Coloured pencils: perfect for quick sketches on location

February 1, 2023 | 8 Comments

I’m absolutely loving my new sketch and walk routine and I’m particularly enjoying using coloured pencils for quick urban sketching standing up.

Three common barriers to sketching on location are:

  • worrying about what people think of you
  • finding somewhere to sit
  • getting your gear out (in particular, getting your watercolour paints out)

And hmmm… another barrier that I just thought of… is a lack of confidence to use watercolour out on location and fear that you’ll ruin your ink drawing when you apply paint.

Being able to comfortably stand up and sketch addresses the first two barriers. And using dry media (such as coloured pencils!) helps with the other two.

Of course, you could use watercolour pencils and a water brush, you could also explore a mini watercolour kit that clips on a book and all other tricks. But in terms of a very simple solution, using a few coloured pencils is a no-brainer.

I currently have three different sketchbooks that I’m using a Toned Tan spiral pad (above)…

a Toned Gray spiral pad (both by Strathmore) and…

a Handbook sketchbook with cream paper that I’m ripping pages out of.

All of these sketches were done in around 5 minutes (I think) and were so much fun to do!

As for the colours I’m using…


I simply grabbed a few of my favourite colours as a starting point. I’m enjoying a limited palette and I haven’t felt the need to expand it… yet!:-)


  • Peejay says:

    I,m slowly coming round to this idea ? especially when the weather iis kinder ?

  • Linda Arthur says:

    This is my problem Liz… having the confidence to go out and start sketching in public. Can I ask. When you do a quick sketch with your pencils would you then add water to this to ‘finish the sketch’?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Linda – these are coloured pencils (wax-based) and not watersoluble so this is the finished product. Gaining the confidence to sketch on location only comes by doing… but it’s possible to get more comfortable initially by sitting in places where no one will notice you.

  • Val B says:

    Colored pencils are wonderful. Another interesting approach is to try using just primary colored pencils, red yellow and blue. You can layer them to achieve most colors and you have less to carry!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Yes Val – totally agree. And yes I know I could just use primary colours but the problem is that I just love all the pastel hues! Ha Ha! too many beautiful coloured pencils options.

  • Jamie C says:

    I recently went to the art museum and they only allow pencil sketching inside. No pen, and certainly no water. A small kit like this would be perfect for going to museums as well as outdoor walks.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jamie – yes indeed! I’d be very happy with that limitation these days… although some museums only allow graphite pencils (no coloured pencils at all)

Leave a Reply