List of Top Urban Sketching Supplies

Having the right tools for Urban Sketching can enhance the experience and make it even more enjoyable for artists. But first:


Urban Sketching is drawing or painting on location, indoors or out, capturing what is seen from direct observation. Urban Sketchers is a non-profit organization made up of a global community of artists who draw on location to capture life around them. Urban Sketchers use any type of media they choose to capture the scenes they witness and tell the story of their surroundings one drawing at a time. 

Artwork by @yolahugo


To help elevate the experience, we've created a list of our top recommended Urban Sketching supplies to take with on site. 

In all drawing and painting, it's extremely important to select the right type of paper for the right types of mediums. It will make a huge difference in the outcome of your work. For example, if you use watercolor on a sketch paper, the sheet will buckle and curl and won't hold the color properly since the paper isn't manufactured to handle that type of media. Sketch paper is generally too light weight for watercolor and doesn't have the right type of surface strength to hold up to lots of water. If you start matching the right papers with the mediums you're using, you're already going to be one step ahead with your art.

For Urban Sketching, there are a variety of paper types you could potentially use depending on your mediums of choice.


1. Sketch Pads

Sketch pads with Sketch paper are great for capturing a scene quickly with dry media and drawing pens. Sketch pads typically come with lots of sheets so you can practice, start over, and make lots of sketches in one affordable pad.

Sticking with portable sizes is ideal for taking on the go in an Urban Sketching setting. These Strathmore Sketch pads are good travel options:

2. Mixed Media Paper

If you're an Urban Sketcher who likes to make ink lines then add watercolor, this is the paper for you. It combines the characteristics of watercolor paper with the finish of a drawing sheet, creating the ultimate paper for combined mediums. 

  • 300 Series Mixed Media Pads
    Our 300 Series Mixed Media pads contain a 90lb (190gsm) medium weight paper that is great for sketching. It comes in a wirebound sketchbook format with lots of sheets, making it ideal for urban sketching.

  • 400 Series Mixed Media Pads
    If you're looking for a heavier weight, our 400 Series Mixed Media pads are 184lb. (300gsm). They come in glue bound pads which make for clean and easy sheet removal which is convenient for finished art, though some artists may prefer the above wirebound format of the 300 Series for urban sketching. 

  • Mixed Media Visual Journals
    Featuring 100% cotton Mixed Media paper, this 90lb (190gsm) medium weight paper is great for taking on the go. You can use it with pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolor, gouache, graphite and marker. It comes in a small 5.5"x8" wirebound journal format.

3. Toned Sketch Paper

Starting your artwork using mid-range paper allows for unique sketching & drawing possibilities by providing the middle value that would otherwise need to be rendered by the artist.  A wider range of values from light to dark can be used, and the middle tone makes it easier for the artist to deliberately place shadows and highlights.

Keeping the value of the paper as one of the values in the drawing not only saves time, but allows the artist to use graphite or other dark media to push darker values and white pencils or other light media to add highlights, making sketches and drawings pop. 

Strathmore makes a range of toned papers that are suitable for Urban Sketching:

  • 400 Series Toned Sketch Pads in Tan & Gray
    This 80lb (118gsm) sketch paper in mid-tone tan and gray is perfect for pen and ink, colored pencil, or dry media urban sketching. We'd recommend the 5.5"x8.5" wire-bound pad sizes for easy travel.

  • 400 Series Toned Sketch Art Journals
    If you'd prefer a book format versus a wirebound pad format, we also carry the Toned Gray and Toned Tan paper in hardbound and softcover books. The smyth-sewn binding allows them to open wide and lay flatter.

    Artwork by @sary_saflo

4. Toned Mixed Media Paper
Our Toned Mixed Media paper is in the same family as our Toned Sketch, but comes in a heavier weight and is also manufactured to handle wet media applications. It comes in mid-ton gray, tan and blue, and has a vellum drawing surface. 

  • 400 Series Toned Mixed Media Pads
    The Toned Mixed Media paper is 184lb (300gsm) and is available in multiple pad sizes, including a handy 6"x8" size.

  • Toned Mixed Media Art Journals
    We also carry the tan and gray toned mixed media paper in Hardbound and Softcover Art Journals. The landscape  sizes are especially convenient for Urban Sketching. 

5. Landscape Watercolor Art Journals
Our 400 Series 140lb. (300gsm) Cold Press Watercolor paper comes in hardbound, softcover, and wirebound landscape art journals, which are a perfect size and shape for Urban Sketching. The paper is heavyweight and has a strong surface that is ideal for watercolor, gouache and acrylic. It can handle lifting and scraping applications and gives clean and even washes.


1. Mechanical Pencils and Erasers

Mechanical pencils tend to work nicely versus wood-case pencils when Urban Sketching since they don't need to be sharpened. The sharpener is one less thing to worry about bringing and you'll always have a fine point without messy pencil shavings. 

2. Permanent Ink Pens

Having a variety of permanent ink drawing pen is key. You can make super fine details with small tip sizes and bolder, thicker lines with a larger tip. A good rule of thumb is to bring 3 pen sizes: fine, medium and thick. Sakura Microns are a top favorite among Urban Sketchers for the crisp clean lines that can be achieved. Watercolor can be added over the top or you can start with watercolor and add ink lines once it's dry. 

3. Travel-size Watercolor Set

Sakura also makes a convenient Watercolor Field Sketch Travel Kit. These are portable watercolor sets that come with a pan of watercolor paints, a refillable water brush, and a small mixing pan. They are small and sleek and can easily fit into travel bags. 

4. Binder Clips

When working outdoors, binder clips are a tool that really come in handy. They keep your pages from flying in the breeze and can also be used to clip your pens and pencils to your pad for easier storage. 

5. Small Backing Board

Having a sturdy, solid surface to work on is essential. If you're on location, you may not have a table at your disposal, so clipping your paper or pad to a sturdy backing board makes it easier to draw or paint. 

6. Stool

Depending on the type of travel, a stool is an excellent accessory to bring if possible. It can be super handy for setting up your sketching station and prevent you from having to sit on the ground for hours. 

7. Basics for Comfort and Safety

When spending lots of time outside sketching, it's important to remember the essentials for basic comfort and safety; sunscreen, a hat, lots of drinking water, and potentially bug repellent. 

Artwork by Teoh Yi Chie

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