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28 Daily Creative Exercises For Building Better Habits

This piece originally appeared on Creative Live in Feb 2016.

Getting in a creative rut is unfortunate – staying in one is a choice. These 28 creative exercises are designed to get you back in the habit of making cool stuff. Get 28 free daily creative projects in your inbox: sign up for #28toMake today.

We often lapse into unproductive habits because we don’t know what else to do. Even for creative professionals, the daily grind can get the best of us and, before you know it, we can’t remember the last time we made something that was truly inspired. The team at CreativeLive felt like this would be a good time to put a stake in the ground and commit to getting back in the habit of making cool stuff again – and we want you to join us.

What is 28 to Make?

28 to Make is a free 28-day series of habit-forming creative exercises delivered to your inbox. It’s designed to help you get back in the habit of making cool stuff. It features 28 short video prompts (2-5 minutes each) from some of the best designers, illustrators, typographers, and all-around makers we know. The videos give you all the direction and inspiration you need to make something every day. 28 to Make is launching February 1-28th, but it will be permanently available – and always free.

How does it work?

What kinds of creative exercises?

There’s a pretty wide range of creative exercises included in 28 to Make, and we don’t want to give them all away just yet, but we can tell you there will be drawing, hand lettering, tangram-ing, postcard-making, people watching and more. We’ll be filling in the details right here, so be sure to check back each week in February. Also, be sure to explore what other people are making!

Week 2 with Ryan Putnam

During week 2, you’ll play with line, form, and texture alongside Ryan Putnam. Ryan has a knack for connecting the physical and digital worlds with his art, and his projects will help you do the same.

8. Thirty Circles

You are full of great ideas – probably more than you realize. For this exercise, you’ll turn 30 different circles into 30 different drawings as fast as you can. Grab your sharpie, ball point pen, nail polish, watercolors or whatever and just let it happen. The main benefit of this project is that you’re exercising your ability to rapidly iterate different solutions to the same problem. Try not to focus on making 30 perfect drawings, but rather to create 30 unique approaches to filling the same space – just draw with enough detail to get the concept across. If one of the concepts really excites you, come back to it later and flesh it out into its own stand-alone piece: Watch the Free Video

9. Scribbles & Shapes

For this project, you’re going to take some scribbles (like crazy little kid scribbles) and find something new in them. You’ll look for shapes formed by the zigs and zags and bring them together into a fresh composition. Long story short, you’re gonna bring order to chaos. You can get the scribbles from a number of different places. If you have kids, that’s a great place to start. If not, ask a friend or co-worker to help you out. Another fun option would be to get your pet’s feet dirty and then let them walk all over your paper (this would work with your dirty shoes, too): Watch the Free Video

Make something out of scribbles for #28tomake day 09. Some monsters were born out of these #scribbles, courtesy of @stephenbalsleyyoga !

A photo posted by emily balsley (@emilybluestar) on

10. Blind Contour Self-Portrait

We know you were just dying for a selfie assignment, so here it is. Thing is, you’re going to draw this one. Oh, and you can’t look at the paper while you’re drawing. Oh yeah, and you can’t lift your pen/pencil from the paper. Sound good? Ready to see what your hands think your face looks like? Sit down in front of a mirror, put your pen or pencil to the paper, and start drawing: Watch the Free Video

Day 10 of #28tomake a blind self-portrait. Apparently I look like a bald grumpy old man. Cool. #creativelive

A photo posted by Sarah Nee (@sarahnee) on

11. Photo Doodle

Today, you’ll need a photo. You can take it with your phone, grab it from a photo album, or cut it out of a magazine – doesn’t matter. You’re going to make it yours by doodling on it! You can doodle something to accentuate the focus of the photo, or something to totally turn the focus on its head. Have fun with it: Watch the Free Video

Day 11 of #28tomake … The Photo is super-trashy, but with the bus I drew, I actually kinda like it.

