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Painting Tutorials

How-to watercolor and sketching tutorials demonstrating tips, tricks and techniques used in the Procreate app, using Apple Pencil and iPad Pro. Also, thoughts about life and architecture in NYC and the Berkshires, MA

Pencil Sketching is the New Computer Aided Design

As digital modeling and architectural digital rendering continue to chnage our industry for the better, the arts of architectural rendering and architectural sketching in watercolor, pencil, and pen-and-ink become huge asstes in the constant battle to stand out among competitors all using the same digital tools.

Architectural sketching and storyboarding in watercolor

They engage clients' emotions, connecting with that deep thing that persists in all of us--that ability to... sense the human touch...the human aspiration to connect with one another via our ideas and emotions.

A storyboard explaining a roof feature at the Montefiore Children's hospital, as imagined and donated by Carl and Ann Sagan

Don't get me wrong. Digital visualization has made the inventiveness and joy of present-day architecture possible. We wouldn't have the imagination and delight of the modern day works of OMA, Bjarke Ingells or Scott Preston Cohen without it. Just take a look at the diagrams explaining the projects on's site to get a sense of the freedom made possible by computer aided design.

Attempts at cartooning can help one see the world in a different way...AND appreciate just how good actual cartoonists are!

But the dominance of digital rendering has also opened up the door for those who have retained their gift for communication through simple hand drawings and diagrams. How many times has a job been won on the stregth of a napkin doodle? How many architects do you now who sketch and sculpt or make music as a serious part of their overall practice? One thinks of Rafael Vinoly whose own office is cluttered with sheet music, life drawings and half-composed poems.

An architectural sketch in pencil by architect Rafael Vinoly

Digital rendering is here to stay, and the world is a better place for it, but architectural rendering and sketching by hand will continue to be a vital design and communication tool, and ongoing generations of architects will be the richer for keeping at it.

(The author is a registered architect and architectural illustrator with years of experience helping architects and interior designers develop and present their ideas in dramatic and cost-effective ways. From concept design to final presentation, we work in your office or from our NYC studio. 413-250-8800.)

An architectural sketch showing watercolor technique as design tool

James Akers