Perspective Drawing 101: Learn How to Draw Perspective FAST

perspective drawing

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Struggling to make your drawings look three-dimensional? Don’t feel ashamed! Perspective drawing is something most artists struggle with when they start out.

After all, it’s natural for it to be difficult to make a two-dimensional surface look three-dimensional.

If you want to learn how to make your drawings less flat and more realistic, make sure to keep reading! A comprehensive guide on how to draw perspective has been prepared below:

What is Perspective Drawing in Art?

Perspective drawing in art is the process of creating a representative for a three-dimensional object or space on a two-dimensional surface. For this to be possible, artists use perspective techniques in order to create an illusion of depth in their artworks.

what is perspective drawing in art?
(Image Source)

Perspective techniques can be classified into two categories: linear perspective and atmospheric perspective.

If you want to learn how to use these perspective techniques to advance your art-level. Detailed explanations and various tutorials will be given in the next couple of sections:

Overview – What is Linear Perspective?

Linear perspective is a mathematical system where artists use perspective lines in order to create depth. It was invented during the Italian Renaissance and came about under the collaboration of a team of architects and artists who wanted a more systematic way to draw a three-dimensional object onto a two-dimensional surface.

what is linear perspective?
Ladislav Benesch by Podkoren-vaški

As for how it’s done, it all starts with the idea that each painting is an ‘open window’ from which a painted world can be seen.

Linear Perspective Key Terms You Should Know

Before moving forward, study the following key terms in order to deepen your understanding of linear perspective drawing:

  • Horizon: The horizon runs across the canvas at the eye-level of the viewer. It’s a critical line in perspective drawing that decides where the sky will meet the land/water.
  • Vanishing Point(s): The vanishing point in a piece of artwork is a point on the horizon line that is furthest away from the viewer. Just like if you were to draw a train train track. The furthest distance, where the lines of the track have become almost one, is where the vanishing point should be placed on the drawing paper.
  • Vantage Point: Not to be confused with vanishing points. A vantage point is the angle from which the audience views a piece of artwork.
  • Ground Plane: The surface below the horizontal line. If you’re painting a landscape, it can be land or water.
  • Orthogonal Lines: This term describes the parallel lines that are connected to the vanishing point of a painting. The lines create right angles, which is where the word “orthogonal” meaning “right angle” comes from.

Now that you’ve learned the key vocabulary, you can start your drawing practice!

One-Point Perspective Drawing

The first type of linear perspective is one-point perspective.

One-point perspective is the simplest and most commonly used type of linear perspective, with there being only a single vanishing point.

The vanishing point for one-point perspective can be placed anywhere along the horizon line and there’s no need to worry about where to place the orthogonal lines. They will all be connected to this singular point, which makes the creation of the perspective map very simple.

To give you an example of how one-point perspective can be used for a painting, we’ve broken down the famous classical painting, “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci for reference:

one-point perspective drawing
“The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci (One-Point Perspective)

In the image prepared above, the red line represents the horizon line — AKA where the sky meets land or the viewer’s eyeline. Right in the middle of the horizon line is a yellow point on the horizon line representing the vanishing point.

And, finally, as you can see, the orthogonal lines (drawn in blue) all radiate from this singular vanishing point, completing a single-point perspective map.

Notice, all the lines in this one-point perspective drawing follow these orthogonal lines to the center point, which provides the illusion of depth. The structures and objects in the fictitious space recede the closer they get to the vanishing point.

Two-Point Perspective Drawing

Next, we have two-point perspective. As can be guessed from the name, different from single-point perspective, two-point perspective includes two vanishing points, which makes the illusion of space a lot more realistic … and, at the same time, a lot more complicated to set up.

Most artists will probably not want to create many two-point perspective maps in their lifetime. It’s far too tiring. But, so long as you want an object in your drawing or painting to be given form, you need to understand this concept. As for why, the answer can be found in the tutorial below:

Step 1. Draw the Horizon Line

draw horizontal lines
“Paris Street; Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte

The first step in any perspective drawing is to draw the horizon line. In our reference painting, “Paris Street; Rainy Day” the horizon line can be found almost at the center of the composition.

Note, it happens to fall exactly at the eyeline of the foremost figure in the painting. This makes it feel like the viewer is walking down the rainy Paris streets and brings you straight to the scene.

Step 2. Draw the Vanishing Points

draw the vanishing points
Vanishing Points (Two-Point Perspective)

The next step when drawing a two-point perspective map is to draw the two vanishing points on the horizon line. If you want to try drawing a two-point perspective map yourself, you can place your vanishing points anywhere you want — even outside the painting frame!

