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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 – See the colors around us but also how to capture and record them in watercolor. 

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

Published in 2003 – There are projects to challenge beginners, and others for intermediate painters, grouped by subject.

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

Published in 2012 – Make the colors you want! Tabbed for quick and easy reference with two removable color mixing grids.

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.

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.

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

Published in 2015 – Learn how to eliminate common barriers to achieve beautiful, captivating watercolor paintings. 

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

Published in 2003 – A comprehensive guide to mixing and creating each color of the spectrum, from primaries to tricky neutrals, flesh tones, and metallics. 

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

Published in 1989 – Perspective shows you everything you need to know to make objects look three dimensional.

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 – An easy-to-follow instructions for painting 25 of the most popular species of trees.

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

Published in 2004 – This book will help artists to expand their understanding of available media. 

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

Published in 2013 – 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. 

The Spirit of the Brush Chinese Brush Painting Techniques: Simplicity, Spirit, and Personal Journey

Paperback published in 2017 – Sungsook Setton learned ink painting techniques from Chinese and Korean masters in her native South Korea; now she brings them to you in this book.

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.

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.

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