Three Point Perspective
Three point perspective drawing is an essential skill to aspiring artists. From buildings to landscapes and even still life subject matter, understanding how to draw in three point perspective will make drawing much easier!
If you have no perspective drawing knowledge what-so-ever, using 3 vanishing points can get tricky. Make sure you have a basic understanding of Two Point Perspective before you attempt to learn the drawing techniques on this page.
Three Point Perspective Definition
Three point perspective is a form of linear perspective that utilizes three vanishing points in which forms utilize each of the 3 vanishing points to convey the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface.
While most three point perspective drawings utilize geometric subject matter such as buildings, cubes, and other rectangular prisms the technique is also useful for more organic forms too.
Keeping an understanding of perspective in ones mind helps an artist to appropriately size out objects. This helps artists create a realistic look of depth even though they are working on a flat piece of paper or canvas.
3 Point Perspective Cube
Learning to draw a cube in proper perspective is an essential first task. Practice drawing cube-like boxes from above and below. Try to make them look realistic and convincing before you move onto more complicated subject matter. You’ll see in just a moment how the position of the horizon line plays a critical role in showing your drawing from the right angle/viewpoint!
Let’s learn how to first draw a cube from above. So in essence we’ll be looking down upon the cube from above. Three point perspective makes this task easy and very realistic looking!
Let’s get started…
View From Above
Draw a horizon line near the top of your paper. This will represent our eye level. Next place two vanishing points on the horizon line, each near the ends of the line. Note I used a large red “X” for my first vanishing point and a large green “X” for my second vanishing point.
I also added the third vanishing point all the way near the bottom of my paper. I’m indicating this (vanishing point #3) with a blue “X”.
Next, construct one side of the cube using the first vanishing point and the third vanishing point. You’ll notice in the drawing below that I am drawing the red perspective lines to the red vanishing point.
I am also drawing the blue perspective lines to the blue vanishing point. Color-coding your lines makes learning how to draw in 3 pt perspective easier.
Now it makes sense to draw the other plane of the cube. Notice how this time the green perspective lines are being connected to the green vanishing point. Also notice that any of the vertical lines of the cube get connected to the blue vanishing point.
All of these perspective lines are converging on their appropriate vanishing point. Non of these lines are drawn parallel to each other, which is an important difference when compared to both one point perspective and two point perspective.
In this next step I only added two lines. You can see that I connect the green line to the green vanishing point. You can also see how I connected the red vanishing line to the red vanishing point.
Those two lines completed the drawing of the the top of the cube.
Reminder: I’m not picking the angles of each line here… I’m simply connecting each line to its appropriate vanishing point.
Using the Vanishing Points
I’ve drawn in some dashed-lines so you can see that the box is in fact using all three vanishing points properly.
View From Below
Now let’s draw the same cube form, only this time from below. Take a look at the illustration below. What has changed?
The first thing you’ll notice is that the horizon line has moved to the bottom of the paper. This makes a lot of sense if you really think about it. If you want to create a perspective drawing looking up at the subject matter you had better make your eye level (horizon line) lower in the scene.
You’ll also notice that we no longer see onto the top of the cube. But, rather we are now seeing the bottom of the cube. The horizon line serves as an important indicator as to what we can and cannot see. Keep this in mind when trying to draw a 3 point perspective drawing. The eye level in the drawing sets off the narrative of the artwork!
Now that we can draw simple boxes in three point perspective it’s time to tackle some trickier concepts.
Up next you’ll learn how to draw a simple city in three point perspective…
3 Point Perspective Buildings
[ Viewpoint: looking up ]
You can spend hours, days, even weeks drawing out details with a ruler. Let’s go over some basic 3 pt perspective skills to help you solve more complex problems. Let’s draw a city as if we are looking up at the buildings…
The first thing you’ll want to do is set up your 3 vanishing points. You’ll notice that the horizon line that holds the first 2 vanishing points is near the bottom of my soon to be cityscape. This is essential for creating a viewpoint of looking up at the buildings.
You’ll also notice the rectangle… this is known as a picture plane and will be where I create my actual scenery. Under most conditions it’s advisable to put your vanishing points far away from the actual scenery. Otherwise things can look unnaturally skewed.
Just like the cube above I’m going to color-code this drawing to make it easier to follow. In the illustration below I added to simple boxes. These will become our buildings in our three point perspective cityscape.
