Linear Perspective Drawing
Perspective Drawing made simple! Here’s an overview of the different types of linear perspective and when to use them in your drawing.
Overview of Perspective Drawing
Today we’ll be looking at the 3 main forms of linear perspective drawing that you should know if you’re looking to improve your drawing skills. This is by no means an in-depth lesson on perspective drawing but merely an overview aimed at the question: Which form of perspective should I use?
There are many types of perspective drawing. Linear perspective refers to using a set of rules that guide a drawing’s lines towards various vanishing point(s). This converging of lines is what helps an artist achieve the illusion of depth within a drawing. You’ll see exactly how an artist uses a vanishing point in the upcoming illustrations. You’ll quickly be able to use what I’m about to share in your next drawing or painting. Whether still life or landscape , knowing which form of perspective to use will serve you extremely well.
Anytime an artist creates the look of deep space within her artwork she has typically used some form of perspective drawing. Linear perspective provides one way to create this deep space in one’s artwork. Linear Perspective helps us draw geometric, box-like forms and environments that appear grid-like. As a result, linear perspective is most helpful for drawing architecture, interiors, and box-like still life objects. Perspective drawing is less helpful when drawing portraits and other organic objects.
There are 3 main types of linear perspective:
- One Point Perspective
- Two Point perspective
- Three Point Perspective
I’ll be giving a brief overview of each type of linear perspective drawing. Most importantly I’ll be describing the circumstances under which you should use each.
One Point Perspective
One point perspective is a type of linear perspective drawing that uses a single vanishing point to create the illusion of depth in an artist’s drawing. Simply begin by drawing the closest side of any geometric object and connect its corners to a single vanishing point. The vanishing point represents a point infinitely far away. You’ll want to end the object prior to reaching the actual vanishing point.
One point perspective is as simple as it gets and will yield elementary results. However, 1pt. perspective represents an important first step when getting acquainted with perspective drawing. Use one point perspective when you are drawing geometric objects facing you. One point perspective is especially useful for teaching young students a formulaic method for drawing objects smaller as they recede from vision. Rember: Don’t expect to achieve high realism with only a single vanishing point!
UPDATE: Here is a super, in-depth guide to drawing in one-point perspective! Everything is covered using tons of step by step images. Go check it out Now!
FOR KIDS! If you are interested in teaching the basics of perspective to young children I created a basic guide for just that: Perspective Drawing for Kids
Two Point Perspective
An artist will get a more realistic look to his drawing when using the two point perspective method of drawing. Under most circumstances you will want to include your vanishing points outside of your actual drawing, far away from the scene you are creating.
Two point perspective is useful for any realistic drawing that is not intended to show any extreme height (low or high). This form of linear perspective is great for drawing parts of a still life (the geometric objects) and buildings that are far away when you are gazing straight ahead and they are not too high or low compared to your line of sight/eye level. Check out the illustration below for a quick and easy crash course on two point perspective!
UPDATE: Here’s a massive guide to drawing in two-point perspective. I explain all the basics using many step by step illustration. I know you’re going love it!
Three Point Perspective
Once you understand two point perspective, three point perspective is a slight adaptation to the technique. By adding a third vanishing point either below or above one’s drawing an artist can convey the illusion of height in their artwork. Notice in the illustration below how the vertical lines of the box are no longer parallel? That’s precisely what differentiates three point perspective from two point perspective. Three point perspective accounts for the height of the scene being drawn.
UPDATE: I just published a step by step lesson for drawing in 3 Point Perspective ! You are going to love it!! Go check it out Now!
Which Form of Perspective Do I Use?
That’s a matter of your own personal perspective! Uh okay, that was a bad joke… but seriously now. One point perspective is an important building block for young artists but should be quickly replaced by two or even three point perspective for added realism. One point perspective will most often look very amateurish and exhibit large distortions in the outer regions of one’s perspective drawing.
So that leaves two-point perspective (2 vanishing points) and three-point-perspective (3 vanishing points). Here’s good advice on choosing which form of linear perspective to use:
If you want to show the height of something use three point perspective, otherwise simply use two point perspective. By height I mean that you want to convey the feeling of looking up or down at your subject matter.
This artist wants to depict buildings near eye level and from a line of sight that is relatively horizontal with the ground (level). In this perspective scenario, 2 point perspective is the appropriate drawing technique to use.
This artist wants to depict the tallness of a building and directs the viewer’s line of sight up towards the top of the building. In this previous illustration, three point perspective is by far the most appropriate drawing technique.
Remember that you are always telling a visual story when you draw. It matters how many vanishing points you use and where you place them. The method of linear perspective you choose determines how your viewer interprets your drawing.
Have a question? Fire away!
Understanding how to draw things like this is so hard to do. I’ve tried so many times to learn stuff like this and every time I do it ends up looking like garbage. I’m grateful for stuff like this though and it has motivated me to try again.
That’s good Jorge. I’ve made my fair share of terrible drawings too. Let me know if you need any specific help.
Hello, I have a question. What are those surfaces called that slant in another direction other than the two point perspective?
I’m not sure what you mean Alexandra. Are you referring to 3-point perspective?
I was able to understand as much as you explained. Thank you very much. I understood the basic form of persitive very well.
The answer to Alexandra’s question. Planes in two point perspective are horizontally aligned in that the vanishing points are located on the horizon line but are angular in orientation to the image plane. In a standard projection the vanishing points are angled 45°/45°.
If a cube were used as an example in a standard two point projection, then the top and bottom of the cube are horizontal in relation to the horizon plane and the sides of the cube are angular (set to 45°/45°), in relation to the image plane.
