Artists use perspective to make objects recede into the distance believably. To our eyes, objects are smaller when they are farther away. Perspective is just a way to make objects smaller in a regular fashion, so they appear as we see them.

Watercolor Painting Lesson

YouTube Painting Video

If you want your paintings to have depth, one of your best tools is perspective. In this lesson, I make drawing in perspective easy so you can concentrate on the painting!

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Skill Building

DrawingAlong a flat plane, it's very easy to see how objects appear smaller at regular intervals.

We say all the lines in these houses point toward a vanishing point, a point we can no longer see them. What we actually mean is all lines in a single plane disappear at the same point. Things get farther away in a regular fashion. No apparent folds in space / time, unfortunately.

So all the windows in the houses get predictably smaller and the doors and walls too. We can use this in any town I can think of to rough in a drawing. Later, we add the slight variations of front porches and odd windows!

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The parallel boundary lines of all planes point toward a single vanishing point. Another way to say this is the parallel houses all appear to disappear at the same point in the distance. All of the parallel lines in that plane point toward that same vanishing point in the distance.

Here's the real key.All parallel planes have the same vanishing point.

All lines in parallel planes have the same vanishing point.

I know one thing you were wondering about were roads. Two parallel planes of facing houses lead to the same vanishing point. This makes perfect sense. However, the roads are perpendicular to those houses, not in the same plane at all!

However, look at the edges of the road's plane. Since the edges of this plane are the exact same edges as the houses' planes, the road will have the same vanishing point as the houses, even though it's in a completely separate, non parallel plane.

The roofs are also not on the same plane. For practical drawing purposes, roofs at this sort of angle can be drawn to the same point. This works because, like the road, they share one line angle with the houses.

However, non-parallel lines or lines in another, non parallel plane will point toward their own vanishing point. That's why artists usually draw 90 degree vertical lines for any verticals. Unless you're looking upward, that vanishing point is too far away to have much effect on the vertical lines. Only if you're leaning up and looking at skyscrapers or tree tops will the vertical angles change much.

Now it's time to add a second point to our perspective!

Two point perspective means we add a second set of parallel planes to our drawing.

That's all it means. Two point perspective is 2 sets of parallel planes. 3 point perspective is - wait for it - 3 sets of parallel planes. At some point, generally with the second set of planes, we are probably dealing with manmade objects. We tend to like straight, parallel roads with straight, parallel houses nicely placed along them. So the regular mathematical geometry of perspective was invented to deal with drawing these straight, parallel objects.Did I not mention perspective is math? Art and math go together beautifully. Perspective was cutting edge mathematical theory back in the Renaissance.

Bonus Tip

To find the apparent center of any section of a plane, simply draw an X from opposite corners. At the point where the lines intersect, you have your center point, viewed in correct perspective. If you're drawing architecture, this comes in very handy.

This example from the video shows you how parallel planes have the same vanishing point, but perpendicular planes disappear in another direction.

This train station from the video has 2 parallel planes that meet at the near corner. These two planes go out to separate vanishing points.

Homework!

Draw a box, starting with a view showing you only two sides of the box, then add a third side by adjusting the angle. Light as dramatically as possible for bonus value sketching practice.

Next, find a street corner (with a nice park bench to sit on is ideal.) You want to see the same two point perspective as your original box. You're looking for two perpendicular planes meeting in the middle. Draw and sketch this.

For bonus points, add the houses across the street parallel to one of your planes.

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