Home sketch

Credit: Pinterest

Table of Content

I. Introduction

II. Essential Materials for Urban Sketching

III. Basic Techniques for Architecture Sketching

IV. Quick Sketching Tips for Beginners

V. Choosing Your Urban Sketching Subjects

VI. Urban Sketching on Location

VII. Answering Specific Questions

VIII. Digital Tools for Architecture Sketching

IX. Showcasing Quick Architecture Sketches

X. Common Challenges and Solutions

XI. Conclusion


A. Overview of urban sketching and its popularity

Urban sketching as a new art form has gained popularity. But let us first understand what urban or architectural sketching is. It is an art form where artists create architectural sketches of cityscapes or architecture that spontaneously depict direct life. 

Architectural sketches are popular because they are accessible to all old and new artists. Architectural sketching celebrates the diversity and uniqueness of the urban environment by sketching iconic landmarks and scenes that reflect the urban culture.

Urban sketching celebrates the social connection among artists by sharing their previous work on social media platforms, which is important in popularizing the art form. Through this article we will provide some basic drawing tips for architectural solutions.

B. Unique challenges and rewards of sketching architecture on location

Sketching architecture on location has its set of challenges. For example, changing lighting conditions. Throughout the day, light changes affect highlights and shadows on buildings, which can challenge the artist trying to capture specific details. Therefore, to avoid this problem, sketching your architectural drawing around a particular time of the day is better.

Another problem an artist may face is capturing intricate details of the buildings. Hence, drawing simple straighter lines and shapes and focusing on key features is advisable. Also, sketching beautiful drawings in public may attract visitors and break your concentration.

Apart from challenges, let us look into the rewards it offers. On-the-spot urban sketches can capture a unique atmosphere and the authenticity of landmarks. They also help artists improve themselves with respect to observation, adaptability, and skills. Sketching architecture on location encourages expressiveness in your artwork.

C. Introduction to the versatility of quick architectural sketches

Quick architectural sketches are a versatile form of artistic expression done rapidly and on the spot. They make the artists efficient in capturing structures within a limited time frame. Artists infuse their style into quick sketches that directly transform emotions onto paper. They also enhance the artist’s portfolio by coming up with new ideas. In short, quick sketches can serve multiple purposes—from ideas and communication to artistic expression—making them valuable for capturing beauty with complexity in a purposeful manner.

Essential Materials for Urban Sketching

Drawing supplies

Credit: Life Needs Art

Choosing the right sketching tools

1. Quality sketching pens and pencils

It is essential to choose the right sketching tools for your urban sketches. Most artists prefer Hb, 2B, and 4B pencils that are versatile for various drawing needs. Pens should be waterproof and ideal for line work, e.g. 0.3 mm and 0.5mm work well. Multiple pen weights are available, but it is better to choose a pen with a line weight to lay the sketch on the paper.

2. Portable sketchbooks and paper options

Choose portable sketchbooks having 200gsm paper quality. Mixed media paper is a good option if you want to add watercolor after making ink lines. You can also use a toned sketch book to add light to dark values. Tracing paper is beneficial if you are a beginner.

Basic Techniques for Architecture Sketching

A. Perspective and Proportions

One of the most challenging aspects of architectural sketching is mastering the art of perspective drawings. The question that strikes our minds is how to capture such dynamism. The key element is drawing objects closer to the viewer should be drawn larger. If you are new to urban sketches, we recommend you practice easy shapes and less complex building features. Once you have gained the upper hand, you can move on to drawings of complex and fascinating building structures. 

B. Building Outlines and Shapes   

Start with basic shapes. You can use a ruler or a tracing paper in the beginning to get the proportionate shapes and outlines. This will form the base of your artwork. Slowly practice the art of free hand drawing to gain an upper hand to draw swift outlines using different angles in a given time frame. 

C. Adding Details and Texture

After establishing shapes and basic features it is time to add windows, skyscrapers, facades, doors. These elements showcase the character of a building. Add depth, shadows, and highlights. 

Quick Sketching Tips for Beginners

A. Training your eye to capture essential details swiftly

To make the most impact in your urban sketches in a short time, it is vital to train your eyes to swiftly capture the essential details. Smaller sketches mean less time spent on sketching, and you are bound to do quick sketches. Practice daily by getting out in the park or a cafe and trying to sketch a particular object for some days. Based on your previous work, train your brain and memorize basic shapes and figures. 

B. Overcoming the fear of imperfection in quick sketches

Remember that making mistakes is a part of creativity, and it is okay to create imperfect art. Stop overly criticizing your art and rather look for what is lacking and work on it. Keep practicing and refining yourself. Architectural sketches are about spontaneity and capturing the best features. Embrace imperfections and work on them.

