4 Tips for Adding Watercolor to Your Urban Sketching

When you’re on location for your urban sketching, it’s often most practical to limit the supplies you’re hauling with you. A set of great pens and a sketchbook is all you need while you’re out and about, but when you return to the studio, you don’t have to stop there! Adding watercolor to your urban sketches is a wonderful way to bring them to life.

Combining sketches with watercolor is perfect for artists who love to draw and paint individually. This technique is sure to elevate your pieces with vibrant colors that will help fully express what you experienced while sketching.

It’s easy to try this technique, but there are a few things to keep in mind while you work. Follow these tips for successfully adding watercolors to your urban sketches!

1. Consider your paper choices carefully.

Before you put pen to paper, consider the tools you’ll be using. Is your paper meant to handle watercolor? You might need to purchase a sketchbook or pad of paper that’s specifically designed for wet or mixed media use.

Often, the paper is a thicker weight, which means it won’t curl or wrinkle when water is applied. This might mean that you have to forgo your favorite sketchbook if the paper is too thin. Take a trip to your local art supply store or check out Legion papers to stock up.

2. Don’t forget about your pens, either!

When it comes to pens, make sure you know if your ink is waterproof before you start drawing. A waterproof pen won’t bleed when it comes into contact with water, but a non-waterproof pen will.

To begin, it’s best to start with a waterproof pen. Once you’re more comfortable with the mixed media technique, you could try using a non-waterproof pen and experiment with wetting the edges.

3. Use watercolor to imitate the textures you saw during your urban sketching.

Pen techniques such as hatching, cross-hatching, and scribbles are great ways to bring texture to your drawing and convey what you saw outdoors. But before you draw all the rough edges and bustling leaves, save some areas just for your paint.

An easy place to start is with bricks. Using a thin liner brush, imitate a brick-like texture by painting short, horizontal lines onto a building.

You can also use watercolor to easily create the look of leaves. The wet media is especially great for this—using a wet-on-wet or salt technique, you can mimic the look of individual leaves that comprise a bunch.

4. Remember, color is for more than looking nice.

Many people love to see works of art in color. By adding paint, you’re sure to have a more dazzling piece, but decorative aspects aren’t the only reason to paint your urban sketch.

By layering color and texture in watercolor, you are making your drawing more realistic and adding an emotional depth that wasn’t there before. Was the sky bright blue, or was the scene dreary? Through a few key color choices, you can let the viewer know what you were seeing and feeling at the time of your drawing.

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3 Responses to “4 Tips for Adding Watercolor to Your Urban Sketching”

  1. Cheryl G

    Loved this lesson. Thanks. I need more experience with the basket weave lines.

  2. terry satterlee

    Interesting points

  3. Patricia Siffermann

    Informative and interesting. Thank you.