Making a summer travels sketchbook page will allow you to experience the magic of a special trip all over again! In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to make a travel-inspired page that features illustrations and lettering.
I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on the upcoming Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course for the last couple of days. (It officially launches on Monday!) Today, I want to take a quick break from that to share a short sketchbook page tutorial with you. This project is the perfect way to re-live a trip and hone in on the small details in a fun and artistic way! Psst – not sure if sketchbooking is right for you? Check out the article How to Make a Sketchbook Journal (and Why You Should).
1. Choose a Reference Photo
First, pick a photo that reminds you of the trip you’re focusing on for this sketchbook page. It can be a photo from the internet or a photo you took while on vacation. I’ve chosen to use a picture of me walking through the streets of Tiradentes, a town in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
2. Trace the Image (or Draw a Pencil Draft)
Once you’ve chosen your image, print it out and place it under your blank sketchbook page. Put both the image and the sketchbook page over a light box, and use waterproof ink and a straight pen + Nikko G nib to trace over what you can see. You can always freehand draw the image, of course — but when there are so many buildings involved, I like to go the easy route. (If you opt to freehand draw, it’s an excellent idea to make a pencil draft first. Then, trace over your pencil draft with ink.)
One of the perks of making illustrations of your travel images? You can modify them however you want to! I re-imagined the illustration below without the cars and most of the people.
3. Add Watercolor
After the black and white version of your illustration is complete, use watercolor paint to fill in the illustration. Don’t feel pressure to match your colors to the ones in your photo! I added hues of blue and yellow to the cobblestone streets, then I incorporated violet into the roofs. I opted not to add color to the people in the photo, which resulted in an interesting effect.
4. Layer In Other Images
Now, try layering in elements and experimenting with new mediums. I opted to add an illustration of the Cristo because we hiked up to it during our stay in Rio de Janeiro. It was created using that same light box tracing technique from Step 2.
To finish up, consider incorporating more elements that are relevant to your sketchbook page. I added some George Style lettering (“BRAZIL”), a blue circle inspired by the Brazilian flag, and a map depicting a small village that we stayed at called Itatiaia. I tied everything together with yellow watercolor paint and more calligraphy, and the page was complete!
For me, the point of creating this page was to re-experience a magical trip to Brazil. As I was making it, a flood of happy memories was running through my mind — and that’s the point: to focus on the theme. I thought about the homey Airbnb we stayed at in Tiradentes, the arduous hike up to the Cristo Redentor, and the delicious food at Villa Itatiaia. When you’re creating artwork and thinking about things, you tend to experience them in a new way, with small details coming back to you!
For Those Who Love to Travel …
Hernán and I haven’t exactly been globetrotting over the past couple of years. Remy was born in 2018, then the pandemic struck, and we had Pia earlier this year. Young children + high gas/airfare costs have kept us at home! So, I “travel” through other ways, like making house portraits and watercolor maps.
If you have a watercolor set, waterproof ink, and the motivation to make a gorgeous map, consider taking TPK’s Watercolor Illustrated Maps 101 eCourse! The course is 15% off through Saturday, July 9th, at midnight MDT. I love this course and am so proud of the work that students have created! You can see a showcase of their projects here. From Austin to Atlanta, student artists have taken on all sorts of locations.