Notice how the blue perspective lines are going to the blue vanishing point?
Also the green lines are being drawn to the green vanishing point and the red lines are drawn to the red vanishing point. Simple!
Let’s add one more building to the left side of our drawing. Always start out simple. It’s best to figure out the basic layout before you start drawing details!
Next let’s add some windows to one of these buildings. It’s best if you draw one row of windows first. We must make sure that everything looks good with a single row before we continue. Make sure the window that’s visually closest to us is drawn the largest.
Once you have a row of windows drawn in proper 3 point perspective we can use their vertical lines to help us draw the rest of the windows. Take a look at the drawing below. You can see that each of the blue lines that make up the windows not only connect to the blue vanishing point but line up with each other.
Don’t for get to make the windows get larger as they get visually closer to us. In my drawing this means that the windows near the bottom of the buildings will be the tallest assuming each window is the same size in real life.
You can apply the same window drawing skills to the other buildings. Keep your cool and use the vanishing points. Look at the windows and notice which perspective lines go where…
Finally I’m going to add some windows to the tallest building that is positioned near the center of the composition. These windows will be that connected style you often see in skyscrapers.
This city scene is looking pretty good so far. What would make it look even better would be some buildings in the background. Below I’m drawing in a few more buildings behind the existing ones. Even though I’m not color-coding these background buildings they still use the appropriate vanishing points.
Look a the completed drawing below. Can you tell which vanishing point each gray line is being connected to?
It’s important to actually put pencil to paper. Grab a ruler and try drawing out the lessons you’ve learned so far. You can’t just look at the drawings and expect to “get it”. You need to practice drawing in three point perspective so that you truly understand it.
Up next is another cityscape only this time we’ll be looking down on the city. It will be more of a birds eye view in three point perspective (sort of).
3 Point Perspective City
[ Viewpoint: looking down ]
If you didn’t study the box drawings at the start of the lesson, go back and learn that section first. It’s important to understand the importance of the horizon line in a three point perspective rendering.
Now that we want to show a viewpoint looking down on the buildings, it’s imperative that the horizon line is placed near the top of the drawing. In fact, I recommend drawing your horizon line above your picture plane completely, meaning it’s not even in the scene but drawn above it. This along with placing each of your vanishing points outside of your picture plane will typically give your a more natural and realistic look to your 3 point perspective drawing.
I’m going to take this drawing a bit further and show you how you can find the middles of boxes using some cool techniques!
Draw your first building as a simple rectangular prism (box). Notice how each colored perspective lines is drawn straight towards its corresponding vanishing point.
I’m going to color-code the first few lines like I did in the previous three point perspective lessons above, but then I’ll be using regular black lines for the rest.
Now I am going to calculate the perspective middle of this building. This is a very useful technique and one you’ll use often to solve spacing problems in many drawings.
You can’t measure to calculate the middle of something in a perspective drawing because object are being drawn smaller as they recede away from us. So instead, we can use this nifty trick borrowed from geometry!
See how the yellow lines connect to each corner of the plane? Where they intersect is the middle of that plane, but appropriately compensated for perspective!
Isn’t that cool?
Next connect the intersection of the yellow lines (perspective middle of plane) to the blue vanishing point. This splits the plane into perspective halves.
Now we know where the building is split into halves and can easily draw a door. Isn’t this a much better way then simply trying to guess where to place a door in the middle of the building?
Just remember, the door also uses the appropriate vanishing points. I know it’s tiny but look at the colors of each line, in the drawing below, to determine which vanishing point they are connecting.
Before we get carried away with that frontmost building, we had better plan out the rest of this city drawing!
I’m starting on the right side and adding a variety of boxes that will look more like buildings later when I add doors and windows.
Now I’m going to continue drawing buildings using the 3 point perspective method of drawing. It’s a great idea to keep things simple and draw from foreground to background.
Continuing along with more buildings. Some are taller and some are shorter. Look at that one building that goes right out of the top of my drawing and gets cropped! At this point you can really let your imagination run wild.
Finally I’ve arrived at the background. I’m continuing to add more buildings to my drawing. Don’t forget to consider the size of the buildings in relation to the buildings that are much closer.
The buildings in the background should be drawn smaller than the buildings in the foreground because they are farther away!
You’ll notice in the drawing below I added some of the buildings along the left and right edge of the composition. I waited until now to draw these because they can be a bit tricky to draw.
