Perspective Drawing Basics For Beginners

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Perspective drawing

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Drawing in perspective importance

Perspective drawing is one of those fundamental techniques that will not just improve your drawing and painting but it will also help you to create more convincing images. Getting a grasp of perspective for drawing, will also increase your confidence as an artist. As its understanding, allows you to be certain about what direction an angle should or shouldn’t be at in your art.

In this article I will be going over the basics of drawing in perspective. To go further in depth into perspective drawing, I have included a resource at the bottom of this article.

What is perspective drawing in art?

Perspective drawing gives a three dimensional feel to an otherwise 2D surface. It is what helps to create a believable sense of space in drawings, as well as paintings. With it, you will be able to portray an object with a sense of dimension, so that it doesn’t lay flat like the surface it’s drawn or painted upon.

There are two main different types of perspective drawing in art: linear perspective and atmospheric perspective.

All about linear perspective drawing

The basics of linear perspective

With linear perspective drawing there is one point, two point, and even three point perspective. By using the elements of linear perspective we are able to arrange objects on a canvas or piece of paper similar to how we would see it in the real world. Objects that are closer to us appear larger while objects that are further away appear smaller.

How linear perspective drawing works

We will take a look at this drawing in one point perspective example below, to show how linear perspective drawing works. First, a horizontal line is placed across the surface of a picture – as you can see in the image diagram below. This line is known as the horizon line. Parallel lines then meet and converge as they recede back into space at what is called the vanishing point in art.

One point perspective drawing diagram
Image taken from ‘Perspective Made Easy” Ernest R. Norling

Vanishing point in art

You can see where the vanishing point is in the perspective drawing above – this is the point where the train tracks meet far off in the distance. The rails go on and on across the level plain until they reach the horizon where they are lost from sight.

One point perspective photo of a road

Here is a real life example of one point perspective in a scene you might encounter on a road trip. Notice the parallel lines and the vanishing point far off in the distance where both points converge at the one point.

One point perspective drawing

Leonardo da vinci one point perspective drawing, Adoration of the magi
Perspectival study for the “Adoration of the Magi”, Leonardo da Vinci, One Point Perspective Drawing

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Adoration of the Magi” is an excellent example of one point perspective drawing. He did not leave any stone unturned in his efforts to get a precise and accurate understanding of drawing in perspective.

Notice how all of the lines, from the steps to the arches all converge at the same spot on the horizon line. Showcasing one point perspective drawing in a more complex scene. Da Vinci’s drawings are full of great drawing lessons to learn from.

What is two point perspective?

Two point perspective can also be called angular perspective or three quarter perspective. In simple terms two point perspective is when there are two separate vanishing points.

Two point perspective drawing, city of paris
Diagram image showing two point perspective

Notice this concept of two point perspective at play in this real life photo of a view of Paris. There isn’t just one but rather two vanishing points. One side of the building in the center will vanish off to the right and the other to the left.

Two point perspective drawing in art

Gustave Caillebotte, Two point Perspective drawing and painting
Gustave Caillebotte / Public domain

Here is another Parisian inspired example of two point perspective. In the upper left we see the building and how one side of the building vanishes off to the right. While the other side vanishes off to the left – thus creating two separate vanishing points.

Atmospheric perspective

What is atmospheric perspective? Like linear perspective, atmospheric perspective also gives an illusion of depth and space on a two dimensional surface. However, in place of lines and vanishing points, color is primarily used.

Leonardo da Vinci is credited with first coining the term atmospheric perspective. In his ‘treatise on painting’ he observed. That colors “become weaker in proportion to their distance from the person who is looking at them”.

So for example, things far off in the distance are typically lighter in color. While things close up are stronger and darker in color. This principle can therefore be used in painting, by painting elements far off in the distance lighter in color and things that are close up much darker.

Example of atmospheric perspective in art

atmospheric perspective, JMW Turner
Example of atmospheric perspective art
By Joseph Mallord William Turner, Regulus

Here is a clear example of atmospheric perspective in art in this painting by JMW Turner. We can see how the areas that are further away are lighter. While the areas that are closer to the front are darker in color.

Where to learn more about drawing in perspective?

I highly encourage you to deepen and broaden your understanding of perspective drawing. Drawing in perspective will not only help you to feel more confident when drawing and painting. But it will also help you to create a very believable sense of space in your work. Art becomes a much more powerful visual experience, when you can feel that it has a clear sense of space.

A great perspective drawing resource

Perspective Made Easy by Ernest R. Norling

Perspective Made Easy is a resource I recommend you to check out. This book simplifies and breaks down every area of perspective drawing in a very easy to understand way. It sheds light on drawing in perspective in a way you may not have understood before.

Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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