Finding Inspiration: Tips for Using Pinterest Effectively

To me, Pinterest is the mother of online inspiration! I absolutely love the platform. Well before Pinterest was ever a thing, I was that person who had a bulletin board pinned with inspiring images and ephemera. Illustrated post cards from a trip, tiny paper ornaments, decorative business cards, magazine cut outs, my board was and still is always filled. So, when Pinterest was first announced, I eagerly requested an invitation so I could create potentially a million little inspiration boards like the one I had at home!

Lo and behold almost 10 years later and I still use the platform almost daily for inspiration. I use Pinterest in 4 ways- first, to pin loads of art on the go and journaling inspiration (ideas to try one day in my own style.) The next category I pin is general wanderlust inspiration- from patterns, colors, fashion, home deco, movies, books, foods and more– I’ve created boards that make me want to explore the world! Another category of boards I create are boards devoted specifically to a location. I usually create these board when I am about to travel there and want to find interesting things to see and do. The last category are my private boards. These mainly revolve around things that are purely for myself, like exercise ideas and everyday recipes to try. Currently I have 84 boards, and over 11,000 pins. Phew. That’s a lot of inspiration…

So, with Pinterest’s plethora of information and having spent way too much time using it, I thought it would be helpful to write some tips to help you find inspiration effectively and not waste time!

  1. Decide what inspiration you are looking for and create a new board for it. Scrolling through endless images is pointless without a purpose. Trust me, I have done this! There is just way too much visual information to process, and very little hope of ever retaining any ideas. Use the site for its main purpose, to create boards that interest and inspire you.
  2. Why does the image/pin inspire you? Edit the description of the pin (or use the comments) to note what grabs your attention from this pin. Is it color, form, composition, method it was created, medium, location, pattern, texture, etc.
  3. What do you hope to do with this pin? In the same description section, add quick notes ideas on what you want to do now that you are inspired by the image. Do you want to try the technique yourself? Do you want to create something in the same theme using your own style? Do you want to use the color palette to inspire something new? When you take the time to make these notes in the description, the may be very helpful when you see it again, a day, a week, or 3 years later to know why it grabbed your attention.
  4. Set a time limit. I have to admit, I’ve been trapped for hours endlessly pinning without realizing how long (and most likely unproductive) my time has been spent. Too much inspiration can be information overload. If you are looking for some specific inspiration, give yourself 15 min to get some creative juices flowing. If you are really having fun, let it go for another 15 minutes or so… Giving yourself these moments to stop will let you take pause to assess if your goals have been met and then actually allow you to move on, and/or actually take action with a pin that has inspired you!
  5. Stay on task. It’s easy to get distracted in Pinterest and start pinning to multiple boards at a time at once, but as we know, multi-tasking is not always our friend. This harks back to #1, and #4– with a goal in mind and time limit, you can complete your task and actual move on to creating something new from the inspiration you have pinned! I can only imagine how many drawings I could have made if I had just stopped pinning and started creating!
  6. Keep it real! We’ve all seen the Pinterest fails. I must say, I actually find them quite funny, because we have all been there. Our eyes see something and think, I can do that… but in most cases we don’t give the actual creator of the content the credit they deserve. Some imagery (whether an illustration or a staged room, or a complete travel guide to a country) may have taken hours, days or maybe even weeks for the artist/author to create. Then we turn around and try to do the same thing in 15 minutes. This is where we need to be realistic with ourselves. Is this board full of pins of blue sky ideas, dream projects for when I retire and have endless amounts of time, or actual “to do” activities. Remind ourselves again of our goal, our timeframe and our capabilities as to not be disappointed by our attempts, but appreciative of the amazing work of the author/creator/artist.
  7. Keep the source and author/creator credit in the description or take the time to add it. As stated above, 1,000’s upon 1000’s of the items pinned are some hard working creator’s work, whether it be a drawing, a helpful article, or a large infographic. Be respectful of this person’s work and keep the credit line (i.e., copyright information or “created by”) in the description. If you don’t see any credit, click through on the pin and see if you can find the source to give credit. If your artwork or ideas get pinned, you’d appreciate the same courtesy.
  8. Be inspired by don’t copy or plagiarize. I actually plan to write a full article about this subject, because as an illustrator (creator) this is really important information. Pins are meant to be inspiration and spark your creativity, not meant to be copied, stolen or plagiarized. This is someone else’s or some company’s intellectual property and not free to use unless clearly noted when you visit the actual source of the pin.
  9. Take action! Here’s the most important tip when finding inspiration… learn how to stop looking for inspiration, and actual take action and start creating! I will admit, I am definitely at fault here. My mind become jello when I’ve been scrolling for too long, and the creative energy that sent me down the path in the first place becomes zapped! I need to constantly tell myself to stop scrolling and start creating. At the end of the day, creating something, whatever it may be is much more satisfying then just pinning the inspiration!

Now that that is all said and done– be sure to head over to my Pinterest boards ( and check out all the inspiration!

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