5 Urban Sketching Techniques to Add to Your Toolkit


Urban sketching is all about capturing the energy of the world around you, doing it quickly, and keeping it loosey goosey. That said, the best sketching isn't a total free for all; there's still plenty of technique involved. Keep these principles in mind next time you take your art to the street, then see where the mood takes you!

1. Thumbnail Composition

The first thing you have to do when you're on location: establish your composition. Make a few quick sketches of the big shapes, identify a focal point and then you're ready to flesh things out. You might find that something as simple as breaking your frame into thirds makes the whole drawing fall into place!

2. Measuring Accurate Proportions

Making sure the proportions in your drawing are accurate is essential. And to do it well, you need to think a little like an architect. Luckily there's a clever trick you can use (all you need is a pen!) to make this easier.

3. Texture

Texture is key in urban sketching — think of all the amazing brickwork, sleek glass or gritty concrete an urban scene might include. Learn to manipulate your pen and paint to bring these details to life. (Pro tip: work from lighter areas to darker, and from big spaces to smaller when adding texture to your piece.)

4. Vignettes

Quick and loose vignettes are a great way to train yourself in urban sketching — they're all about quickly capturing the world around you in pen and ink. The trick is to not overthink it: grab a notepad, find some interesting angles and views, and start putting the scene to paper.

5. Adding Watercolor

When adding watercolor, you're still going to follow that fast and loose urban sketching vibe. Load your brush with lots of water, leave some white space, and don't be afraid to push some boundaries and color outside the lines (literally).

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5 Urban Sketching Techniques to Add to Your Toolkit