C. Practicing with simple architectural subjects for starters

If you are a beginner, don’t jump to complex and intricate subjects initially. Start with simple shapes and outlines and even use a ruler at first. Architectural sketching is a skill that requires practice. Practice simple straight lines and then proceed to complex shapes with slightly darker marks.

Choosing Your Urban Sketching Subjects

A. Selecting interesting urban landscapes and buildings

The most important feature of urban sketching is choosing an interesting urban landscape. Spend some time in the moment observing and getting to know the surroundings, looking for eye-catching details and focal points. Explore neighborhoods by researching their historical significance and later visiting them. 

B. Exploring various architectural styles and structures

Explore different architectural styles and techniques to make your urban sketches unique. Try shading techniques like hatching, cross-hatching, and stippling to add texture and convey depth. Also, explore styles that allow you to discover what resonates with your artistic expression.

C. Tips for finding inspiration in everyday surroundings

Observe your surroundings to find inspiration and try to absorb details. Look at architectural mumbo jumbo, elements, people, and any unique features that catch your eye. You never know when a city park, street corner, urban alleyway, or cafe will become an inspiration for your beautiful architectural sketch.

Urban Sketching on Location

Digital painting

Credit: Sketchbook skool

A. Planning your sketching expedition

1. Choosing the right time and weather conditions

Choose a location that will allow you to directly connect with the atmosphere, ambiance, sounds, and energy. Weather conditions are unpredictable, so plan your sketching session accordingly. Try to adapt to different lighting conditions. Observe the natural light that affects highlights and shadows, which can pose difficulties when trying to capture specific details accurately.

2. Setting up comfortably in different urban environments

When sketching on location, you may feel distracted by people hovering around and looking at your artwork. Keep yourself cool and composed, and avoid unnecessary distractions. Focus on your subject and the essence you are trying to capture. At times, you may face adverse weather conditions, affecting the visual perception of the sketch you are trying to create.

B. Capturing the Essence of a Scene

1. Focusing on key elements that define the urban landscape

Capture the grandeur of iconic landmarks with sweeping skylines and cityscapes. Look for vantage points and rooftop terraces that offer panoramic views. Pay attention to the interplay of architecture, colors, and reflections in glass facades to add interest and depth to your compositions

2. Techniques for capturing the mood and energy of a place

Look at how sunlight falls on the buildings and casts shadows or how people interact with each other as in the emotions. Make a note or journal these details. Every city has its mood and energy. Observe the scene as you tune into these emotions. They can guide you in selecting the right sketch technique. 

Answering Specific Questions

How do you do urban sketching?

1. Detailed steps and techniques for urban sketching

In this segment, we will learn about sketching a house in an urban setting and then turn it into a watercolor house painting

Assemble the materials for urban sketching. Now, choose a layout and start sketching the foreground elements. When we look at a scene, the objects in the foreground appear larger and more detailed. When sketching, foreground elements start with larger shapes. 

Once you have sketched the main shapes, you can judge where and how large your background elements can be. Look at the reference photo and draw lightly with a pencil at a comfortable angle to create thin lines. Use simple lines to portray the main features and establish the foundation of your sketch. 

Now, start adding details using an ink pen. Look at the reference photo to outline and define the main features. Observe the lighting to identify the areas of shadow and highlights. Use techniques like cross-hatching or stippling to add shading and texture. Cross-hatching involves placing lines at an angle to one another to create deeper values, whereas stippling uses dots to create areas of light and shadow.

Let’s make our urban sketch more appealing by adding watercolors. Take colors and add them to your sketch. Start with light washes and build layers as you progress to achieve the desired intensity. Capture people and the hustle and bustle of the streets to add a dynamic element. Learn from your imperfections and work on them. Explore different artistic styles and jot them down in your journal to move a step forward. Refer to your notes when you visit on-location for architectural sketching.

2. Tips for transitioning from studio sketching to on-location urban sketching

Choose a location that depicts an interesting urban setting. Consider lighting, accessibility, and activity in that particular location. Start sketching to map out the basic shapes by properly focusing on proportions and perspective. Now that you have practiced in the studio, your mind is well-trained to capture details quickly. Carry fewer art supplies and be ready to adapt to new environments. Sketching on location can be both exciting and intimidating. Make the best out of everything that you observe and implement it in your sketches.

