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  • Julia Henze

STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL: MIXED MEDIA TECHNIQUES FOR URBAN SKETCHING

When you think of an urban sketch, the words shimmering, luminous and glittering don't exactly come to mind. Well, I'm going to change that! In this blog post, I will show you how the new Cotman Metallic Watercolors by Winsor & Newton can be applied in urban sketching to give your artwork an unusual twist.


For my Dutch-speaking readers: find the Dutch version of this article here at Urban Sketchers Nederland.

In this article, I am going to use the following Winsor & Newton materials:

Cotman Metallic Watercolors * (different colors)

Professional Watercolors

• Classic Watercolor Paper (Cold pressed)

Amazon | Jackson's Art

• Mixed Media Black Pad A4 (200 grams)

Cotman and Professional Synthetic Sable watercolor brushes

• Fineliners (0.3mm and 0.8mm)

Amazon | Jackson's Art

• 2B pencil and an eraser

• White pencil (White Charcoal)

Pencil + eraser + white charcoal pencil set:

Amazon | Jackson's Art


Other materials I will be using:

• Small scissors

• Glue

• Masking Tape

* some links in this article are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission when you buy something.

WHY SHOULD YOU TRY THE NEW COTMAN METALLIC WATERCOLORS?


Reason 1: FUN! Playing around with a new watercolor set is never boring, right? Mixing the metallics with your usual colors will produce unexpected results.


Reason 2: FUN! Expanding your creative range, broadening your horizons - whatever name you want to give to this process, it is good for any artist to take a step away from their everyday medium and try something new. That's why I always encourage my students to explore gouache, watercolors, alcohol-based markers, pencils, and digital tools. This helps make your technique more versatile and gives you a broader range of tools for creative expression (or makes you appreciate your preferred medium even more).


Reason 3: MORE FUN! Thinking about ways to integrate these new (shimmering!) colors into your urban sketch makes you look at the sketching scene differently: notice new things, new details, the play of light, shadows, darkness, the glistening of the wet pavement, or the shining surface of the water. Walk around your area and notice what you can apply these new colors to!

a colorful sketch laid out on the desk together with winso & newton sketching supplies: comtan metallic watercolors and brushes

WINSOR & NEWTON COTMAN METALLIC WATERCOLORS: KEY FEATURES

I have been experimenting with these watercolors for a while now, and here's what I found out:


  1. Mixing: they mix well with each other and with regular Winsor & Newton watercolors (I imagine they will mix well with any other high-quality brand, but you know I'm a Winsor & Newton fan!) The resulting colors become more luminous, full of light.

  2. Texture: the metallics are a great way to add texture to your sketches. Just like some regular watercolors, these metallic watercolors are granular (with a nice flaky effect). Mixing them with non-granulating colors makes the resulting color granular, and mixing them with other granulating colors enhances that effect and gives you a lot of texture in your sketch. I love it!

  3. Drying time: allow more time for the paints to dry than you would for your regular watercolors. Metallic colors tend to take longer to dry.

  4. Paper: these colors work great on black paper, but they are also great for adding a subtle glow to your sketches on white paper.

  5. Combinations of colors: The key word here is 'experiment'! Try out different combinations and see what works best for you.

What I also really like and find inspiring is drawing abstract landscapes or skylines. This can give you some great ideas for your urban sketches. Collect them in a special sketchbook or elsewhere so that you don't forget them and can apply them later at the right moment.

And, of course, you can test these beautiful colors by making small quick sketches. It does not take too much time, but it produces beautiful and surprising effects. For example, you can combine black with Yellow Gold to make the light shine even more in a dark street.

A sketch of a narrow dark street with golden highlights


USING METALLICS IN URBAN SKETCHING: TUTORIAL

A completed sketch by Julia Henze: a skyline with a bridge and a river against bright red sky

Step1. Choose a skyline reference for your artwork or just make something up. It is nice to have some water, buildings, and the sky (the actual reference does not have to be bright, you can make it brighter in your sketch).


Step 2. Make a thumbnail. Tip: it is better to make a few thumbnails and choose the best one; you might not get it right the first time! For the thumbnail, you can use black paint instead of black paper. Decide which parts of your sketch will be on the black paper, which parts will be bright and colorful, and which parts you want to shine.


A rough thumbnail sketch with a silhouette of a cathedral against bright-red sky

Step 3. Apply masking tape to your main (watercolor) paper to prevent buckling.

Artist Julia Henze putting masking tape on the edges of her sketchpad

Step 4. Draw the silhouette of the skyline on black paper. A soft white pencil makes it easier to see the lines and erase them afterward.

A silhouette of a city drawn with white charcoal pencil on black paper

Step 5. Carefully cut the silhouette out of paper using small scissors. Don't glue it yet.

Step 6. Paint the sky (different shades of yellow and red; pink is great too!), paint the water (I used Payne’s Grey + some golden paint for the bank), and the bridge (gold + bronze to make it more interesting).

Step 7. Let the paints dry for a while (as I already mentioned, metallic paints take longer to dry completely than regular watercolor paints).


Step 8. Glue the silhouette onto the white paper.

Step 9. Draw the details (windows, columns, some houses, etc.) with golden and bronze paints, and add some white pencil for the finer lines. This way, you create a variety of textures and lines. Start with the largest ones. Make some abstract spots with the same metallic colors on the water part to create coherence in the picture.

a sketch of a cathedral with a big round dome standing out agains the sky

Make some abstract spots with the same metallic colors on the water part to create coherence in the picture.

an urban sketch with metallic highlights on the water and the buildings

Step 10. Use a fineliner to draw the details on the bridge. Add some contrast and shadows using some thicker and thinner fineliners.

Step 11. Add more spots in the water and shadows on the bridge with bronze paint.

Step 12. We are done! Our sketch is cool and shiny now! And it looks truly spectacular!

Don't forget to remove the masking tape;)

a completed urban sketch: a black silhouette of a cathedral ad skyline against red sky with a river and a bridge in the foreground

I hope I inspired you to make your own urban sketches with Cotman Metallic Watercolors and to add some adventure to your sketching habits. If you use these new watercolors in your sketches, please get in touch with me! I would love to see your artwork! You can DM me on Instagram or leave a comment here on my blog.



OTHER STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIALS

Atmospheric Perspective in Urban Sketching

A lot of beginning artists panic when they hear the word 'perspective.' I created this tutorial to make perspective easy and less intimidating! I explain the different types of perspective and how to see and draw them. Then I give step-by-step instructions, with photos for each step. You will also find links to my Skillshare classes on perspective in this tutorial.



Draw a Colorful Storefront in Eight Easy Steps

This is a PDF download that you get when you subscribe to my newsletter (subscription box below). It's a gouache tutorial that will be fun both for beginners and more experienced artists.

 

It is my mission to help art enthusiasts enjoy their creative journey while making small but regular steps toward better technique. Keep practicing, join my Skillshare classes, follow me on Instagram, and subscribe to my newsletter for valuable tips, ideas, inspiration, and free tutorials!


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