7 things you need to know about drawing in perspective

  Being able to add perspective to your drawings instantly adds a touch of realism and invites the viewer into your picture. But when you are starting out, learning about perspective can seem terribly daunting. Here are 7 things you need to know about drawing in perspective that might help. Keep it simple by trying to incorporate one or two of these points into your current artwork. Next time try one or two more. Before you know it you will have a whole raft of tools in your perspective skills arsenal.

 
Here are 7 things you need to know about drawing in perspective to add depth and interest to your artwork - easy when you know how!
 

Colour

An easy way to give the illusion of depth is to use colour.  Objects in the distance are perceived in cooler hues and those in the foreground in warmer hues. Have a look at the mountains below. This one is easy to remember when we are drawing or painting landscapes since we we probably instinctively make the mountains blue or purple.  The same principle can be applied effectively to other subjects too using cool blues, purples  and greens to push the distant objects back and warm reds, yellows and oranges to pull the objects in the foreground towards the viewer.

 
things you need to know about drawing in perspective
 

Overlapping

When objects partially obscure one another we know that the one we see completely is in front of the object that is partially obscured. Making sure that you have objects that overlap in your image will add depth and interest to your composition.

In the still life below see how the lime pushes the flowers behind it.  The milk jug is obviously the most distant object since most of it is hidden behind the mug in front of it.

 
things you need to know about drawing in perspective
 

Size

Objects that are in reality, identical in size appear smaller if they are further away from the viewer. For example, look at the vertical fence posts in the photograph below.  We know they are the same size but as they get further away from the viewer they seem to be smaller. In addition the spaces between the posts, which we know to also be the same in reality, appear to diminish. The posts appear to be getting closer together but in fact they are still equally spaced.

 
things you need to know about drawing in perspective
 

Focus and level of detail

Objects that are close to the viewer can be seen more clearly than those in the distance. Therefore an object in the foreground should be portrayed with a higher level of detail than one in the background of the image in order to portray that sense of depth. In the image of the fence posts above, notice how the foreground is in focus and the the trees and fence posts that are further away are hazy. Doesn't it feel like that fence goes on for miles?

Similarly the poppy fields below illustrate the effectiveness of high detail in the foreground and more abstract, suggestive shapes for the same flower in the distance.

 
things you need to know about drawing in perspective
 

Vanishing point

Parallel lines such as the edges of a road or a railway track appear to converge as they approach eye level.  The point at which they meet is described as the vanishing point.  Eye level is the imaginary horizontal line level with the eyes of the viewer - indicating their vantage point. The vanishing point always sits at eye level but it may be within the image or outside of the image, ie off the edge of the page/painting.

 
things you need to know about drawing in perspective
 

One point perspective

The railway tracks above are a good example of one point perspective. This is the term used to describe a situation where all the receding parallel lines meet at a single point. When drawing a 3D object such as a cube or a building, you will need to use one point perspective if you can see the front of the object and not the sides. This is the straight front view of the object. If you can see the top of the object as well as the front, that vanishing point will be useful to get the angles right on the lid or top of the object. Have a look at the chest below to see what I mean.

things you need to know to draw in perspective

Two point perspective

If you are able to see more than one side of the  3D object you are drawing then you will have to use two point perspective. This means that you now have two vanishing points. Both the vanishing points will be on the eye level and any of the lines of the edges of the 3D object would converge to their respective vanishing points if extended. The example below uses a gift box as the 3D object. You can imagine that if this box were to be included in part of an image these vanishing points may well be beyond the edge of the drawing as discussed in the Vanishing Point section above.

things you need to know to draw in perspective

Further resources

Want to know more? Here are two suggestions of further resources if you want to learn more about perspective: