The Basics of Travel Sketching

Updated: May 6, 2020

Are you going on a vacation and want to document it by more more than snapshots on your phone? Then travel sketching or Urban sketching might just be your thing!

When filming for my third Skillshare class i did a lot of research on Travel Sketching and I want to highligt the most important points here. If you want to watch the class, you can get 2 free months of free Skillshare time right HERE.

  • Which materials to bring into the field

  • What to focus on

  • How to capture a mood

  • How to overcome anxiety if you are an introvert (like me)


When you go out in the field you need to bring to bring to types of things; all your sketching stuff and all the things to keep you safe and warm out there in the wild.

Sketching stuff

I'm a watercolorist, so my list is of course a bit biased by that. You can just take what you can use from it.

  • Small watercolor Travel Pan set (I use the ones from Prima Marketing, they are super cute and super portable)

  • Brushes (Here you can use regular brushes, just make sure to carry them safely or you can use waterbrushes which are super handy and fits into a pencilcase)

  • Fineliners, pencils, Poscapens, erasers and whatever you like to use in your artwork and style

  • Sketchbook that can hold some water (I use the artistbook from Moleskine, it's only 165g/m2 and it's not really watercolorpaper, but it holds the water well, it's nice to write on and its so so pretty)

  • A pencilcase to hold it all neatly together.

  • You can probably find both water, cups and tissue where you paint, but if you go into nature remember to bring that as well.

Extra stuff to keep you alive

  • Sunglasses if the sun is shining (if you sit in direct sunlight it can become so bright that you won't be able to see the motive)

  • A small pillow or stool. Just something to make it comfortable to sit on the pavement, stairs or where ever you find yourself painting.

  • Earphones. This is a neat trick for the introvert and I'll talk a bit more about it in a sec.

  • Backpack to carry everything


There are so many ways to do this. You can paint a whole scenery or just focus on the people, colors or the sights of the place.

I like to mix it up to get a bit of everything and hopefully catch the mood of the place.

The most important thing here is that YOU have the artistic license and YOU are the one capturing YOUR experience of the place. That was a lot of you I know, but you really do decide. It's your sketchbook afterall.


A place is made from so many things and the experience is different for everybody. But look at the place - what catches your eyes? Is it the colors? The buildings? Doors? Maybe the clothes people are wearing or the bikes they ride? Here is a list of ideas as inspiration:

  • Food

  • Restaurants

  • Landmarks

  • People (clothes, styles, shoes, hats, bags)

  • Vehicles (cars, bikes, tuctucs, trains, busses)

  • Flowers

  • Animals

  • Signage

  • Buildings (doors, windows, lanterns, fences)

  • Patterns and colors

You can come up with a lot more when ypu just use your eyers out there.


As you noticed in the materials list, i listed earphones, and yes it is that simple. You sit down with your painting gear and put on earphones. You can hear music or anything really. I prefer not to plug them in though. I like to feel the buzz of the place and that is all the soundtrack I need. But you should do what you prefer.

You can also go out on deep water and just paint with nothing to hide behind. I know it's scary but you actually move some barriers and it gets easier every time.

There is also the opportunity to team up with other sketchers or maybe just the people you travel with. Having someone sitting next to you will scare of most of the curious turists and locals.


That is all I have for you on travel sketching this time. If you want more you can see the trailer of my Skillshare class and subscribe to 2 Free months with link above. I really hope you'll go out and paint some amazing places, and please tag me on Instagram (@camilla_damsbo_art) so I can see what you create.

Have and amazingly creative day!


#painting #Travelsketching

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