A photo posted by Sebastian ( on

12. Exquisite Corpse

It’s a freaky name, we know, but this collaborative artist’s parlor game has been around for almost 100 years. Find a couple of people (maybe even strangers) to join you in drawing a really weird-looking person in 3 parts. Fold a piece of paper in thirds. One person starts by drawing the head on the topmost section of the paper. Extend the bottom lines of your drawing across the crease a little bit so that the next artist knows where to start. Then, fold the paper so that the second section of paper is showing, but the first drawing is hidden. Repeat for the second and third artists, then unfold the paper to reveal your collective creation: Watch the Free Video

Day 12 @creativelive #28toMake Exquisite corpse. Head @imustdraw body @socalhustle legs @supertubes #illustration #inkpen #collaborate

A photo posted by Illustrator (@imustdraw) on

13. People-Watching Mad Lib

This exercise is slated for every Saturday, but the core aim is to get you out in the wild with your eyes open. If you don’t feel like doing the Mad Lib, try drawing a scene you see: Watch the Free Video

28 to Make: Day 13 People Watching – Mad Libs "The wet crayons jerkily whisper". Don't ask why the crayons are wet, ha! #28tomake #doodle #doodleaday #madlibs

A photo posted by Veronica Montemayor (@majormountain) on

14. Take the Day Off

Building rest into your rhythm is essential, so you’ll see this one repeated each Sunday. This isn’t the only way to build rest into your rhythm, but it’s a great start: Watch the Free Video

Day 14 of #28tomake – take a breather, take 2. Finding the way to McWay Falls, Big Sur. #nofilter

A photo posted by Eimie P (@eimie_art) on


Week 3 with Lara McCormick

Lara McCormick will take you through 5 exercises aimed at hacking visual language and creative thinking during week 3.

15. Mindmap

Today, you’re going to make a mind map. Join Lara as she helps you explore ideas verbally and visually. This is the halfway point and you might be feeling a little bit of drag. Today’s exercise will help you focus by opening yourself up to possibilities. Start with a central topic you want to explore. For instance, you could explore creative side project ideas, your next vacation destination, or what you would do if you won the Powerball. Write this central topic in the center of your paper and circle it. From here, start down sub-topics that come to mind as you think about your central topic. Circle these and draw lines to connect them to related ideas. Continue this process as long as you like. You’ll start to notice patterns in your thinking and get some insight into your priorities that you mightn’t have had otherwise: Watch the Free Video

#28ToMake day 15: mind maps // it feels weird to do this // #noprivacy

A photo posted by Alejandro Alarcon B (@eyelessboy) on

16. Blackout Poetry

Never considered yourself a poet? Today that all changes when you discover the possibilities of blackout poetry. Join Lara as she demonstrates how to use subtraction and extraction to give new meaning to an existing newspaper article. You’ll start with any piece of printed material. This can be a newspaper or magazine article, an email you printed out, a museum brochure – anything! Using a marker (or a tool of your choice) you’ll black out all of the words except for a few. Choose carefully which words you want to preserve. Try to string them together around a common theme or story. Don’t overthink it, but have fun noticing how many underlying messages are just waiting to be discovered in every paragraph in the world. Grab your marker and let’s get to it: Watch the Free Video

Blackout poetry for #28tomake #michaelscott #creativelive

A photo posted by Morgan Gesell (@morgangesellart) on

18. Visualizing Sound

What would sounds look like if you could see them? What shape would they be? What color? Today, you’ll visualize 4 different sounds through drawing. You can use the sounds provided in the video, or choose your own. Create a visual piece that captures the essence of the sound you’ve chosen. Try not to illustrate the object making the sound, but focus on the impression that the sounds create in your mind. Use any media you like – have fun with with it: Watch the Free Video

#28tomake Assignment 18: Visualize Sound – Jackhammer

A photo posted by Beatrice Yaxley (@bpyaxley) on

Lara is a nationally recognized designer and educator, and currently Head of Design Education at CreativeLive in San Francisco,CA. She is the author of ‘Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring Typographic Design Principles’ published by Rockport Press. She received her Masters of Fine Art in Design from the School of Visual Arts, and a postgraduate degree in typography from Cooper Union.

