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Recommended Books Watercolors, Urban Sketching, Color Theory, and Drawing

Over the years, I have collected books on Color, Perspective, Drawing Techniques, Watercolors, and Urban Sketching over the years and wanted to share with you my favorites. I will receive a small commission when you purchase through one of the links below but your price doesn’t change. These are books that I reference and learn from even today. Some are great for working on your techniques, and others are for inspiration. Browse through the books and see what inspires you. 

Local Color: Seeing Place Through Watercolor Includes a series of self-guided exercises and illustrated examples

Published in 2015

In Local Color, designer and educator Mimi Robinson teaches us not only how to see the colors around us but also how to capture and record them in watercolor. Regardless of your level of expertise, Robinson will quickly have you creating personal memories of time, travel, and place through a series of self-guided exercises and illustrated examples. 

Mastering The Art of Watercolor Includes 20 step-by-step projects to help you to put the basics into practice

Published in 2003

Master all the aspects of watercolor painting with this comprehensive practical manual. An introduction details all the equipment you will need and lays out the basic techniques, including the different strokes required, and how to mix the paints to create the right palette. This instructive painting course then has over 20 step-by-step projects to help you to put the basics into practice. There are projects to challenge beginners, and others for intermediate painters, grouped by subject, including landscapes, still-life and portraits. This accessible book has something for water-colorists of all abilities to learn from and help achieve their potential. 

1,500 Color Mixing Recipes Including Color Mixing Recipes for Watercolors, Oils, and Acrylics

Published in 2012

Make the colors you want! This collection of Walter Foster’s bestselling Color Mixing Recipes books, including Color Mixing Recipes for Oil and AcrylicColor Mixing Recipes for PortraitsColor Mixing Recipes for Watercolor, and the most recent addition, Color Mixing Recipes for Landscapes.

This incredible collection comes in a user-friendly concealed spiral-bound format that is tabbed for quick and easy reference. Aspiring artists will also find two removable color mixing grids–one for oil or acrylic, and one for watercolor.

Drawing Ideas: A Hand-Drawn Approach for Better Design Great techniques, tips, inspiration for creating compelling and original designs

Published in 2013

A primer for design professionals across all disciplines that helps them create compelling and original concept designs by hand–as opposed to on the computer–in order to foster collaboration and win clients.  In today’s design world, technology for expressing ideas is pervasive; CAD models and renderings created with computer software provide an easy option for creating highly rendered pieces.

Watercolor School: A Practical Guide to Painting With Watercolor Includes 8 watercolor projects that are easy to follow, from beginning to end

Published in 1993

Provides visual explanations and simple exercises to build painting skills, and offers eight projects highlighting different subjects from the planning stage to the completed painting.

The Watercolor Course You've Always Wanted Guided Lessons for Beginners and Experienced Artists

Published in 2015

 In the tradition of the eminently practical, top-selling guides such as How to Make a Watercolor Paint ItselfThe Oil Painting Course You’ve Always Wanted, and Problem Solving for Oil Painters, this straightforward handbook offers a fresh approach to watercolor mastery that bridges the gap between theory and practice. Through thoughtful discussion, expert instruction, and in-depth step-by-step demonstrations, Leslie Frontz shows readers how to eliminate common barriers to achieve beautiful, captivating watercolor paintings. Beginning with teaching readers how to see with an artist’s eye, Frontz then establishes how watercolor painters build on this skill by making timely decisions throughout the creation process.

Artist's Color Manual The complete guide to working with color in oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, colored pencils, or inks

Published in 2003

Developed by the same team that created Artist’s Manual and Art Class, both top-selling art reference books, Artist’s Color Manual is the ultimate guide to color for visual artists. Whether they work in oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, colored pencils, or inks, artists of all stripes will find information and ideas flowing from every profusely illustrated page. Renowned art instructor Simon Jennings begins with a basic introduction to color theory, the color wheel, and the art of mixing pigments. The heart of the Artist’s Color Manual is a comprehensive guide to mixing and creating each color of the spectrum, from primaries to tricky neutrals, flesh tones, and metallics. Additional chapters focus on techniques, such as mixing media, that create color in both traditional and unexpected ways. Examples of work by accomplished artists and interviews with leading painters suggest creative ideas for color use. With expert instruction, detailed information, and inspiring visuals, Artist’s Color Manual is especially helpful for those who are learning to paint, yet speaks with definitive authority to all artists looking to perfect their craft. 

Watercolorist's A to Z of Trees and Foliage Includes easy-to-follow instructions for painting 25 of the most popular species of trees

Published in 2003

The real challenge to painting a captivating landscape is re-creating a tree’s distinctive character and personality. Adelene Fletcher shows watercolorists of all skill levels how to do exactly that in this unique guide.

The Watercolorist’s A to Z of Trees and Foliage features easy-to-follow instructions for painting 25 of the most popular species of trees, including: American Elm, Black walnut, Oleander, Peach tree, Golden weeping willow, Sugar maple, Horse chestnut

Readers will also find concise instruction on everything from dry brushing and masking to negative painting and lifting out. This book walks artists through all the tips, tricks and techniques they’ll need for more breathtaking landscapes!

The Complete Book of Drawing Techniques A Complete Guide for the Artist

Published in 2004

One hugely important aspect of an artist’s skill is a facility with various techniques, with which to express his or her individual style. Being fluent in a range of techniques gives the artist a richer creative vocabulary. This book will help artists to expand their understanding of available media. 

