Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Drawing perspective doesn't have to be hard - here's 3 easy tips to get you started

Beginner ResourcesKerrie Woodhouse

One of my endless fascinations is the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper.  Being able to perceive distance in an image on a page is what draws us into the world of the image's creator.

My analytical side is intrigued by the techniques we can learn to create the illusion of three dimensions.  Ok, I have to admit I kind of love that even something as mystical as art boils down to maths in places.

The fact that drawing perspective does involve a step towards maths is probably what puts many of us off learning.  I think the trick is to sidle up to it... surreptitiously. Ease gently in, nothing too scary. My introduction was really in Danielle Donaldson's class Creative Girls - a good beginning!

If you are starting out with drawing perspective, here are three things to think about that will help to offer the illusion of depth and distance.

Atmospheric perspective

This is a safe place to begin - all about colour. Warm colours (red, orange, yellow) appear to push forward from the paper, while cool colours (blues and greens) recede into the paper.  How fascinating it is that this is the way the brain interprets these colours.  So one of the easiest ways to suggest a sense of distance is to graduate colours you use from warm ones in the sections of the image closest through to cooler ones in the sections of the image intended to appear further away. Just like my row of little flower ladies...

Size matters

The other thing that the brain does in interpreting information from the eye is to recognise smaller versions of similar items as being further away, relative to their larger counterparts.  So even though all my little flower ladies are about the same size, the ones intended to appear close to the viewer are larger and further apart from each other. Their size and spacing diminish gradually to suggest to the viewer that they are more distant. If you were to draw a line across the tops of the heads of the flowers and extend it out beyond the tiny blue flower and another similar line across the bottom of their stalks, these lines would intersect at one point out beyond the right hand side of the image.  Accordingly, this is referred to as one point perspective.


As amazing as our eyes are, we can only see the finest details close up. As we look further into the distance our ability to perceive small distinct details decreases.  On a piece of paper, we can mimic this by reducing the level of fine detail progressively from the parts of the image intended to look like they are nearest to us to the parts of the image that are intended to appear further away.  Compare the level of facial details on the little red flower at the front of the row to the blue one at the end of the row in Flower Faces no 18 to see what I mean.

Learning to solve puzzles like how to make a flat piece of paper seem three dimensional is an intriguing pastime. If you end up hooked like me then you will be wanting to know a bit more.  I am reading a terrific book by Phil Metzger called The Art of Perspective which I am finding to be very helpful. It is not a dry collection of rules and is more like a series of annotated pictures. Phil has a sense of humour and offers step by step instructions of things to try out. Give it a go!

Explore more of the Flower Faces series or see the rest of the monthly series in the collection.