At the simplest level perspective drawing is the art of drawing objects smaller as they exist farther away. The goal of using perspective in a drawing is to create the illusion of depth. From this simple concept artists have discovered all kinds of clever ways to accomplish this.
The most popular ways artists can create this perspective depth is with the use of one or more vanishing points. This is precisely what linear perspective is, but there are other ways to show depth in a drawing such as atmospheric perspective. I’ll introduce you to both drawing techniques here.
How do you draw a perspective drawing for beginners?
To draw in proper perspective you should be using a pencil and a ruler. If you attempt to hand draw your lines while learning you will make loads of mistakes and get frustrated. Linear perspective drawing is the art of connecting lines to very specific locations.
Speaking of specific locations, before we go any further you are going to have to learn some of the concepts and terminology associated with basic perspective drawing.
Linear Perspective Terms
When most people talk about “perspective” they are referring to linear perspective. There are many types of linear perspective, but I will be focusing solely on one point perspective. It’s the most appropriate method for absolute beginners.
Drawing in perspective for beginners requires a basic understanding of these perspective terms:
- Horizon Line
- Vanishing Point
- Perspective Lines
- Vertical lines
- Horizontal Lines
Each one of these terms not only describes parts of the drawing, but also plays a critical role in how you show solid objects within the drawing. For example, once you position any box-like object above the horizon line, you should not be drawing a visible top plane to that object.
One Point Perspective Drawing for Beginners (step by step)
One of the best introductions to perspective is one point perspective. A fantastic beginner one point perspective drawing consists of 8 simple cubes. Each of these cubes should be drawn in a unique location.
Let’s go step by step and figure out how to draw these 8 cubes.
STEP 1: Start simply by drawing a horizon line & a single vanishing point near the center of your paper.
Use a ruler to help draw all of your lines straight.
STEP 2: Draw the 3 cubes that exist above the horizon line. Notice that each cube is positioned to show a different arrangement of visible sides.
How many sides is the box in the middle showing? …Why?
STEP 3: Draw the next two cubes at eye level. Notice how we cannot see the top or bottom of these two boxes.
STEP 4: Now use your ruler and pencil to construct the bottom three cubes. These are positioned below the horizon line. As a result, these will look like they are below our eye level.
STEP 5: Now you should darken the lines you actually need to complete the 8 cubes. You might even choose to go over these lines with pen or ink.
STEP 6: The last step is to clean up your drawing a bit. Perspective drawings always have some extra lines and line-lengths hanging around. Erase all of the lines you no longer need.
The previous perspective drawing tutorial for beginners is incredibly useful because it visually demonstrates how boxes look different depending on where they exist on the paper. Do not underestimate the importance of understanding these 8 positions!
How do you draw a row of houses in perspective?
You can easily turn the previous group of cubes into a row of buildings. Notice how in the example drawing below I am still using the vanishing point properly.
Why is Drawing in Perspective So Hard?
I’ve been teaching perspective drawing for over 20 years and I’ve seen the struggles and frustration it can create.
The reason drawing in perspective is so difficult is because our brains tends to think about the dimensions of an object (as measured) rather than how they appear (visually).
We can examine a table drawn in perspective to illustrate this difficulty…
A table is a rectangular solid-like object that we are all familiar with. We know that the top of the table is a rectangle. But, when we draw the table in proper perspective we do not draw the top of the table as a rectangle. Rather, we distort the table top and angle its sides towards the vanishing point.
This is a very difficult concept to grasp, especially for young children who have not yet developed their sense of spatial intelligence. This is precisely why you see a very young child representing a table as an angled rectangle with legs hanging beneath.
Aside from linear perspective you might also come across the term “atmospheric perspective” which is also known as aerial perspective.
Atmospheric perspective is the appearance of objects to fade into the background as they are exhibited farther away. This occurs in real life and can easily bee seen in the world, especially over great distances.
As an artist you can create atmospheric perspective in your own drawing by adjusting the colors and clarity of the distant objects.
The illustration above demonstrates atmospheric perspective in a simple way. The original picture of the mountains has been simplified. Notice how each row of mountains gets lighter in value and bluer as the row of mountains gets farther away.
Just to make my point clear I’ve added the same graphic only this time as a grayscale in which the value changes is extremely obvious!
If we were to add another row of mountain even farther away, what would its value be?
Atmospheric perspective does not always equate to making things bluer. This is a common misconception. It really depends of the atmospheric conditions. A sunset is a good example of when the distant objects will be fading to a color other than blue!
Perspective Drawing for Beginners PDF
I’ve put together a few of these drawing examples into a downloadable PDF you can share with your own students.