Urban Sketching Essentials

Thinking of getting back out into the world and doing some urban sketching?  We've got a great list of tools and supplies to make sure your bag is packed right.

Artwork by @jingoillo

Let's talk paper!  Depending on your preferred mediums, your choice of paper will vary, but we've picked out a few options for everyone to choose from.

If you like to create quick drawings with dry media, sketchbooks and pads may be a good option for you.  Our sketch papers come in a variety of sizes, formats, and paper grades and typically come with lots of sheets, so you can keep sketching - even if you make a mistake.  The Color Pop journals are a new favorite and have durable, vibrantly colored covers.  In addition to spiral and glue-bound pads, sketch paper is also available in several different journal and book formats.  Check out our entire sketch paper selection here.

If using ink and watercolor together is more your jam, then mixed media 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.  We have a couple of different mixed media options, including different weights (the 300 series is a 117lb/190g sheet while the 400 series is 184lb/300g and the 500 series is a heavyweight 350lb/570g sheet!)  Our mixed media papers are also available in a few books and journals, making it a perfectly portable option.  Check out the whole range here.

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 has a variety of toned sketch and mixed media papers that are available in pads and journals.  Take a look at all of our toned papers here.

Last, but certainly not least, we can't forget about watercolor.  Our watercolor papers are available in hardbound and soft-cover journals, but also in our Travel Series, which was created with Urban Sketchers in mind!  The Travel Series includes two different-sized, glue-bound pads as well as a fun, mini-sized 3x9" wire-bound pad.  Also included in the line are travel journals in two different sizes.  Check out our watercolor journals here and our travel series here.


Now let's chat about everything else that you'll need to bring with you.  Depending on your chosen mediums, you may not need to pack all of this, but we'll cover it all for your consideration.

For taking watercolor outside, we love taking a small set that is compact.  Something like the Aquafine 12 Half Pan Travel Set (pictured above, middle left) from our friends at Daler-Rowney is perfect and includes two water wells and mixing space on the lid, as well as a brush.  If you need a couple more brush options, we love a travel set like the ones from Princeton Brush (the Aqua Elite set is pictured above, top left).  These brushes twist apart so you can store the brush end inside the handle for extra space-saving and protection.

We also love to take pencils and sketching supplies with us while urban sketching.   A sketching set like the Lyra Rembrandt Sketch Roll (pictured above, middle right) is perfect.  It rolls up and contains a variety of graphite, pastel pencils, oil pencils, and carbon pencils and has space for extra accessories in the roll.  

Talking of accessories, make sure to bring the following extras that are often forgotten:

  • Eraser
  • Stool
  • Water
  • Hat
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand wipes
  • Sharpener
  • Board
  • Clips to secure the paper to your board
  • Sketching pens

Most importantly, have fun getting out into the world and urban sketching!  And don't forget to enter our urban sketching contest (ends August 24, 2021 at 6:00pm CST)!  Just upload your urban sketch from your favorite location you've ever sketched.  Find out more about the contest and the prize and learn how to submit your entry here.



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