In the “Paris Streets; Rainy Day” image above, vanishing points have been clearly marked in yellow. They can be identified relatively easily because of the rendering of the building on the upper left-hand corner of the painting.

By following the edges of said building, which recedes into two directions, you can not only determine the fact that this painting is not a one-point perspective drawing, but you can also locate the vanishing points from which the edges radiate.

Step 3. Draw the Orthogonal Lines

draw the Orthogonal lines
Orthogonal Lines (Two-Point Perspective)

Here is the painting once more, this time, with straight lines representing the orthogonal lines that radiate from the two different vanishing points.

As you can see, the building in the upper left corner depends on two vanishing points to be given form whilst the street and the other buildings in the foreground still follow the main vanishing point at the center.

two-point perspective drawing
(Image Source)

By the way, if you want to practice perspective on drawing paper, you can draw some vertical lines along the horizontal line and the diagonal orthogonal lines to get straight surfaces— just like the blue walls of the image above.

For two-point perspective, such vertical lines are usually placed along the orthogonal lines of the same vanishing point. This is how you get all the vertical lines on the building in the upper-left corner of the previous example.

Multi-Point Perspective Drawing

Linear perspective is not limited to two-point or one-point perspective. There is also multi-point perspective, also called three-point perspective.

As can be assumed from the name, three-point perspective is a type of perspective that, at the very least, has a third vanishing point. Its most common use is to have vanishing points on the left and right side of the composition and then one vanishing point at the top or bottom.

If the vanishing point is at the bottom, the vantage point is downwards — making it look like a bird’s eye view of the subject. Meanwhile, if the vanishing point is set at the top, the vantage point is upwards, which makes it look like you are looking up at something.

multi-point perspective drawing
“Babel Tower” by M.C. Escher (Multi-Point Perspective)

Our reference sample for three-point perspective is “Babel Tower” by Escher. This drawing not only shows what a composition with three vanishing points looks like, but it also demonstrates how the vanishing points and horizon line can be set outside of the frame of the painting.

Overview – What Is Atmospheric Perspective?

Atmospheric perspective, sometimes called “aerial perspective”, is the process of conveying depth and distance by considering the ‘atmospheric effects’ that come with distance.

Linear and atmospheric perspectives cannot be said to be comparable because the theory used is different. Linear perspective relies on perspective lines and mathematical systems.

Meanwhile, atmospheric perspective uses value, colors, and focus as a way to convey depth. There’s no such thing as perspective lines, horizon lines, or dealing with a single vanishing point or multiple vanishing points.

How Does Atmospheric Perspective Work?

Have a look at “The Fighting Temeraire” by J.M.W. Turner to see how atmospheric perspective is used. Here, things that are closer are clearer and brighter in color. Whilst those that are distant have less visual contrast and have a tendency to be cooler in colors.

how does atmospheric perspective work?
“The Fighting Temeraire” by J.M.W. Turner

These rules are not pulled out of thin air either. It’s a scientific fact that distance makes particles more crowded, which blurs the details of faraway objects. Also, blue color waves have a tendency to bounce around crowded particles, giving distant objects a blue hue.

All this is a result of the water, vapor, smog, etc. that naturally occur in the Earth’s atmosphere. Thus, accounting for these factors will make your art more realistic and true to nature.

Why is Learning Perspective Drawing so Important?

If you can learn how to draw your own perspective drawings, not only will your art be more realistic, but it will also help you improve your compositions as a whole.

Perspective is, after all, one of the foundations of realism. It’s true that you can paint abstract or impressionistic paintings without learning it, however, not learning for this reason will surely cause more harm than help. After all, doing so will certainly limit your horizons.

why is linear perspective drawing so important?
“Perspectival Study of The Adoration of the Magi” by Leonardo da Vinci

Of course, it’s easy to say that you should learn perspective drawing, but actually learning it is another matter. For example, because perspective drawing usually starts with beginners learning about perspective lines, they have a tendency to focus solely on the structure and forget about everything else.

In this way, learning perspective should be about grasping the general concepts and gaining an understanding about why the rules work in a certain way. With this understanding, perspective should come more and more naturally to you.

Start Practicing Perspective Drawing Today!

If you want to step up your drawings, now is the time to start practicing perspective drawing! As advised above, learn and understand the rules slowly. Over time, with hard work and practice, you’ll find that perspective and depth in art is a lot less complicated than it looks on the surface.

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