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★ Travel Sketching | How To Draw Quickly Whilst Traveling ★

Updated on February 18, 2016

Tips, Tutorials & Inspiration for Drawing on Location

There are many reasons why you might want to branch out and start drawing on location: perhaps you are bored of always drawing indoors, or maybe you want to make your diaries or art journals more visually interesting with illustrations of real life? Travel sketching is particularly popular because when people are on holiday or are traveling around the world, they may want to capture memories and scenes in a more personal way than simply taking a photograph. A collection of you own illustrations would make a beautiful and unique travel journal.

This page will give you tips on how to go about sketching and painting outside and in public places. It can be difficult to have the courage to sketch in public when there are other people around, such as 'urban sketching' where you create your drawings in cities and towns where it is likely to be busy. For beginners, it may be a good idea to start sketching in more quiet places first, and also not trying anything too ambitious!

To begin, you'll need a compact kit with your paints or pens/pencils in, plus a solid base to rest your work on. There really aren't many supplies you need to get started, but the main problem for me is always confidence!

I hope you find the examples of travel drawing on this page inspiring :)

Buddha, Sulamani Temple, Burma


Best Books About Urban Sketching & Travel Illustration

The following books are highly rated and are filled with plenty of beautiful drawings, information and inspiration:

An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers
An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers
A beautiful book displaying the travel sketches of over 40 different artists, who also share their thoughts and stories about what they have illustrated.
The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World
The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World
A rich treasury of 600 city location drawings which have been created in 50 cities all over the world. There are also useful tips from the artists included, and you are also told what tools were used for each illustration.

Travel Sketching Introduction

A Summary & Some Tips

Sketching and painting when you're out and about is calming, relaxing and fun, and it gives you an excuse to fully immerse yourself in the scene and really look at your surroundings. It's a lovely way to spend your time, and you're much more likely to remember the place and commit it to memory if you are concentrating on the details around you. It's also great for art journaling and adding another dimension to your diaries and travel journals rather than just filling them with only writing. Sketches record moments in your life forever, and can make much more out of mundane and ordinary things. Sketching is also a productive way of amusing yourself when you're waiting somewhere; such as during your commute on a train, or waiting in a cafe for your order.

With regard to your art kit, most art materials are quite portable anyway, but there are some items that are specifically designed to be used when working 'on location' such as: collapsible water pots and fold-away easels and palettes. The least you require is a piece of paper and a pencil, but you can also bring other items like ink pens, a sketchbook, watercolor paper, a drawing board, a watercolor paint tray, brushes etc. My favorite items to use are water-filled brushes because you can fill them up before you travel so you don't even need a water pot. If I'm going to be doing a lot of painting in a day then I just take a little bottle of water along too, (plus a small tray of watercolor paints of course.)

A few tips to make drawing in public easier (especially if you're shy or don't want people to notice what you're doing):

- Sit with your back to a wall, or sit in a place where people won't be walking behind you.

- Take minimal materials with you; any painting equipment will stand out, so a pen/pencil together with a sketchbook is best.

- Sit in a quiet spot. Or if you can't do this, try to stay at the edge, rather than in the middle, of the 'action'.

- Draw someone from the back. Not only is it easier because you don't need to draw their face, but they're not going to see you looking at them.

- Hide your sketchbook in a larger book, or rest it on a clipboard that has a hinged cover on the front so you can hide what you're doing more easily.

Travel Sketch Kit

Photo and kit by René Fijten.

