The world around us is filled with textures, so no sketch is complete without them, too! While creating textures might not be the first thing to learn for beginners, it's a good idea to start noticing textures right from the start and slowly build up your unique range of textures to use in (urban) sketches.
I have a course on Textures in Urban Sketching available in Brave Brushes Studio, my membership for amateur artists and urban sketchers. Join now to get immediate access to this course as well as to the entire archive of classes.
If you are exploring textures on your own, this blog post will point you in the right direction and provide links to useful resources. I hope it inspires you to research textures further and to pay special attention to textures in your next sketch.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF CREATING TEXTURES
Use a variety of textures to make your sketch visually appealing and dynamic: rough, smooth, bumpy, and shiny. Using the same texture over and over can make your artwork appear flat and uninteresting.
Use layering techniques: this involves building up layers of different textures to create a more realistic effect. For example, if you are drawing a tree, you can start with a layer of rough bark texture and then add another layer of smoother texture to create the appearance of leaves.
Use light and shadow: observing how light falls on different textures can help you create a more convincing illusion of depth and dimension. Understanding how light and shadow interact with different textures will help you create more convincing textures.
Remember that objects in the foreground have more texture and details than those in the background. This post explains how to create a sense of depth in urban sketching.
Do not try to draw every single brick, roof tile, wood plank, rock or leaf that you see. Sometimes just a suggestion of a couple of them is enough.
Take the time to observe and study textures in your surroundings and experiment with different techniques.
TOOLS FOR TEXTURES
Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission when you buy something (at no additional cost to you). I appreciate every sale because this is a way for me to continue creating free content for you!
Here's what you'll need to create beautiful textures in your urban sketches:
fineliners of different sizes | Buy on Amazon
white acrylic pen | Buy on Amazon
white pastel pencil | Buy on Amazon
watercolors | Buy on Amazon
HOW TO CREATE TEXTURES WITH FINELINERS
Fineliners are an amazing tool for adding textures to your sketches. You'll be surprised how many different textures can be created with their help!
Here are some tips:
Use a variety of sizes: for example, 0.1 and 0.3 mm fineliners for most textures and 1 mm for shadows and depth.
Use short and long lines and dots to suggest the textures of bricks and rocks and long diagonal lines to draw glass textures; hatching works great for textures.
Don't cover the entire area with textures, only put dots and lines here and there.
Experiment with different ways to draw one and the same texture.
Vary the amount of pressure you use: lighter and darker lines help you create dynamic textures.
Don't try to make your lines, dots, and circles perfect! Loose, uneven lines help create a playful effect.
Here's an exercise we do in Brave Brushes Studio: different ways of drawing brick walls and stone walls (and there's more!).
Try one of these techniques now: this is the first exercise out of my Textures course in Brave Brushes Studio:
HOW TO CREATE TEXTURES WITH WATERCOLORS
Use the right paper!
Choosing the right kind of paper can make a massive difference: cold-press cotton paper has a rough surface, which means you automatically get some texture without trying very hard. Read this post to learn about different types of paper.
Here are my tips for painting bricks with watercolors:
Study the brick pattern and pay attention to how the bricks are laid out on the wall. You’ll be surprised by how different the patterns can be!
Draw a light sketch with a soft pencil (2B works great!).
When painting the bricks, mix different shades of red, orange and brown to create a natural brick color.
Use a white acrylic pen or white pastel pencil to add highlights.
Don’t forget to add shadows!
FINELINERS WITH WATERCOLORS
There are two techniques you can use to combine fineliners and watercolors.
Technique 1. You can first draw the sketch with fineliners (on top of your preliminary pencil sketch) and then paint with watercolors. I use this technique in my free workshops and some of the sketching sessions in my membership.
Technique 2. You can start with watercolors and then refine your sketch with fineliners when the watercolors dry. Here's a sketch I made using this technique in a recent live sketching workshop at Brave Brushes Studio. The downside is that it takes a lot of time for the watercolors to dry before you can draw with fineliners (which makes the first technique more practical for short workshops).
However, the upside is that painting before refining gives you more freedom with color and makes the whole process more playful and relaxed. You use a lot of water and let the colors flow into each other because you don't have black fineliner lines telling you where the borders between the objects are.
Interested in trying these techniques? Both these workshops can be found in Brave Brushes Studio, along with the recordings of all my past workshops.
USING PENCILS TO CREATE TEXTURES
You can use pencils on top of your gouache/watercolor paintings to add more textures to your sketch. Just make sure the paint is dry first. Pencils are great for walls, glass, pavements, greenery -- in fact, for pretty much any texture.
I use Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils in my sketches. They are NOT watercolor pencils. See my post on the pencils I use in my (urban) sketches for more details.
My Basics of Textures course in Brave Brushes Studio includes the following:
Lesson 1. Drawing textures with fineliners: bricks and stones
Lesson 2. Glass, wood, and street textures with fineliners.
Lesson 3. Brick textures with watercolors.
Lesson 4. Watercolor wood and wall textures.
Bonus lessons: Roof textures with markers; Bricks for urban scenes.