Because we are seeing a large proportion of the tops of these buildings and not too much of the sides they are easy to make mistakes with. I recommend temporarily drawing these buildings outside the picture plane so that you can properly calculate where each perspective line goes.
Finally I am going to draw in some streets and sidewalks. When doing this make sure you are still using proper 3 point perspective. Each line has its designated vanishing point to connect to.
Now it’s time to add some windows. Remember to draw a variety of window styles, shapes and arrangements.
For a quick primer on how to draw doors and windows in three point perspective have a look at the previous tutorial above on drawing buildings from a street view looking up. I go over in greater depth how to line up windows so everything looks even and realistic.
Next I’m going to plan some various outcrops into this cityscape. Things like awnings, balconies, rooftop air conditioners, and fire escapes will add a nice touch of realism to my 3 point perspective drawing.
Don’t forget to see the box form in everything. Have a look at the drawing below. You can see how all these finer details are nothing but simple boxes.
I’ll clean up these marks in the next drawing. For now I just want to place everything temporarily and take a look.
The linework is finally complete. All the buildings have been properly drawn using 3 separate vanishing points. Just one more detail…
Notice I added a fancy-schmancy helicopter pad to the top of one of the buildings. How did I draw this?
As you might have guessed, I used the vanishing points. First I found the perspective middle to center the “H” on the top of the building. This was very similar to how we centered the door in the first building. Each part of the “H” was drawn to their appropriate vanishing points. This perspective drawing business is very repetitive.
With the perspective lines complete, I’m going to shade in this perspective drawing of a city. I’ll be starting in the background and working my way forward.
One important thing to keep in mind when shading perspective items is to hint at a light source. To do this simply make one side of each building lighter in value and another side darker. As long as you do this consistently throughout the composition your cityscape will have a realistic appeal to it.
Now I’m continuing to shade each building. I’m using a variety of colors to keep things interesting.
Finally I’ve got each building shaded. Remember to consider a light source in your perspective drawing. Create a lighter side / darker side to each form and things will look so much better!
The only thing left to do is to shade in the roadways and the sidewalks. Be careful not to make the roads pure black. The next time you get the chance take a real live look at a street. The color of the street is almost never black.
How to Draw a Room in 3 Point Perspective
So far everything we have drawn has been of an object’s exterior. Now you’re going to see how to draw an interior in three point perspective. In just a moment you’ll learn how to draw each of the following items in 3 point perspective:
- Night table
But first we’ll, start off by constructing an empty room. This room will be the the empty box / bedroom that will end up holding all of the stuff in the list above.
I’m going to be drawing a bedroom from a viewpoint from above. This will make it look like we are looking down into the room from above. To do this we need to put the third vanishing point, the one that all the vertical perspective lines connect to, below the drawing.
Notice how in the drawing below, each of the vanishing points are far outside of the picture plane. As you recall the picture plane will be the area in which the scene takes place. The picture plane is indicated by the rectangle below.
Draw three perspective lines to create the empty bedroom. Notice that each line goes to its own vanishing point.
When drawing the bed I’ll begin with a simple box. We’ll be adding details to this drawing later but for now I want to keep things simple. Depending on where your bed is placed you may or may not see some of the sides. For instance, the right side of the bed in the drawing below is hidden.
To add a night table to this three point perspective drawing you’ll be better off drawing a box first. Next you can remove some of the pieces and add a few details to create the legs of the table.
Notice how I’ve drawn the table legs towards the third vanishing point below? These legs converge. Actually every vertical line in this drawing will converge… they have to because they all meet at the third vanishing point!
A room wouldn’t look so great without a proper door and a window. Below you can see each of these elements drawn to their appropriate vanishing points.
Next I’ve added a desk. Like most things in a perspective drawing you can start by drawing a box to each vanishing point and then fancy it up a bit afterwards.
Before we move on I want to point out something that comes up often while working in any form of graphical perspective. Just by chance I have drawn the front edge of the desk and the floor-wall corner using the same line. You can see how they share the same line. I’ll circle it below.
This happens every so often and can mess with your mind if you are learning perspective. If it really throws you off you can always move the desk edge in or out just a bit so the two lines are not exactly on top of each other. I’ll leave mine as is. Take a look at my annotation below.
Now the the essentials of the room are drawn it’s time to clean up the illustration a bit. Below you can see I added some trim molding around the door and along the bottom of the walls. I’ve also erased out parts of the perspective lines from the parts of the walls that are now overlapped by the objects in the room.
