Minimalist Urban Sketching: 5 Tips for Mastering the Art

In this post, we will explore HOW to become more minimalist when urban sketching.

If you have not read the first part of this series on Minimalis Urban Sketching with examples of incredible urban sketchers who embody this style, then go check it out here.

And then come back to this post so we can learn exactly how we can master the art of minimalism in urban sketching.

NB. This post relates to a minimalist approach to sketching and not art supplies, don’t worry. We all have the same hoarding problems when it comes to art supplies. I wouldn’t dare suggest you cut down on them!

As a high-level overview, there are the 5 concepts we are going to discuss in this post on how to become more minimalist when urban sketching:

  1. Simplify the Scene
  2. Clean lines (or brush marks)
  3. Limited palette
  4. Negative space
  5. Composition

Tip #1: Simplify the scene

When approaching a complex urban scene, focus on simplifying the elements you choose to include in your sketch.

Look for strong shapes, prominent lines, and distinctive features that capture the essence of the place. By eliminating unnecessary details, you can create a more minimalist and impactful composition.

Do you want to learn how to make simple striking sketches like this?

Join me for a FREE class showing you the whole process, step by step.

Tip #2: Clean lines (or brush marks)

Emphasise clean, confident lines in your sketches. Avoid overworking or adding unnecessary embellishments. Instead, strive for simplicity and clarity in your linework.

Pay attention to the direction and weight of your lines to convey depth and structure in your sketches.

Tip #3: Limited colour palette

Minimalist sketches often benefit from a limited colour palette. Choose a few key colours that represent the mood or character of the scene, and use them sparingly. This can create a harmonious and cohesive look in your sketch.

Consider using muted or neutral tones to maintain a subtle and understated aesthetic. You can also throw in one bright accent colour to really get the sketch to pop.

Do you want to learn how to sketch your own adventures in ink & watercolour?


I will show you my exact sketching process in ink and watercolour. I have travelled around the world in the last 3 years and this is my go-to system of creating beautiful yet quirky illustrations to capture the magic of my discoveries.

We will work through 3 projects, step by step (pictured below), all of which are real-life examples of things I have sketched along my travels. I provide the photo references you can work from.
We will start by choosing a composition, laying in the initial pencil sketch, adding ink lines, layering watercolour and adding the final touches.
This and much more are included in my course, Sketch Your Adventures, click the button under the image to find out more!

Sketch your adventures modules

Tip #4: Negative space

Negative space, or the empty areas of your sketch, can be a powerful tool in minimalist urban sketching. Instead of trying to fill every corner, leave strategic areas of white space to create a sense of balance and visual interest. Negative space can also help emphasise the subject or focal point of your sketch.

Lis Watkins is a master of using negative space in her drawings.

Tip #5: Prioritise composition

Composition plays a crucial role in minimalist urban sketching. Pay attention to the arrangement and placement of the elements in your sketch.

Strive for a balanced and harmonious composition that guides the viewer’s eye through the scene. Experiment with different perspectives and viewpoints to create dynamic compositions that enhance the minimalist aesthetic.

Check out my ebooks with hundreds of ink & watercolour travel sketches from all over the world. Get some inspiration for your next trip…

Final Thoughts

Remember, achieving a minimalist style in urban sketching takes practice and experimentation. Don’t be afraid to simplify, edit, and refine your sketches to capture the essence of the scene. Develop your own unique approach and embrace the power of minimalism to create impactful and visually striking urban sketches.

Some of my favourite online classes

Keep in touch!