The kit consists of:

- Moleskine large, watercolour

- Moleskine small, sketch

- Lamy fountain pen black ink (for all drawing and writing)

- Edding 1800, Profipen 0,3 and 0,5mm

- Rembrandt pure sable brush 3 and 6

- Lamy pencil 0.5mm, H

- Ordinary pencil 2B

- Waterbrush, medium Koi

- Pentel paintbrush, black

- Stabilo fineliners

- Portable watercolour set

Santorini From Photographs


Pentel Water Brushes - My Personal Recommendation

Pentel Arts Aquash Fine Point Water Brush, Medium (FRHMBP)
Pentel Arts Aquash Fine Point Water Brush, Medium (FRHMBP)
As I've mentioned already, I think that water brushes are a must-have if you use watercolor paints when you are on location. Water brushes have a regular brush tip but instead of a solid handle they have hollow plastic tubes which you fill with water. Then when you need water to be fed through the brush tip, you just squeeze the brush tube. This means you have a lot of control over the water supply and you don't need to carry a water pot around with you. Perfect for travel!

Fort in Valenca, Portugal

Gorgeous watercolour scene - so much movement and life!
Gorgeous watercolour scene - so much movement and life! | Source

More About Tools & Sketching Ideas

Speed is usually particularly important when sketching on location, depending on where you are sat and what you are drawing. If drawing people you will have to be quicker than drawing a landscape for instance. This means that you will need to work on how to sketch a scene quickly, which may mean cutting a few corners.

When drawing people, for example, it is best to either draw rough outlines of everyone in the scene or concentrate on one person in particular. Because people move around a lot, speed is of the essence, so first try and choose someone who is likely to be in the same place for a while, such as on a long train commute, or they have just ordered some food in a cafe. Get the outlines of the person/people you are drawing down on paper as quickly as possible before adding details. Sketch lightly on the page and keep your pencil/pen moving - don't get bogged down with detailing and getting your lines exact. For beginners, to make it easier you can leave out faces and feet to start with when drawing people. If you're keen to improve your skills, life drawing classes are well worth it, but you just need practice.

When looking at a scene, I find it easier to focus on one detail first - whether it's a person, a tree, a building or a bench, so you aren't overwhelmed. When you've drawn that you can leave it, add a plain color background, add a rough approximation of the rest of the scene, or a draw the rest of the scene in its entirety. The most important thing is just to start and get rid of the blank page first of all, because starting is the most difficult thing to do.

If you would like to add watercolor paint to your sketches, you will need to use watercolor paper (you can buy sketchbooks and moleskines specifically for applying watercolor paints to) because otherwise the paper will be too thin and will warp and wrinkle. You will also need to draw in waterproof pens, such as Micron pens. If you don't want to carry around paints, brushes, a palette and some water, you can draw the outline and any details on location in the waterproof ink pen, then color the drawing in at home. To record information about the colors, so that you can remember them later, you can make notes about the colors in a notepad, you can color the sketch in roughly with colored watercolor pencils so that water can be applied later to finish it off, or you can take a photograph of the scene so you can refer to it at another time.

If watercolors aren't your thing, you can also use other coloring tools like colored pencils, markers, felt-tips, pastels etc. If sticking with black-and-white images, you can use charcoals or pencils for adding shading, or if using a pen you can use the 'hatching' technique for shading.

Collapsible Products & Travel Paint Palettes

JAS : Collapsible Lantern : Large : 6in Diameter : Water Pot
JAS : Collapsible Lantern : Large : 6in Diameter : Water Pot
If you need a large water pot for using with your watercolors, this pot is perfect because it collapses down to a size that is much easier to carry around with you.

Travel Sketching Demo Videos & Examples

On The Train

Public transport offers a short time to sit and draw what you see - which is often interesting people!
Public transport offers a short time to sit and draw what you see - which is often interesting people! | Source

Sketching On-The-Move


Making Your Own Art Kits & Sketchbooks

Do you create art on location?

See results

Please Leave a Comment!

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    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 

      6 years ago from Idaho

      I love to sketch and paint. I don't do it nearly as often as I should and really wanted to tell you that I admire your talent, love those travel sketches and the idea for using an altoid can to make your own travel kit.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 

      6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      "On the go" is the only way I know to draw...LOL! Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i must say this is a very unique post that i have come across. really great lens.. i do not have good drawing experience but i definitely would try my hands on it..

      loved this idea..

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very much like your travel watercolour set. Well done.


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