Finally I get to add a touch of realism and detail. In the drawing below take a look at the posters I’ve added on the walls. Notice how they are drawn to vanishing points #2 and vanishing points #3?
No bedroom drawing would be complete without a hip little throw rug! Since a rug sits flat on the floor and doesn’t contain any perceivable height, we can ignore the third vanishing point altogether here. The sides of the rug have lines connecting to vanishing point #1 and #2 only.
I couldn’t help myself here… just a few more artistic details to make the room drawing fun to look at. You can see I added a smartphone on the night table, which is charging. Since a smartphone is rectangular in shape it will use vanishing points #1 and #2 just like the rug did.
Take a look at the lamp on the desk. Notice how the post leading up to the lamp shade is drawn to vanishing point #3. This is because that post is vertical. All vertical lines in a 3 point perspective drawing have to connect to the third vanishing point!
With all the perspective lines in place and everything cleaned up I decided to add some color. I used a simple monochromatic color scheme. I made sure to darken the values on the left sides of each object in this bedroom drawing. Why? To give the illusion of a light source and help add a touch of realism to this perspective drawing.
As long as you are consistently darkening the same sides of your objects, your drawing will look much better!
Let’s examine all of the vertical lines in this drawing. In the photo below you can see how I’m using the red lines to emphasize how each vertical has to be drawn to vanishing point #3.
3 Point Perspective Drawing Tips
If you have just arrived here on this page with no three point perspective drawing experience please go back to the top of this article and start at the beginning. This article is designed for beginners who want to learn to draw properly in 3 point perspective. But everything here is in sequential order building on previous lessons.
Do the drawings! Don’t just scan the page and decide that you “Don’t get it”.
After you have drawn each of lessons, (boxes, buildings, cityscape) from different viewpoints you should have a fairly good idea how to put your ideas on paper so that they look 3D.
Here’s a few Tips to remember when constructing a Three Point Perspective Drawing:
- Things should be drawn larger when they are closer
- Hand sketch things lightly first, then firm your lines up with a ruler
- Keep your vanishing points far away from the scenery (outside the picture plane)
- Horizon line above scene = looking down (show the ground)
- Horizon line below scene = looking up (show the sky)
- Draw simple boxes first, then elaborate
- Middles can’t be measured (use intersection method)
How is the vanishing points used in landscapes?
If you had trees lined up in a grid-like pattern like a vineyard, farmland/crops or an orchard you could use vanishing points to help set up the sizes and locations of things. But, most of the elements in a landscape simply wouldn’t use the vanishing points. What you would do is just make things smaller as they receded away from the viewer.
Wow, that was a lot of work, John. Thank you! You are right, For me it started to make sense only after I tried to do it myself. This will be a big help.
Thank you Caroline! Yes indeed, we have to DO in order UNDERSTAND! Keep at it and thanks for commenting.
I tried first 2 examples in this 3 point perspective tutorial. Here is the link.
Please tell me what things I should improve. Thanks for the great lessons.
Excellent job! As far as the perspective is concerned Karthika, it all looks correct to me. You might consider using some ink/pen/marker with the lines to help clean up the drawing a bit. You can draft the perspective lightly in pencil, then go over some or all of the perspective lines with a black ben or ultra-fine marker. Then shade with the colored pencils. I think you’ll find you get a cleaner illustration that way!
Thanks. I have tried to add the borders with pen in the same drawing. It looks much better now, I think.
Here is the link:
I agree, the pen-lines add a bit more clarity and structure to the drawing making it more appealing! Excellent drawing and thanks for sharing Karthika!
I have one more doubt. In the tips section, it is told that
‘Horizon line above = looking up (show the sky)
Horizon line below = looking down (show the ground)’.
But it is vice versa in my tryouts. Am I doing it right? Please advise.
Your doubt is correct. I worded that incorrectly… it is now fixed and hopefully clearer. Thank you for bringing that to my attention!
I tried the room also. Can’t tell if I made it right. Here is the link.
Everything looks correct in this three point perspective drawing Karthika. I would use some inked lines to clean it up a bit.
If we wanted to use the whole paper as the paper plain how would we do that?
Place in front of larger paper, or table down your drawing paper and use masking tape on the table to mark your vanishing points.
São excelentes exercícios, obrigado, parabens pra voçê