Urban Watercolor Guide

In contrast to Loose Watercolor, urban motifs live from details and the use of many different techniques. Knowing which technique is best to use when and in which order it makes sense to paint a motif can sometimes be challenging. But once you understand the steps that take you from a sketch to the finished motif, painting is no longer difficult.   

Which brushes are suitable for urban motifs 

The absolute all-rounder for urban motifs is the round brush, whereby it is less important that you have many different sizes. Since you can paint similarly thin lines with a size 6 brush as with a brush two sizes smaller, a few selected brushes are quite sufficient. For most areas, a size 5 or 6 round brush is perfect, and for adding small details to your artwork, a size 0 or 00 brush is very useful. Depending on how big or small you like to paint, a brush in size 11 or 12 is also suitable for larger areas.   

The perfect brush for long fine lines and details e.g. on roofs is the liner or the rigger!

A French-bound wash brush, like the KUM French Aqua or the KUM Faded French Round, is ideal for backgrounds. Because he can store a lot of water and color, it is wonderful to paint abstract and loose.  

Flat brushes also find use in Urban Watercolor. Small sizes are great for adding details and patterns, such as bricks or fence posts. Therefore, a flat brush in size 4 rounds off your Urban Watercolor brush collection perfectly. 

Which techniques make sense for Urban Watercolour 

When painting houses, both your creativity and the application of various techniques are not limited. In general, there is no technique for a specific motif. For example, the wash brush can not only be good for the background, it can also be the brush with which all elements of the image are painted. So there are countless possibilities and it is up to each individual to decide which technique and which brush to use for which area. Basically, a distinction is made between the following techniques 


When you paint wet in wet, it’s important to give up some control and let chance take its course, because the colors are worked on when they’re wet and develop a life of their own. This can create the most interesting effects.

To do this, the paper is first moistened with a large flat or wash brush using only water. Then the paint is applied. The wet paper then allows the color to blur and run into each other. As long as the paper is still wet, new color can always be applied and intensified, but also taken away again. Another possibility is to keep moving the color by adding water to achieve an even gradient. Here, for example, a stroke is painted for the background at the edge of the paper with a lot of pigment on the brush and then drawn down stroke by stroke only with water. With these two different ways you can paint wonderful backgrounds that give your image its basic structure.   


Glazing is the process of layering paint, where wet paint is applied to dry paper. The paint is thinned with so much water that the underlying layers show through the individual layers. In this technique, new paint is always applied after the previous one has completely dried. This means the layers do not mix and there is more control over the color than with wet-on-wet techniques. The technique allows very precise painting, through edges, contours and shadows, the areas stand out from each other.  

The golden rule in watercolor painting is always to paint from light to dark. Start your first layer with more water than pigment and get darker step by step.   


Similar to glazing, you paint on dry paper with this technique. But the brush should not be soaked in paint, instead it should be as dry as possible. This technique can be used to achieve very specific structures and effects. Round, a little harder brushes are best suited. First, you take up some paint and wipe the brush on a cloth. Then, gently and with very little pressure, move the brush over the paper. The brush should be held as flat as possible. This allows paint to reach only the highest parts of the paper and creates an interesting texture. The technique works best when using very rough, cold-pressed paper. That’s where the texture comes out the strongest.   

What tricks are helpful for beginners?  

For many of us who want to start painting urban motifs, our own perfection gets in the way. The fear that it won’t turn out perfect sometimes makes you not even want to start. But as in so many things in life, practice makes perfect. If you manage to leave your perfection behind, you will find your very own style.   

The world is sparkling with inspiration, so go outside and start looking at the world with an artist’s eye. Whether in a village or in a city, there is always something that inspires you personally. In those moments, just capture them, whether with your smartphone camera or in a notebook. You’ll be happy when you want to paint again and you don’t have any ideas. The advantage of having your own ideas is also the uniqueness that your artwork will have in the end. 

Photo templates are a great way to break away from perfection a bit. It also frees you up a bit from comparing yourself to other artists. If you take watercolor pictures from other artists as a template, it can sometimes be quite frustrating if your own picture does not look like the template in the end. By painting photos or your own ideas, you are not trying to imitate someone else’s style, you can create the motif in your own style.   

It does not necessarily have to be a whole housescape at the beginning, look for individual windows or house facades and try to paint them in all its structures and details. Start small and get bigger and bigger.   