Digital Tools for Architecture Sketching

Drawing on Ipad

Credit: Architizer

A. Exploring digital sketching options for urban landscapes

Exploring digital sketching options in urban landscapes opens up possibilities, allowing artists to create versatile artworks. In this article, we will look into various tools for architectural sketching. One can use tablets like iPad or Android devices equipped with stylus support. Digital pens that are specifically designed for tablets provide precision and sensitivity. Popular digital sketching software like Procreate is a powerful app for digital sketching since it offers a wide variety of brushes and layer options. 

B. Benefits and challenges of using tablets or digital pens

Using tablets and digital pens has both pros and cons. Let’s look into the pros and cons.

Digital tablets are portable and easy to carry. With digital drawings, it becomes easy to correct mistakes. Nowadays, one can install digital drawing software that provides various tools and effects to help you get the desired result.

Using a tablet requires practice and getting used to digital pens. Digital tools are much more expensive than normal sketchbooks and art supplies. 

Digital sketching provides a low-risk environment for experimentation and provides flexibility, undo options, etc. 

Showcasing Quick Architecture Sketches

Pencil sketch

Credit: Institute of Classical Architecture & Art

A. Featuring examples of effective and quick architectural sketches

In this segment, let us look at some architectural drawings.

Site plan- A site plan is an architectural drawing that shows the lot, its surroundings, the structures, and construction details.

Floor plan drawings- Floor plan drawings illustrate dimensioned floor plan concepts. These floor plan drawings are important during the design process.

Elevation drawings- This type of drawing is designed vertically and depicted from a frontal viewpoint.

Landscape architecture drawing- Landscape architecture sketches focus on landscape rather than building.

Detailed architectural drawings- These sorts of drawings offer a magnified perspective of a specific proportion.

B. Highlighting different styles and approaches in urban sketching

Speaking of real architectural words, there are different styles and approaches to urban sketching. In this segment, we will highlight some of the styles and techniques. 

Realism: Architectural sketches focus on the intricate details with realism. Architects use fine lines, hatching, stippling, and shading to convey depth and texture.

WatercolorWatercolor approach: Other architects prefer watercoloring their urban sketches to capture the mood and intensity of the urban setting. 

Digital urban sketching: Since digital tools and tablets were introduced, architects have opted for digital urban sketching for more graphics and illustrations.

Architectural illustrators: Architects often approach urban sketching, focusing on precision and technicalities to showcase a deep understanding of architectural elements and perspectives.

Nighttime cityscape urban sketches: Cityscape drawings at night are a specialty of most artists, showcasing their understanding of light and shadows to create scenes of night urban settings.

Urban sketching is a form of art that celebrates versatility and diversity. The artist's style of blending different approaches is pretty awesome. The key is to capture the essence of the urban environment.

Common Challenges and Solutions


Credit: BetterPlace

A. Addressing issues like time constraints and changing lighting conditions

Natural light changes occasionally, affecting lights and shadows on architectural structures. Therefore, these changes in lighting conditions can pose challenges when trying to capture specific features accurately. To address this problem, we recommend planning your sketching session around a particular time of the day. Urban cities are busy with hustle and bustle, and sketching on location poses time constraints. Weather conditions, crowds, etc can impact your concentration and distract your sketching session. Adapt to any situation and make the best out of the worst situation. Embrace imperfections and work on them to refine yourself.

B. Troubleshooting common mistakes in architecture sketching

Let’s learn about some common mistakes a beginner can make and find ways to troubleshoot them. 

  • Sketching without a plan- It is useless to assemble pens and sketchbooks if you do not have an end goal. Ask yourself what your outcome should look like. Sketching without a plan is like a headless chicken running around. 
  • Focusing on details from the start- Don’t focus too soon. First, learn basic shapes and structures and gradually focus on more information.
  • Proportional issues- Incorrect proportions may distort the sketch's architectural features, leading to unrealistic outcomes. To overcome this issue, pay attention to the proportions of each element and use measuring techniques to ensure accuracy.
  • Perspective errors- The wrong perspective may cause your finished sketch to look distorted or flat. Understand how straight lines converge to vanishing points and appear smaller.
  • Incorrect lighting- Lighting is an important aspect of any genre of art. Improper lighting may flatten the sketch. Pay attention and understand how light and shadow interplay.


Recap of techniques and tips for urban sketching of architecture

Now that you have finished your sketch, let’s recap what we have learned. We looked into different styles and techniques, such as cross-hatching and stippling. Learn to train your brain for on-location quick urban sketches. Look at your own sketches and embrace your mistakes and work on them to refine your skills using proper technique.

Remember that urban sketching is about enjoying the process and savoring the experience of capturing the urban environment. So, adapt these steps to suit your style and preferences. Urban sketching is a skill that improves with practice. The more you practice, the more confident and skilled you will become. Therefore, we advise you to continue drawing sketches and enjoy the learning process.