OCAD Studio: Urban Sketching – Line Drawing

Line drawings are a great way to quickly evoke an urban scene. Cities are typically made up of lots of complex geometric shapes and details so lend themselves to being expressed by line.


  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil (HB, B or 2B)


  1. First, find a subject to work from: You can either head out into a town or city and work from life or you can collect photo references from the internet – ideally pick scenes that you find interesting. Scenes with lots of complex details and clear perspective work well in a line drawing.
  2. Start by lightly sketching in the simple rectangles of the building in perspective. You can use a vanishing point or just work intuitively, whatever you prefer.
  3. Once the skeletons of the building are in place you can add the specific details of the buildings over them.
  4. Start with the buildings in the background and work on them very loosely.
  5. Then start working on section closer to the foreground.  I recommend concentrating your detail in the foreground while leaving everything else progressively more loose as it moves further back in space. This will save you time, add dynamism and guide the viewer’s eyes effectively. As you get closer to the front of the image, add progressively more detail and use heavier lines, this will give a sense of the things in the background being further away.
  6. If you vary your line weight (make some lines heavier than others) it can suggest the direction of light. For instance, if you make the underside of a window ledge a heavier line than the top, it will feel lie the window ledge is casting a shadow below it and the light is coming from above.
  7. When you reach the foreground, spend more time refining details and adding a variety of line weights, this will make this section of the drawing the focal point.
  8. When you’re happy with the overall effect, you’re finished!


Try out more scenes and see how different subjects work as a line drawing.


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