To start sometimes motivation is simply missing. Perhaps tutorials can help you: Artists who start together with you and tell and explain along the way.   

the perfekt brush set for urban watercolor

For urban watercolour illustrations, such as little cottages, Isabella @_paperieur_ has put together the perfect brush set of four high-quality KUM Faded brushes.

For a quick and easy start with urban Watercolor, the set includes four digital urban templates by Isabella for downloading. These can be easily transferred onto the watercolour paper.

Just download the templates and get started right away!

How to paint an Urban Watercolor illustration step by step?  

On the one hand, the structure follows the rule from light to dark, on the other hand, it is also about painting from rough to fine. The following six steps give you an orientation, how you get from your sketch to the finished urban motif.   

1. Make a rough sketch on a scratch sheet.  

This will help you to distribute the elements on your image and visualize their approximate proportions.  

2. Transfer the sketch to your watercolor paper in a little more detail

In the beginning, it can help to draw a grid to use for orientation. Over time, you’ll get a better feeling for the right proportions on your own. It helps to use the element which is the center of the picture as a guide and then add the rest around it. To make your image more dynamic, don’t use a ruler. Freehand lines give your motifs momentum and much more expression. Use a hard pencil for your sketch and try to put as little pressure as possible on your pencil. Watercolor paper is very sensitive and erasing can quickly damage the surface, so be sure to use a fine eraser. A good sketch will take some practice and time, but will give you the perfect foundation for the next steps. 

3. Prime your background

If you prefer clear borders, but don’t want to paint the whole picture to the edges, you can easily tape off the size of your picture with masking tape. Then, using the wet on wet technique described above, give your picture its first texture. But be careful with the color, feel your way slowly to more pigment. It’s easier to gradually add more color to your paper than to take it away.  

4. Paint large and small areas.

When your background is completely dry, you can start painting the larger areas first, then the small areas. With the help of the glazing technique you will get closer to your motif step by step.

5. Add the details.

The bare areas now get structures and patterns and give your image expression, a mood and some life. Urban motifs live from details

6. Add shadows.

By adding shadows to your motif, you create contrasts and make it look three-dimensional. The best way to create shadows is to use an almost transparent gray tone with the glazing technique. Mix your pigment with plenty of water so that the structures and elements of your image are not covered. Consider beforehand where your light source is located and then use it as a guide.   

      From time to time, we make our Instagram channel @kumgermany
      available to artists to give you an insight into their art.

      They show and explain live what they like to paint,
      which materials they use and which techniques they apply.  

      Urban Scene with Lena @pinsel.yoga  

      Urban Watercolour in practice: Lena paints an urban scene and explains step by step the process. For this illustration, she uses 100% cotton paper, three coloured pencils for details and structures, various earthy and autumnal watercolour colours and KUM Faded brushes. During the tutorial she gives insights into the brushes and explains which brushes are particularly suitable for which areas in the illustration.

      How does it work?

      Lena made the motif template with a water-soluble pencil, but watercolour pencils are also great for preliminary drawing. You can also use a normal pencil to transfer the design onto the watercolour paper, but to avoid seeing the preliminary drawing later, you should erase it lighter.

      Brush Sketching with Julian @juro_13

      Why not just paint the object you paint with? Julian used the Memory Point as a template and showed us how he draws it in the livestream.   

      How does it work?  

      A sketch doesn’t always have to be made with a pencil, you can also start directly with a fineliner. For more dynamics and life in the picture, Julian likes to paint more freely and expressionistically. To ensure that the white areas of the light reflections on the brush remain white, he uses a masking marker and then starts to work with the watercolour. With the slanted Memory Point, he now paints more contour into the brush, layer by layer. For the shadow, Julian first considers where the brush rests on the background and where it does not. Accordingly, he places the shadow closer or further away from the brush to create a foreground and a background. He works out the contours of the brush and his shadow more and more with layers. For hard, thin edges he uses the Memory Point round brush in size 2 and the liner in size 0.   

      He wrote the inscription on the Memory Point with a fineliner and sketched it out in pencil in advance. Finally, Julian painted the colours around the brush. Using a French Aqua, which can store a lot of water and paint, he dabbed the colours onto the watercolour paper bit by bit.