The Beginners Guide to Urban Sketching
Urban sketching has become quite popular, and for good reason. Nothing beats a sketch created in the moment. It’s fun to look at your sketch later and be transported right back to that time and place.
Drawing on location can be a bit intimidating at first. A typical scene can be overwhelming with thousands of details and information. Where do you begin with your sketch? Should you draw everything? How do you bring the scene together onto your page?
In this blog, we will give you our beginner-friendly guide to urban sketching along with the tools you will need!
What is Urban Sketching?
As the name suggests, urban sketching typically involves cities, villages, and towns. It is done on location (in the moment) with your materials rather than at home in your studio. It acts as a visual diary with sketches instead of words (you can add notes for extra memories though). You can urban sketch in your backyard, in the mountains, in the city, your car, or anywhere! The goal is to capture your life in your sketchbook. Practicing daily can improve your creativity and the quality of your work.
The subjects of sketching are often buildings, streets, landmarks, objects, animals, or people. But you can sketch anything you find inspiring or noteworthy. The great thing about urban sketching is that it can be rough. It is often done quickly with spontaneous lines and rough coloring, so it’s not meant to be precise. There are no rules, so have fun with it!
If you want to join the community of urban sketching, Urban Sketchers is a global group to connect artists that enjoy drawing on location where they travel and live. You can check out their website for events!
Supplies You’ll Need
- Pencils: Grab your favorite kind of pencil to sketch your base drawing! We love using Ticonderoga Classic pencils or a Lyra HB Graphite Pencil.
- Pens: Using a fineliner pen to sketch or add in details is a great way to make your sketch stand out more. We recommend Lyra Graduate Fineliners that come in 24 colors.
- Colors: A lot of urban sketchers will paint with watercolor or acrylics after they sketch. It’s fun to add color to your drawing to bring it to life! For this blog we used a Daler-Rowney Aquafine 24 Half Pan Travel Set. It has every color you would need and comes in an easy to travel with case. Lyra’s Aquacolor crayons are also another travel friendly option to add color to your sketches. They are water-soluble crayons with highly concentrated pigments.
- Sketchbook: If you’re going to be using watercolors, get a sketchbook that has watercolor paper. Our favorite is a Strathmore 400 Series Hardbound Watercolor Journal with cold press paper. Or a Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Visual Journal is great if you want to use a lot of fineliners or markers to color your sketches.
- Brushes: You’ll need brushes to paint with of course! We recommend the Princeton Aqua Elite or Neptune Travel Brushes because they come in a magnetic travel case. The brushes themselves come in two pieces so they are easy to store, and you won’t ruin the brush hair by throwing it in your bag! When you’re ready to paint, open the brush up and flip the top piece around to bring the brush end out.
- Paper towels or a reusable towel for painting
How to Get Started
- Travel light - Only bring with you the art supplies that you know you will use.
- Be flexible – If you don’t have your supplies with you, draw on a napkin or a paper bag with a borrowed pen!
- Pick a good spot to sit – Post up on a park bench, a table, or anywhere you can sit. Being seated makes it easier to sketch quickly and capture your scene.
- Pick something to sketch that interests you - It could be a building, a flower, a cup of coffee, or a stranger on the street! Sketch anything that piques your interest.
- Take a moment – It helps to not to rush into your drawing. When you’re first starting out with urban sketching, take a moment to describe your scene in a few sentences. Then, narrow that down to three to five words. Those words will be what you focus on in your sketch!
- Your drawing doesn’t need to be perfect – You don’t need to add every little detail of what you see. The goal is a rough sketch that captures the essence of what you’re seeing, not a perfect reproduction of the scene. If it helps, give yourself a time limit so you don’t overwork your sketch.
- Take a photo on your phone so you can come back to your painting later! If you don’t have enough time to finish your sketch, it’s nice to take a photo so you can add more detail or colors later.
- Practice makes progress – The more often you sketch, the better you will get! Practice daily if you can by drawing simple things.
We hope this guide will help you get started with your own urban sketching and inspire you to sketch more! Tag us in your creations @princetonbrush.