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Paint-along Urban Scene with a Winterberry Shrub

How to paint with line and watercolour

Line and watercolour wash

Line and watercolour wash is a traditional technique that is used by artists and designers alike. It is a technique where lines are used along with a watercolour wash to create a sketch.


Characteristic lines are usually created using a technical pen or a more traditional dip pen with ink. However, the pen can be replaced with other drawing media such as shading pencils, colour pencils or pastels, depending on the individual’s personal preference.


In this technique, watercolour is kept very loose, almost like a quick wash. It can be applied first before you enhance your sketch with pen or vice versa.

The combination of line and watercolour is a dynamic and exciting way of painting for anyone. The result is very attractive and pleasing to the eye. For the person who paints, it is a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Urban scene

Urban sketching is a great way to use line and wash technique as the materials are compact and can be taken outside to paint plein-air. The scene of a winterberry shrub was captured on one of my morning walks. I was specifically attracted to this scene because of the beautiful shadows cast on the fence by the huge shrub.

The paper that I have used here is a 100% cotton watercolour paper (300gsm). You do not need a heavy weight paper for line and wash. It can be done on a mixed media paper, or a sketchbook ( approximately 190 gsm weight at least).

In this sketch, I started off with a rough pencil drawing only to mark the main points and shapes. I then used a dip pen and Indian ink to sketch the scene in detail and added some tonal effects using hatching (a technique using short lines closely spaced together).

Once the ink was completely dry, watercolour was applied in a loose style so that I can still see the characteristic lines I did first.

You can also use watercolour first over the rough pencil lines and add the pen lines once the watercolour washes are completely dry. If you prefer another drawing media, some of the options are using shading pencils 6B or 8B, charcoal sticks, colour pencils and dry or oil pastels.

If you’d like to follow along and create this scene, I have a short youtube tutorial video with all the used colours labelled.

I hope you will enjoy this short paint-along tutorial. Happy painting!

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