Perspective Drawing

Perspective Drawing Made Easy

Most people think that perspective drawing is a daunting thing that is difficult to grasp. Quite the contrary! In fact, you’ll find you most likely have a very good understanding of perspective already: for example, when you look at a city landscape and observe that buildings closer to you are of normal size and those farther away look smaller and with less noticeable details.

Some others may argue their perspective drawing is of a good quality coming from their pure observation, but learning the principles of linear and aerial perspective is very useful since it allows us to represent with accuracy what we see. It is also an important tool to avoid mistakes and for troubleshooting when rendering a realistic drawing.

Perspective drawing is a geometric and a realistic system for representing depth and volume on a flat surface; which means to create a 3D illusion of space, or depth on a 2 dimensional drawing surface or support. Hence in Linear Perspective -the technical name of the method-, objects from real life look “tangible” or solid on our artworks or designs.

The meaning of the word Perspective comes from the Latin “Perspecta” or “Perspicere”, that means to see through or to look through.

This system was developed by the Renaissance artists in centuries XIV and XV, particularly by Fillippo Brunelleschi, an architect, sculptor and mechanical engineer that lived and worked in Italy during 1400. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea Mantegna and Leon Battista Alberti contributed greatly in developing this method. The idea was to replicate reality in their artworks so their drawings and paintings depicted three-dimensional structures like mirrors reflect them.

“There are three aspects to perspective. The first has to do with how the size of objects seems to diminish according to distance. The second, the manner in which colors change the farther away they are from the eye. The third defines how objects ought to be finished less carefully the farther away they are.”
Leonardo Da Vinci

An interesting fact to observe is that receding objects appear smaller and closer to each other than the ones near to us.

Vertical lines parallel to our face, remain as they are, parallels; but appear to come closer as they recede from us in the distance.

Accordingly to our point of view, which is the place where we are standing and observing objects or scenery, we can notice that there can be one vanishing point, two or even three vanishing points.

>>> VIDEO with practical explanation available HERE very soon <<<

Fundamentals or Principles of Linear Perspective

As we said before, perspective is a geometric system to achieving depth, space illusion and the third dimension on our artworks. In perspective drawing you draw what you see, not your mental image of the object or scene.

DIMINUTION: objects appear smaller as their distance from observer increases.

CONVERGENCE: lines or edges of objects which in reality are parallel appear to come together, to incline toward each other or converge and also diminish in size as they recede from observer. These converging diagonals-not parallel to the observer face- are called “orthogonal” which means at right angle.

COLOR AND VALUE PERSPECTIVE: colors and values (black to white tones) are clear when seen close up but become weaker, faded and even neutral as their distance increases from the observer. Warm colors like red, orange, yellow cannot be seen brightly on objects further away.

Color, details and texture become less sharp and vague when receding

DETAILS AND TEXTURE PERSPECTIVE: all textures and details like leaves and bark of trees, petals of flowers, buildings, rocks, features on people, etc. are clear and distinctive when near but become less sharp and vague when receding.

FORESHORTENING: lines or surfaces parallel to the observer’s face show their maximum size. As they are revolved away from the observer they appear increasingly shorter. This shortening is proportionately contracting in the direction of depth. The parts of the object close to us look much larger than the other parts more distant. This technique is used to successfully achieve the illusion of depth and space.


In this lying figure, the feet appear larger than the head that looks smaller than it really is as it is farther away.

OVERLAPPING: a simple technique that gives us a sense of space and shows which objects are in front and which are in back.

The position of these boats show us which ones are at the front and which ones at the back

SHADES AND SHADOWS: working with some source of light, shades and shadows will help us to give form, shape to a drawing and a sense of third dimension.

By adding shadows to objects, they give us solidity, the idea of volume and 3D

HORIZON  LINE:  it is always at eye-level. All horizontal lines run towards a vanishing point on this line. Horizontal lines beneath the horizon rise towards it and the lines above the horizon fall.

EYE LEVEL: is the height of your eyes from the ground as you view the scene. A tall person’s eye level is obviously higher than a short person’s, and an adult’s is higher than a child’s.

Eye level defines how far you can see –if you are taller or higher up you can see farther than if you are shorter, sitting down or crouching.

In linear perspective, the eye level assumes you are looking straight ahead. It does not change when you tip your head back or look down. It simply tells the viewer how high up you were when you did the drawing. Eye level and Horizon line are synonyms.   

VANISHING POINT:  Any two or more lines that are in reality parallel will, if extended indefinitely, appear to come together, meet or converge at a point. This is the vanishing point.

THE PICTURE PLANE: Is an imaginary vertical plane which coincides with the surface plane of your picture. Another way to visualize it is as a sheet of glass between you and the subject. For this reason Leonardo Da Vinci called it “the window”.

GROUND PLANE: Is the horizontal plane that you, the viewer, are positioned on (or imagine you’re positioned on). It is the same plane where the scenery or objects are.

THE CENTER OF VISION: Is a point on the horizon which is directly in front of the viewer’s eye.

To better understand these concepts, let’s imagine that we are looking at a house through the glass of a window:

This window can be considered a “picture plane”. The front of the house is parallel to the glass but the sides (diagonals) are at right angle, so they are called “orthogonal”. We can see that the line at the top of the house falls or descents when the bottom one rises or ascents. Both sides meet or converge at a point –the “vanishing point”-, in an imaginary line called “horizon line”. As we can notice in the picture, the horizon line coincides with our eye level.

We could draw this house with a marker on the glass. Every line that intersects our vision would be drawn, you would be “tracing out” this house and therefore you would end up with a two dimensional drawing from a real 3D object. Every time you draw on a paper, a canvas o even on the screen or your computer, this would be your picture plane.

For more explanations about Perspective Drawing and its basic principles explained step by step plus examples, please visit our pages that soon will be for one point perspective, 2 point, 3 point perspective especially applied for artists.

“Once you know the rules of perspective, it is the painter’s choice to use the techniques or disregard them as a matter of intelligent design and style, but there will be no struggle to achieve the desired effect”
Coulter Watt