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Art Tutorial #1: Perspective Drawing 101

Perspective Drawing: Lesson One

It’s time to talk about the bane of my existence as an artist: Perspective drawing!

You’ll often hear me moaning something like, “The perspective on this piece is killing me!” 9 times out of 10, though, it’s because I didn’t sufficiently plan ahead.

Did I scare you? To be honest, it isn’t as scary as it looks or sounds. Drawing things in proper perspective is merely a matter of carefully placing the horizon line and vanishing points.

In this lesson, we will be drawing objects in one-point and two-point perspective. This is the most rudimentary level of perspective drawing, the foundation that everything else is built upon. I’ll go into more depth in following lessons.

And now for some handy definitions.

  • Horizon Line: The line representing the eye level of the viewer; the line separating land from sky.
  • Vanishing Point: The point where parallel lines converge on the distant horizon.

Got that? Good. These things are the bare essentials– without a horizon line and vanishing points delineating where everything converges in the distance, there will be no perspective. And now on to the nitty gritty!

One-Point Perspective

Refer to the below diagram. The line in red is the horizon line. Now, you can lower the horizon line to create an image with a snail’s eye view, or you can raise the line for more of a bird’s eye view.  For this example, I’m using a midline horizon, which would be about eye level to a standing viewer. Let’s say you’d like to draw a rectangular object, such as a building. Easy enough to draw a flat shape, but that’s just it– it looks flat. What you’re looking at below is the forward-facing plane of the object. If you were looking at it directly head-on, that plane is all you will see. However, in this case we want to draw the building at an angle. We want to give our building the illusion of depth– and to do that, we must create a vanishing point.

perspective drawing diagram 1
Diagram 1

 

The black lines recede into the distance to converge on the vanishing point, seen as a dot on the right side of the horizon line; these will be your guide lines for drawing your object. The vanishing point can be either to the right or the left of the object, but in this example it is on the right. Draw the lines from the vanishing point to the right-most top and bottom corners of your rectangle. If you’re drawing with traditional media, you may like to use a ruler. If you’re using Gimp, as I am, you can click on your starting point (for instance, your vanishing point), hold down the shift key, and click on your ending point (for instance, the upper or lower right corner of your rectangle).

Perspective Drawing Diagram 1.5
Diagram 1.5

 
In Diagram 2, you can see how the guide lines and vanishing point can be used to create a simple rectangular object in one-point perspective.

Perspective Drawing Diagram 2
Diagram 2

Easy enough, right?

Two-Point Perspective

Next, we’ll have a go at two-point perspective. Rather than having one plane of our object facing us directly, the object will be angled so that both visible sides recede into the distance. In order to do this, we will have to place two vanishing points, one on either side of the object. Start off by deciding where you want the object: draw a single vertical line that delineates the corner where your two planes will meet. The guide lines from each vanishing point will converge on that corner.

Perspective Drawing Diagram 3
Diagram 3

 

Use the guide lines to draw your object. Let’s call it a building just for the hell of it.

Perspective Drawing Diagram 4
Diagram 4

That was fairly straightforward, wasn’t it? Now, if you want to add another building of the exact same height and on the planes of your two vanishing points, you can easily do so using the above method. Like this:

Perspective Drawing Diagram 5
Diagram 5

 

And this!

Perspective Drawing Diagram 6
Diagram 6

 

You can also vary the height of the objects along the planes delineated by the vanishing points you chose, as shown in Diagram 7.

Perspective Drawing Diagram 7
Diagram 7

 

If you’d like to learn more about how to draw in perspective, I’ve been using a great instructional book for many years: Perspective Drawing Handbook by Joseph D’Amelio. The information in it is clearly presented with a lot of easy-to-understand diagrams, so I highly recommend it! 

Happy drawing!