Perspective Drawing is a technique used to represent three-dimensional images on a two-dimensional picture plane. In our series of lessons on perspective drawing we explain the various methods of constructing an image with perspective and show how these are used by artist

There are two main elements in perspective drawing:

  • LINEAR PERSPECTIVE which deals with the organization of shapes in space.
  • AERIAL PERSPECTIVE (also called ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE) which deals with the atmospheric effects on tones and colours

One point perspective is a drawing method that shows how things appear to get smaller as they get further away, converging towards a single 'vanishing point' on the horizon line. It is a way of drawing objects upon a flat piece of paper (or other drawing surface) so that they look three-dimensional and realistic.


Some concepts that are commonly associated with perspectives include:

  • ·Horizon line
  • ·Vanishing points
  • ·Fore shortening



Perspective drawings typically have an (often implied) horizon line.This line, directly opposite the viewer's eye,represents objects infinitely far away. They have shrunk in the distance, to the infinitesimal thickness of a line. It is analogous (and named after) the Earth's horizon.


Varnishing point

Any perspective representation of a scene that includes parallel lines has one or more vanishing points  on a perspective drawing. A one-point perspective drawing means that the drawing has a single vanishing point, usually (though not necessarily) directly opposite the viewer's eye and usually (though not necessarily) on the horizon line. All lines parallel with the viewer's line of sight recede to the horizon towards this vanishing point. This is the standard "receding railroad tracks" phenomenon.


One point perspective

  insert3 insert2



Students learn basic drawing of one point perspective:

students perspective1 

students perspective2   students perspective3  

drawing persepective





Accurate Ellipses

One of the first things we need to know is some terminology pertaining to ellipses.  The widest distance across an ellipse is known as the "major axis" while the shortest distance is known as the "minor axis."  For a circle the major axis and the minor axis would be the same distance.

Minor axis


For larger ellipses I construct the following geometrical frame work which gives me 12 points along the ellipse to guide any freehanded approximations.  



1. To make the framework I need to first create a rectangle with the proportions of the major and minor axes of the ellipse.  I then need to divide this rectangle into 16 equal sections.  To make these sections it is useful to remember that a simple “X” created from diagonal corners of the rectangle will always find the center of that rectangle.  Along the way we will also gain 4 of our 12 points that make up the ellipse.

2. At this point we now know 4 of our points and we have divided our rectangle into 4 equal sections.  We now need to divide each of those sections into four more sections.

3. We now have 16 equal sections.  However, before going further let's remove the diagonals used in constructing those sections to keep things from getting too visually confusing.

4. To find the remaining 8 additional points we need to run diagonal lines across the 4 outer sections along each side. Next note where these diagonals intersect the boundaries between the outer four sections of that particular side.  At these intersections, the one that is the closest to the outside of our original rectangle will also mark a point along our ellipse.  Let's start with the bottom section.

5. Now for the top section.

6. The right section.

7. And finally the left section.

8. Once again, for clarity let's remove the diagonals used to find the additional points.

9. And finally we now have 12 points we can use to aid us in drawing our ellipse!

10. Leaving the picture plane behind, it is useful to know that this same process works just as well to draw ellipses or circles that are in perspective.

1.  ellipeses drawing        2. ellipse drawing  


3.     ellipese 9j

 4.   ellipse 9k    5.  ellipse 90 

6.   ellipse s  7.   ellipse w 



8.  ellipsez    9. ellipse z3

10. ellipse 9z





Going even further, some of you may have already picked up on the fact that the ellipses I have shown in perspective have thus far been in one point perspective with an ellipse that would be directly in front of us (the viewer).   It is interesting to note what happens when the ellipse is moved left or right from this center position. In doing so the major and minor axes of the ellipse (as seen at the picture plane) will begin to rotate.  They do however continue to stay perpendicular to one another. 


right ellipse  drawing an elipse


drawign perspective


Drawing an ellipse with string and pins


After doing this

Your work should look like this

Start with the height and width of the desired ellipse. The two lines are the major and minor axes of the ellipse. The major axis is the longer one.


1.  With the compasses' point on the center, set the compasses' width to half the width (major axis) of the desired ellipse.

(This is called the ellipse semimajor axis).


2.  Move the compasses' point to one end of the minor axis of the desired ellipse and draw two arcs across the major axis.


3.  Where these arcs cross the major axis are the foci of the ellipse. Label them F1, F2.


4.  Put a pin in each end of the major axis (they will be moved later), and tie a string to them so that the string between them is taut. The best way to do this is to push the pin through the string itself if possible, rather than tying a knot.


5.  Leaving the string attached, move the pins to the focus points F1, F2. Put a pencil point against the string and pull the string taut with the pencil.


6.  Keeping the string taut, move the pencil in a large arc. The pencil will draw out the desired ellipse. To avoid the string catching on the pins, you may find it better to draw the upper and lower halves of the ellipse separately.


7.  Done. The ellipse will pass through the four initial points defining the ends of the major and minor axes.



Practice makes perfect!


 perspective1 perspective2