of using Google Drawings. It like to break it down into six sections:

  • Graphic Organisers. Drawings provides the ability to create and collaboratively complete graphic organisers. This can be anything from a Venn diagram, to seating plan to a sporting line-up. Matt Miller has created a great collection of templates to easily copy into your Drive.
  • Visualising Thinking. By using shapes, lines and texts Drawings allows you to create brainstorms, concept maps, timelines, flowcharts and infographics with ease. What is good is that you can easily build upon past designs.
  • Digital Manipulatives. Whether it be working with a fraction wall,, making messages with magnetic poetry or organising different shapes into categories, Drawings allows you to create resources that allow students to engage with. See Collette Mondor’s post for more ideas.
  • Web Clipboard. Using the line tool, create arrows to the different parts and then add text to describe them. This can be particularly useful when creating diagrams or annotating images for tutorials for Docs, Slides and Sheets. Using web clipboard, images can be created using Drawings then transferred to other programs. The benefit is that unlike copying a finished image, you are able to continue to make changes and adjustments. See Andy Hair’s course diagram for an example.
  • Cards and Certificates. Building on the idea of Web Clipboard, you can use the full suite of applications to create merges for any situation. Sylvia Duckworth provides a tutorial for how to quickly and easily create personalised cards.
  • Avatars and Images. Through the use of shapes and lines, you are actually able to make a wide range of images. From cartoon characters and vector portraits, to visual quotes and movie posters.. What is great is the ease in which you can just remix an old design.

Activities to do with Drawings

Wanting to explore Google Drawings, have a go at the following activities:

  • Create a Visual Quote: Use the ingredients provided to create your own visual quote.
  • Design a Flowchart: Choose one of the ideas provided and create a flowchart describing how you could use it in your own classroom..
  • Make your own Avatar. Using James Peterson’s tutorial as a guide, have a go at creating a new avatar by taking a picture and turning it into a vector image.

Resources associated with Drawings

Getting Started with Google Drawings – Alice Keeler

Google Drawings Cheat Sheet – Kasey Bell

Google Drawings: The Best Tool You’re Not Using – Adam Seipel

Create with Google Drawings – Joe Sisco

Docs Editor Help: Drawings

Getting Creative with Google Drawings – Sylvia Duckworth

Google Drawings Graphic Organisers – Matt Miller

Creating Mind Maps & Mind Map Tips – Alice Keeler

Create Infographics – Alice Keeler

Digital Worksheets: Using Google Drawing In Math – Colette Mondor

Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings – Kasey Bell

Comics with Google Tools – Mike Petty

Van Gogh sunflowers recreated using Google Drawings – Wes Warner

Google Drawings: Vector Portraits Tutorial (incl Video) – Josh Pomeroy

Using an Eye Dropper Tool in Slides or Drawings – Phill Ballard

Google Drawings interactive posters – Matt Miller

Use Google Drawings for brain-friendly visual notetaking – Matt Miller

Have Students Create Meme’s in Google Drawing – Alice Keeler

Using Google Drawing across the curriculum – Janelle McLaughlin

10 engaging Google Drawings activities for classes – Matt Miller

Give Google Drawings Some Love – Stephen Mosley

Collection of Resources – Eric Curts


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An Introduction to Google Drawings by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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