If the top and bottom of the cube were set to another angle in relation to the horizontal plane they would be become inclined planes.
If the sides of the cube were aligned to another angle other than 45°,/45°, say 60°/30°, they would still remaine angular planes, however, they would now be described as auxiliary angular planes and their new set angle may also be part of their decription such as, auxiliary angular vanishing points set to 60°/30°.
love drawing xdxdxdxdxdxd
what I want to know is where does one place the VP. If it is too close to the building, the angles will be wide but if you place it far from the building, the angles will be smaller. surely this affects the shape of the building. Is there some way one goes about finding the correct VP?
Val, it depends on which point perspective you are using. In one point the vanishing point is simply the point directly in front of you (line of sight) …think of it as a laser pointer attached to your forehead!
In 2 and 3 point perspective the vanishing points determine the feeling of how close you are the the subject matter. Moving the points farther away from the drawing makes it seem like you are farther from the subject matter. Moving the points closer together makes it feel like the viewer is close to the subject matter. I suggest having the points completely outside of your drawing by about 50% the drawing’s width to start and then make adjustments from there. So if your drawing is 10 inches wide, your points will be about 20 inches apart (to start). Work up a thumbnail sketch and adjust your points before committing to any larger works.
Hi! First let me say thank you! You have found a way to cut through all of the jargon and actually make sense. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! But what I want to know is….where is the “massive guide to drawing in 3 point perspective”?
Thanks Liza! Those guides each took over 25 hours to produce. I’ve been very busy so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get the 3-point guide…. eventually I’m sure 😉
Hi John, I know that linear perspective can’t be used to draw organic objects.
So what kind of perspective should I use to draw portraits and other organic objects (animals, humans)? Can you make a tutorial about this? for eg. perpective for drawing a dog
That’s a good questions. Perspective shows up all over the place. You can place organic objects such as animals, humans, etc.. in boxes to help figure our the overall gist of the forms. You can also use all of the general perspective techniques such as dividing space into halves to help with the process. I think of perspective drawing in these situations as a loose framework from which to guide placement an size relationships. But like everything you will have to have a wee bit of imagination to see a horse as a block trailing off into space!
When using any kind of perspective, How would it work with cirve lines or circles?
If you build out box-like elements first and “map” the curves into the boxes you’ll find it very manageable. Check out the bottom of this post to show you how to get started. http://helloartsy.com/one-point-perspective/ Although it demonstrates in 1-pt. … you can easily adapt the techniques (especially the perspective grid) to 2pt. or 3pt.
The vanishing points for two point perspective can be measured logically on the horizon, but how do we measure that point vertically (As in skyscrapers)?
I think you are referring to 3 point perspective Dennis? The 3rd vanishing point gives the drawing its “height” if looking upwards. You can do this “by feel” if making the scene up… exploring various distances to see what works. But if you are working from a photo or real life you can trace back the vertical edges of a single building to determine the vanishing point. Their sides will ultimately meet (cross) at the that point.
If the earth were flat would the rules of perspective change?
It’s a very good question. From what I have read in some technical books on human vision, no.
Definitely. Because the world is not flat, you should really use slightly curved lines for perspective drawings of very large spaces, eg desert scenes.
I really enjoyed the writeup about perspective sketches. It encouraged to explore more. Could you please answer me for the following questions.
1. Are there any criteria for fixing the distance between the points in two-point and three-point perspective sketches?
2. What are exactly worms-eye views and birds-eye views?
3. How can we choose a scale to start a perspective sketch?
4. How do we understand the proportionality of objects in a three-point perspective sketch?
5. How to fix the depth of an object in the aperspective sketch?
May I ask more questions after you answered the abouve questios?
I would check out both the one-point perspective and the two-point perspective lessons here on this site. They walk you through a lot of perspective scenarios that will help you figure out solutions.
1) see this video … the farther you move the points apart the farther the viewer appears to be from the subject matter / scene.
2) Setting the horizon line higher / lower respectively. (although birds-eye is usually a “map view” directly over head )
3) Do what most artists do… create a small thumbnail sketch to get the feel for the scene. Then proceed the final draft.
4) see 5
5) Even though one point perspective is very rudimentary, there is great wisdom in the simple solutions that can be learned and then applied to both 2-pt. and 3-pt. perspective methods. Practice using the grid solution provided near the bottom of the one point perspective tutorial. It holds much power for calculating just about anything in perspective drawing.
Don’t just look at these examples, spend a hundred hours drawing them and challenging yourself to modify the examples.
Good luck, and enjoy the process!
p.s. Not to give you too many avenues to research but there is also the long lost technique of “perspective projection drawing”. You don’t see this technique much anymore but was a core skillset of architects, when they actually did drawings by hand. This technique of projection drawing allowed architects to take the architectural plans, drawn from a birds-eye view (their map-view) and create a precise “elevation drawing”, to precise proportions. This was typically done in 2-point perspective. It’s a very technical way of calculating 3-D space, but leaves very little to interpretation. You just follow the procedures and is very much how a computer would render 3D space. It has this algorithmic way of drawing built into the rendering software.
Regarding the 3 point perspective, i.e the tallness of the building. How do you get the angles of the base of the building?
All angles in a 3pt drawing are determined by your 3 vanishing points. Now, determining where they should go is a matter of perspective. Sorry I couldn’t resist!. The closer you move the point in towards the subject matter the more extreme the view. I recommend working up a few quick thumbnail sketches that explore a few different positions of the vanishing point(s) to see how they affect the scene in the drawing.