Urban Sketching The Complete Guide to Techniques

Published in 2014

While most sketching guides leave the artist with static bowls of fruit and flower vases to develop their skill, Urban Sketching takes its inspiration from the living, breathing world around us! Contents include the nuts and bolts of sketching and drawing as well as a range of techniques specific to this artistic genre. Readers will discover:

  • Rules on perspective that will aid inn capturing landscapes, buildings, and objects accurately
  • Tips for capturing the essence of people in sketches when subjects are on the move
  • The art of adding notes, commentary, and even speech to sketches

Chapters on sharing sketches through social media, joining the international urban sketching community, digitizing work, and more make this new guide the quintessential resource for anyone interested in joining the exciting art movement. More than 350 full-color illustrations throughout.

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective Easy Techniques for Mastering Perspective Drawing on Location (Urban Sketching Handbooks)

Published in 2016

A good sketch starts with good bones.

The fourth book in the Urban Sketching Handbook series uses drawings and simple steps to explain the often challenging and overwhelming concepts of perspective in practical and useful ways for on-site sketching. Most books are either too abstract or don’t provide enough information that relates to what you actually do when you’re out in the busy, wide world about to start a drawing. Where do you start? How do you edit what you see to flatten and shrink it onto your paper? How does perspective work?

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective helps you learn to think like an architect, to draw buildings and spaces by reducing what you see to simple, basic shapes, then adding layers in simple steps, and finally finishing your sketch with detail, tone, and color–in accurate perspective. Full of helpful tips, architect and illustrator, Stephanie Bower even de-constructs sketches to show you how to create them! Once you understand perspective, it will change the way you see the world–you’ll see perspective everywhere.

Some of the key concepts explored in this volume are:

– Basic Terms
– Basic Spatial Principles
– Types of Perspective
– Building a Sketch in Layers
– Special Conditions

Sketch Now Think Later Jump into Urban Sketching with Limited Time, Tools, and Techniques

Published in 2017

Boston-based urban artist Mike Daikubara gives beginners a crash course in location sketching that you can use in any city in Sketch Now, Think Later.

Everyone wishes they could sketch stylish scenes, but busy lives leave almost no room for sitting down with a pad and pen to practicing. Many people give up on their potential hobby (and artistic outlet) because they feel they just don’t have the time to lay the groundwork. Here’s a secret though: you do! All you need is a strategy for incorporate sketching into your daily life.

Sketch Now, Think Later covers the tools, techniques and tips that author and Urban Sketching Correspondent of Boston Mike Daikubara has developed in his more than 15 years as a practicing artist, and will show you how to fully dive into any sketching situation with limited time and tools, and still be able to produce memorable, great looking, fun sketches! 

Sketching People An Urban Sketcher’s Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces

Published in 2016

Drawing people in the outside world can be a real thrill; each sketch captures a particular person and place in time. But it can also be a challenge. How do you spot a likely subject? How do you choose the person most likely to stay still? How do you draw movement for the person that refuses to sit still? Sketching People offers straightforward, practical help to give beginning artists the confidence and ability to draw all sorts of people in many different settings. In the pages of this book, readers will find:

  • How to capture the essence of character
  • Different line-work styles
  • Techniques for creating realistic skin tones
  • The key to capturing the details of street life
  • Ways to create fabric folds
  • Mastering tonal drawings
  • Conveying age differences, and more

This clearly written, fun to read book is bursting with inspirational artwork and candid advice that will help you improve your drawing skills and change the way you sketch for the better.

Perspective (Artist's Library series #13) This book is small but it packs a perspective punch!

Published in 1989

Whether you specialize in drawing – even cartooning and animationùor prefer media such as acrylic, oil, pastel, or watercolor, a good knowledge of perspective is invaluable. It is the foundation of all great paintings and drawings, no matter what medium. Perspective shows you everything you need to know to make objects look three dimensional. Practice the methods of measuring and dividing areas proportionately; then learn how we perceive depth and distance, and how to render it correctly on paper or canvas. You will learn the basics and beyond, covering concepts like foreshortening; cast shadows; reflections; and even one-, two-, and three-point perspective. And once you have a good grasp of the basics, it’s easy to graduate to more complex and irregular forms. This comprehensive guide will show you how!

The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World I've shared so much of this book in my workshops because it shows off such versatile sketches!

Published in 2012

The Art of Urban Sketching is both a comprehensive guide and a showcase of location drawings by artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel.

Authored by the founder of the nonprofit organization Urban Sketchers (, this beautiful, 320-page volume explains urban sketching within the context of a long historical tradition and how it is being practiced today. With profiles of leading practitioners and discussions of the benefits of working in this art form, this inspiring book shows how one can participate and experience this creative outlet through modern-day social networks and online activity.

You’ll find more than 600 beautiful, contemporary illustrations, as well as artists’ profiles and extended captions where these urban sketchers share their stories, how they work, sketching tips, and the tools behind each drawing.

With sketches and observations from more than 50 cities in more than 30 countries, The Art of Urban Sketching offers a visually arresting, storytelling take on urban life from different cultures and artistic styles, as well as insight into various drawing techniques and mediums.

Watercolor: Paintings of Contemporary Artists Take a look at the works of today's watercolor artists

Published in 2013

Watercolor is taking the art, fashion, and home décor worlds by storm. The result is an explosion of amazing new work by contemporary artists. This volume surveys the current revival of this loveliest of mediums, in portfolios from more than 20 of today’s top watercolor artists from around the globe. From the evocative visual journals of Danny Gregory and Fabrice Moireau, through the fashion-inspired portraits of Samantha Hahn and Virginia Johnson, to the indie art stylings of Jane Mount and Becca Stadtlander, Watercolor stunningly showcases painterly brilliance. With artist profiles, an informative history of the medium, and an inspiring preface by DailyCandy’s Sujean Rim, this is the guide to a beautiful revolution.