How to Sketch in Watercolour: Easy Urban Landscapes

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Hi Folks! Today I’ll go through some tips on how to sketch in watercolour by painting some easy urban landscapes.

One of the best ways to learn watercolor painting is to practice completing simplified sketches from reference photos. The three scenes below were from a free watercolor workshop I ran a few weeks ago. I’ve used large brushes in these to create a loose and spontaneous feel.

Watercolors are very versatile but have a particular strength in quick, sporadic sketches. I often start by sketching some landscapes from reference photos. I try to simplify complex objects such as cars and buildings down into simple shapes such as boxes and then add an indication here and there of the smaller objects contained within.

Moscow – 1/16th Sheet

Notice how I preserve the ‘light’ areas on the ground and create contrast with some darker figures and cars. That’s the secret to making the light pop out. You need the darks to create light!

London, 1/16th Sheet

Here’s another example of contrasting light and dark areas. Simplified dark tone running through the background, foreground cars, shadows, and figures. I added a sunset effect to the sky by creating a darker and cooler wash at the top (cerulean blue + white gouache) and fading this down to lemon yellow/orange.

London Version 2, 1/16th Sheet

Here I tried to experiments on the shadows, by wetting the paper before. This created a loose and soft shadow effect as I wanted to avoid too much sharpness in the area. Sometimes this can detract from the rest of the painting.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on how to sketch in watercolour by painting some easy urban landscapes, using the tips I mentioned. To get a full understanding, I recommend you paint along to my workshop!

The full workshop is available for free below:

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