5 Practical Tips for Improving Your Urban Sketching Skills
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Use the right sketching tools
  2. Practice drawing from life
  3. Focus on capturing the essence of the scene
  4. Learn to embrace imperfections
  5. Join an urban sketching community

Love the vibrancy of urban landscapes and want to capture them on paper? You're not alone! Urban sketching—a form of drawing that captures city life in real-time—is an increasingly popular hobby. And you're in the right place if you're looking to sharpen your sketchbook skills. We've got five practical tips for getting better at urban sketching.

Use the right sketching tools

Getting started with urban sketching can be as simple as grabbing a pencil and paper. But having the right tools in your sketching kit can significantly improve your experience and the results you achieve.

Pencils and pens

For sketching, the type of pencil or pen you choose can influence your drawing style. Graphite pencils are versatile and ideal for both light and dark lines. If you prefer a crisp, dark line, ink pens are a good choice. Don't forget a soft eraser for correcting any mistakes!


Quality matters when it comes to sketching paper—good paper can handle erasures and heavier lines without tearing. Look for a sketchbook with heavyweight paper—ideal for urban sketching. It's also handy if your sketchbook is small enough to carry around.


If you're looking to add a splash of color to your sketches, watercolor paints or colored pencils can be a great addition to your toolkit. Just remember, with watercolors, you'll need a separate brush and water container. A set of colored pencils can be a more portable option for adding color on-the-go.

Remember, when it comes to getting better at urban sketching, practice makes perfect. So, pick up those pencils, pens, or paints and start capturing the world around you.

Practice drawing from life

When it comes to getting better at urban sketching, there's no substitute for drawing from life. The urban environment is teeming with inspiration—from towering skyscrapers to bustling street scenes. It's a real-life canvas that's always changing, always offering something new to capture.

Start Small

If you're new to drawing from life, don't worry about capturing an entire cityscape in one go. Start with something small: a parked car, a mailbox, or even a cup of coffee at your local café. The goal is to get comfortable with observing and translating real objects onto your sketchbook.

Develop Your Observation Skills

Urban sketching is as much about observing as it is about drawing. Take time to really look at what you're sketching. Notice the shapes, the shadows, the colors. The more you hone your observation skills, the better you'll get at capturing the essence of what you see.

Draw Regularly

Drawing regularly is key to improving your urban sketching skills. Carry your sketchbook with you and try to sketch something every day. It might not always be a masterpiece, but each sketch you make is a step towards getting better at urban sketching.

Focus on capturing the essence of the scene

Getting better at urban sketching doesn't necessarily mean creating an exact replica of the scene in front of you. Instead, it's about capturing the soul, the character, the essence of the scene—those elements that make it unique.

Don't Get Lost in the Details

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of an urban scene. There are countless people, buildings, and objects to draw. But don't get entangled in every single detail. Instead, concentrate on the shapes, forms, and the overall composition. This will help you capture the scene more effectively.

Use Colors to Convey Mood

Colors are a powerful tool for conveying the mood of a scene. A sunset might be filled with warm oranges and purples, while a rainy day might be dominated by cool blues and grays. Experiment with colors in your sketches to capture the feeling of the scene.

Include Indicative Elements

Every city has its unique elements: a distinctive building, a statue, a type of tree. Including these indicative elements in your sketches can help capture the essence of the place. So, next time you're out sketching, look for those symbols that make a city its own.

Learn to embrace imperfections

When it comes to getting better at urban sketching, perfection isn't the goal. In fact, it's the imperfections in your sketches that can give them character and make them uniquely yours.

See Beauty in the Flaws

Not every line you draw will be straight, not every perspective will be perfect—and that's okay. These so-called 'flaws' can add a charming, organic feel to your sketches. They can make your sketches feel alive and dynamic. So, don't be too hard on yourself when things don't turn out 'perfect'.

Each Sketch is a Learning Experience

Every time you sketch, you're practicing and improving. Each sketch is a step forward in your journey, a lesson learned. Instead of seeing them as failed attempts, view your imperfect sketches as valuable learning experiences. What did you learn from this sketch? What can you do differently next time?

Embrace the Process, Not Just the Outcome

Remember that the joy of sketching comes not just from the final result, but from the process itself. The act of observing, of really seeing the world around you, of capturing a moment in time—these are all part of the magic of urban sketching. Embrace the process, with all its imperfections, and you'll find your own unique voice in your sketches.

Join an urban sketching community

Joining a community of like-minded sketchers can be a game-changer for getting better at urban sketching. You'll be able to share your work, get feedback, and learn from others. Plus, it's a great way to make new friends who share your passion!

Gain Feedback and Insight

Sharing your sketches with a community can provide you with valuable feedback. Different perspectives can help you see your work in a new light, and constructive criticism can guide your growth. Remember, it's not about comparisons but about learning and improving.

Learn from Others

In a community, you'll find people who are at different stages in their sketching journey. Some may have been sketching for years, while others might be just starting out. You can learn so much from others, whether it's a new technique, a unique approach, or a different way of seeing.

Find Inspiration and Motivation

Being part of a community means being surrounded by a constant stream of inspiration. Seeing the work of others can spark new ideas and push you to try new things. Plus, knowing that others are sketching and improving can motivate you to keep going, even when it gets tough.

Making Sketching Social

Urban sketching doesn't have to be a solitary activity. Joining a community can turn it into a social experience. Think sketching meet-ups, group outings, and shared sketching sessions. It adds a whole new dimension to your sketching practice.

If you're eager to further enhance your urban sketching skills, don't miss out on Rachelle Meyer's workshop, 'Top Tips For Sketchbook Studies.' This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques on how to improve your sketching abilities and make the most out of your sketchbook studies.