If you want to improve your drawing skills, one way to do so is to learn the 3 types of perspective drawing. Learning how to draw perspective is an important part of refining your art skills. After all, we live in a three dimensional world that can only be recreated on a two dimensional sheet of paper by using perspective.
In this article, I will break down the 3 different types of perspective drawing. I will also provide a step-by-step guide for how to draw using perspective. This will allow you to begin practicing your perspective drawing skills and have you creating eye-catching works of art in no time!
Grasping these concepts will give you the confidence to create more complex drawings on your own. So let’s get into it!
But first, what is perspective drawing?
When we create drawings and paintings, we are working on a two dimensional plane, such as a piece of paper or a canvas. As such, any three dimensional object or scene that we create on our two dimensional canvas is a mere illusion. Perspective drawing is essentially creating the illusion of a three dimensional plane on a two dimensional plane.
To create this illusion, we have to learn how to use and create depth. We live in a three dimensional world where we can perceive depth in everything around us. In order to recreate that depth, we have to use perspective drawing.
A technical approach to creating perspective in a drawing, as an architect or engineer would, must be done with high mathematical precision. However, an artistic perspective does not require the same level of precision and perspective can be achieved through a variety of means.
The observer, the scene, and the illusion
The perspective that you wish to create on your medium depends on three things: the position of the observer, the scene you wish to portray, and the illusion you wish to create. Basically, the object or scene being viewed by the observer is being projected onto a flat vertical plane. This flat vertical plane is known as the “picture plane.”
The picture plane is the two dimensional representation of a three dimensional object or scene. It is located between the observer (also known as the eye point) and the full scene at large (the background).
The three main types of perspective drawing are defined by the number of primary vanishing points, or construction points.
1 Vanishing Point Perspective (aka Frontal Perspective)
This type of perspective drawing is used to illustrate forms or objects that are facing the viewer, or observer. This technique allows the artist to draw a direct frontal angle from a particular point of view in space.
The 1 vanishing point perspective technique is also known as the frontal perspective. It is the easiest of the three different techniques and therefore is the first one any budding artist should master.
From this perspective, objects will be bigger or smaller depending on how close they are to the observer. There are a few things to keep in mind when using this technique:
- Diminution: Objects become smaller as they recede into the distance, away from the observer.
- Horizon Level: The horizon level is the height from which we look ahead. Depending on where the observer is supposedly located, this will vary. The observer can look below or above their eye level.
- Convergence: The vanishing point is where all the edges moving toward the observer will converge.
- Vanishing Point: In this technique, there is only one vanishing point. This vanishing point is placed on a horizontal line and represents the imaginary point where all the perpendicular lines facing the observer converge.
- Parallelism: The horizontal lines will remain parallel and so will all vertical lines.
2 Vanishing Point Perspective (aka Angular Perspective)
This type of perspective drawing technique is used to illustrate forms under a certain angle. This could be looking side-to-side or up-and-down, for example. While 1 point perspective uses just one vanishing point on a horizontal line, 2 point perspective uses two.
The first thing you have to do to create a 2 vanishing point perspective drawing, is to create a horizontal line. This is essentially the horizon, the line that separates the ground from the sky. It does not have to be so literal, however. It is also thought of as the line of sight, or eye line.
Then, you must decide where on the horizontal line you are going to place the two separate vanishing points. You can simply mark the vanishing points with dots.
Teachers often elaborate on this idea by having students imagine they are standing on a beach. On this beach, you can look side-to-side in both directions. You can see down the beach to your right and you can see down the beach to your right. It seems like the beach is endless. On either side, the people walking away from you on the beach appear to become smaller and smaller as they get further away.
Using this 2 point vanishing point perspective should be easy to conceptualize now. It is important to remember that either of your two points can be off the page in either direction, as long as they are on the same horizontal line.
Now that you have your two vanishing points, you can draw the corner of one of your objects. If you are drawing buildings, this could be the corner of a building. The line has to be in between your two vanishing points and cross over your horizontal line.
Then you can make your receding lines, also known as orthogonal lines. These lines go from the end of the corner line that you just made until reach of the vanishing points. Any parallel lines that go away from the observer will follow these lines until the vanishing points.
Next, you will need to create parallel vertical lines to show where your building ends. The closer the edge line of the building is to the vanishing point, the longer the building is. Completing this step will give you a general idea of what the 2 point perspective looks like on paper.
3 Vanishing Point Perspective (aka Oblique Perspective)
This perspective is used to show an extreme view of an object from either an extremely low or extremely high vantage point. Although it is the least-used perspective of the three, it is still worth learning about it so that you can have it in your toolbox of perspective techniques just in case you need it.
Imagine if you wanted to draw a skyscraper from the perspective of being on the street below it. That is when you would need to use the 3 vanishing point perspective. It is no surprise that the 3 vanishing point perspective uses, yes, 3 vanishing points. You have seen how the 1 point perspective uses one vanishing point and the 2 point perspective uses three vanishing points. Now we are on the third!
The difference between this perspective is that the third vanishing point is not placed on the horizontal line, like you saw in the previous technique. In this case, the third vanishing point is placed either far above or far below the horizontal line. More often than not, this third vanishing point is not placed on the page because of the extreme perspective.
To create this perspective, you will start with a horizontal line, or line of sight. Just like the 2 point perspective above, you will decide where the first two vanishing points are placed on the horizon. Make sure they are far enough apart so as not to distort your image.
Then, you will draw two lines from each of the two vanishing points so that each of the lines intersect with another either above or below the horizon, depending on the perspective you are wishing to achieve. The result of this step will look like two intersecting roads.
Then, you will place the third vanishing point either above or below where your intersecting roads meet. The closer your vanishing point is to your road intersection, the more extreme the angle.
The next step is to draw lines connecting your third vanishing point to the outer corners of your road intersection. From there, you will close off the top or bottom of your object by creating lines that extend past the tips of the lines which extend from the bottom or top of your vantage point.
Then, darken the outline of your object and erase the unwanted lines, if needed.
Now you have the basic knowledge to begin creating either 1 vanishing point perspective, 2 vanishing point perspective, or 3 vanishing point perspective. Since these are the three most important principle perspective drawing techniques, it is crucial to understand them in order to begin creating depth in your drawings.
Remember that practice is the key. Try these techniques with a variety of subjects. You do not have to just stick to buildings and angular designs, either. Experiment with different objects and see what you can come up with. I can’t wait to see what you create!