How to Draw City Street Scenes

Updated April 17, 2017

City scenes provide artists opportunities to combine complex elements of a scene together in one drawing. Depicting a bustling city scene on paper may seem overwhelming at first, but you'll soon rise to the challenge of capturing details quickly and accurately, and develop a keen eye for perspective, proportion, and detail.

Work from life, such as looking out the window of an office building or sitting at a cafe on a busy street corner. Choose an interesting area of the city scene to draw, and focus on the elements you want to stand out in your drawing.

Find your horizon line. Consider whether you are looking at your scene from eye level, worm's-eye view or bird's-eye view. An eye-level scene will have a horizon line near the centre of the drawing page. A worm's-eye view has a low horizon line, and a bird's-eye view has a high one.

Draw your background buildings in perspective. This is done by adding vanishing points on either end of your horizon line where the planes of your buildings converge. Horizontal lines facing the right side of the scene will converge to the right vanishing point, and horizontal lines facing the left side of the scene will converge to the left. Add details to your buildings such as doors, fire escapes, windows and bricks. Draw the details to fit the perspective grid of the building.

Draw your major foreground elements: streets, cars, sidewalks, trees, signs, and people, in perspective. Use comparative measurement to draw these elements in proportion to your buildings. People near the building should be around the same height, though no taller than doors on the buildings. Cars will be shorter than the average person, but twice as long as the average person. Street lamps and signs should be comparatively measured against doors and buildings. Objects closer to you will be proportionately larger.

Add small details to your city that will indicate the time period and setting. Consider the style of dress for your people, and the shape and material of the dustbins, street lamps, and mailboxes.

Add smaller details such as pigeons, potted plants, window signs and street markings.

Consider your light source - indicate shadows on the sidewalks under pedestrians, on the street under cars, and on the shaded side of the buildings, street lamps, mailboxes and dustbins. You can also note the smaller shadows under window sills and in the grooves between bricks.

Lightly sketch the colour of different objects with your coloured pencils. Blend purples and blues into the selected hues to denote shadowed areas, and warm, light yellows to bring out highlighted areas. Blend white into the brightest spots in your city, such as window reflections and the shiny edges of cars and metal posts.


To draw elements in your scene with correct proportions, assign an exact measurement to a doorway or lamppost in your drawing. Measure objects on the same plane according to the same scale. Extend your converging horizontal lines from the objects to find the same exact measurement closer to the foreground.


Don't be overwhelmed by the complexity of the scene. Make several sketches of the same scene and focus on a few elements for each drawing. Practice drawing the scenes quickly, rather than trying to cram everything into one drawing. You can always recreate a larger, more detailed drawing later from all your sketches.

Things You'll Need

  • Graphite pencils
  • Coloured pencils
  • Drawing pad
  • Ruler
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Carol Kory is a freelance writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. Her articles on health and sports can be found on various websites. Kory received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University in 1999 and has worked in the entertainment, print and publishing industries for more than 10 years.