20. People-Watching Mad Lib

This exercise is slated for every Saturday, but the core aim is to get you out in the wild with your eyes open. If you don’t feel like doing the Mad Lib, try drawing a scene you see: Watch the Free Video

21. Take the Day Off

Building rest into your rhythm is essential, so you’ll see this one repeated each Sunday. This isn’t the only way to build rest into your rhythm, but it’s a great start: Watch the Free Video

Week 4 with Erik Marinovich

In week 4, Erik Marinovich will walk you through 5 exercises that will help you find inspiration in your tools, your neighborhood, and your loved ones.

22. Shiny Objects

For this exercise, your task is to observe what’s going on around you and share what stands out. We call these ‘shiny objects,’ though we don’t mean they’re literally shiny. You’re looking for the little things that stand out to you for some reason. Ideally, this is something reminds you of someone else. Share it with them along with a little note about what made you think of them. It’s a simple exercise, but there are lots of ways to expand on it. For instance, you could turn it into a photo doodle (see #11) or, if possible, send the object in the mail to someone and hand letter their address in a really fun way: Watch the Free Video

23. Make Your Marker

Today is about getting out of your comfort zone. Take something that is unconventional and turn it into a new mark-making tool. You can use a paper towel dipped in ink, a palm frond laced with watercolors, or a french fry dipped in ketchup. The only rule is that it can’t be… well, a marker. Watch the Free Video

24. Make a Postcard

When was the last time you sent someone a postcard? Today you’ll be doing just that. Make one from scratch or use an existing card, and spread some love. Normally, we send postcards that draw inspiration from the place where we bought it, which is usually some semi-exotic vacation destination. Since you’re making your own, you can play with that theme and take it in a fresh direction. If you’re sending it to an old friend, try making the card about a specific place where you used to hang out. You could also give it a message only they would understand – this is fertile soil for inside jokes. Have fun with it. This is likely something the recipient will keep for years to come – wouldn’t you? Watch the Free Video

25. Address an Envelope

Envelopes are a forgotten art form, and in this exercise, Erik will show you how he celebrates them. Have fun addressing any size envelope with fun, ornate letterforms and numerals. One fun application of this project would be to use your elaborate envelope for a really mundane purpose. Send your rent check or utility bill in style this month and brighten someone’s day in the process: Watch the Free Video

26. Hand Lettered Quote

Drawing letters by hand is an age-old art form that also happens to be a lot of fun. Today, Erik invites you to hand-letter a very simple phrase: “Keep Smiling.” You can employ any style you like to do this and use any tools at your disposal (even the marker you made a few days ago). Have fun: Watch the Free Video

Erik Marinovich is a San Francisco based lettering artist and designer, and is a co-founder of Friends of Type. Since 2009 he has drawn letters, logos and type for nice folks like: Nike, Target, Google, Hilton, Facebook, Sonos, Sharpie, The Criterion Collection, Air Canada, Gap, Ford Motor Company. In 2012 he co-founded Title Case, a creative work space that conducts workshops and lectures. Between client work, teaching and side-projects, you’ll find him on the road promoting Keep Fresh Stay Rad and Let’s Go Letter Hunting, two new releases from Friends of Type published by Princeton Architectural Press.

27. People-Watching Mad Lib

This exercise is slated for every Saturday, but the core aim is to get you out in the wild with your eyes open. If you don’t feel like doing the Mad Lib, try drawing a scene you see: Watch the Free Video

28. Take the Day Off

Building rest into your rhythm is essential, so you’ll see this one repeated each Sunday. This isn’t the only way to build rest into your rhythm, but it’s a great start: Watch the Free Video


Is 28 to Make for me?

Yes! It’s been gently optimized for designers, illustrators, and typographers, but it’s for anyone who wants give traction to their desire to create. These creative exercises are great for crafters, kids, entrepreneurs, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.

The 28 to Make Playlist

The CreativeLive Audio Channel has been putting together a list of 28 tunes to make to. The playlist features songs by CreativeLive employees, instructors, and partners. Enjoy! If this isn’t your style, let us know what songs get you in the making mood.

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