How to Draw Buildings and Other Urban Sketching Tips

by Zamali
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  • Learning How to Draw Buildings and Architecture will improve your understanding of perspective for all other forms of drawing
  • Your first drawing of anything is just a sketch, so keep it spontaneous
  • Start your sketch by marking the highest and the lowest points (in relation to your line of sight)
  • Tips and instructions for drawing architecture fast and easy

By drawing buildings, urban sketching and architectural studies, you train your eye to see and perfect your perspective knowledge and techniques.

One of the most challenging topics for beginners learning to draw is Perspective. This is essential for all forms of drawings. From Portrait to Painting, you have to master the art of perspective, and the best way to improve perspective is by learning how to draw buildings and practising more urban sketching.

sketch of a victorian building
Sketch of a Victorian building.

Drawing urban architecture is easier than you think. The trick is speed. I just realised while writing this post, that some of my best drawings were actually quite rushed and on the move. You don’t need much equipment or prep for that.

I just keep a small sketchbook with me at all times with a 2B and Zebra black ink Pens, and if I’m walking or even driving around London and see an interesting building, I will often stop for just 15-30min to sketch it.

Drawing of Christ Church (Turnham Green) London.

5 Tips on How to Draw Buildings Fast

Remember this; Every first drawing of anything you see is a SKETCH. This means, please keep it simple and spontaneous.

If you are outside on a walk and see something for the first time, reach for your sketchbook and do a rough sketch. Aim to scale what you see onto your sketchbook. Do the very first major lines, horizon line and vertical lines.

how to draw buildings steps
Stages of sketching a building correctly

Use a very light touch at the beginning. It’s ok to shift some lines and structures around. (see picture above)

  1. Start by marking the top and bottom of what you want to sketch (highest point and lowest) of the building or structure.
  2. Then measure (in comparison to the height) the width of the building and mark that also on paper.
  3. Add the horizon line. This is the line that is perfectly horizontal to your point of view.
  4. From there start adding the major lines, while still measuring and comparing those to the proportions of the height and width you captured at the beginning.
  5. Start adding detail, with more emphasis on details in the shade. So if the light source is coming from above left, the lines to the right and bottom should be heavier than lines on top and on the left.

Examples of the rough first sketches of buildings on location:

Material I Use

When I don’t have much time, I use mostly a 2B or 3B pencil. This is the quickest way to draw something I find. Here are some more tips on pencils and drawing techniques

I also use a Zebra Pen (I was inspired to use this pen thanks to the Art of Dina Brodsky) when I have a bit more time and I enjoy the control the Zebra pen gives.

Sometimes I use a Micron 0.05 to 0.5 when I have plenty of time and want to my first sketch to be a final drawing. An artist that I’m a huge fan of who uses Micron pens to produce some of the most fascinating Urban Drawings is Luke Adam Hawker

For more details on Drawing Pens, I suggest you check this article on Jacksons blog

For inspiration, here is a drawings collection of Buildings and Vintage Urban sketching from 1920

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