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Perspective is an art technique for creating an illusion of three-dimensions (depth and space) on a two-dimensional (flat) surface. Perspective is what makes a painting seem to have form, distance, and look "real." The same rules of perspective apply to all subjects, whether it's a landscape, seascape, still life, interior scene, portrait, or figure painting.

There is a fair bit of terminology used in perspective, and if you try to take it in all at once, it can seem overwhelming. Take it slowly, one step or term at a time, and get comfortable with a term before moving on to the next. That's how you master perspective.


Traditional perspective theory has two premises:

  1. The eye of the observer is in a fixed position.

  1. The surface of the paper upon which the drawing is done represents a plane of vision or picture plane.

Vanishing Point:

Set of parallel lines that describe the edge of parallel planes receding into the distance away from the plane of vision, converging at a common vanishing point.

Ground Plane, Horizon Line, Eye Level:

As long as any set of parallel lines describe edges of planes that are parallel to the ground plane, their vanishing points will occur on a line called the horizon line that corresponds to the eye level of the viewer/artist in relation to the object being drawn.

One Point Perspective:

Perspective lines corresponding to parallel panels to form right angles to the picture plane will converge at a single vanishing point on the horizon line directly in front of the viewer/artist, and most commonly in the center of the drawing.


Observe changes in the shapes of the plains and how the top become more or less visible depending on the eye-level.

Viewpoint is the spot (point) from which you, the artist, is looking at (viewing) the scene. Linear perspective is worked out according to this viewpoint. There's no right or wrong choice of viewpoint, it's simply the first decision you make when beginning to plan your composition and figure out the perspective.

Normal viewpoint is how an adult sees the world when standing up. When painting in a realistic style, this is the viewpoint you'll probably use because it's what we're accustomed to seeing. It's what looks most real.

A low viewpoint is when you're looking at a scene from much lower than you would ​standing up. For instance, if you were sitting on a chair, had crouched down onto your heels or, even lower down, sitting on the grass. Of course, it's also the level from which small children see the world.

A high viewpoint is when you're looking down on a scene. You might be on a ladder, up a hill, on the balcony of a tall building.

The rules of perspective don't change between a normal, low, or high viewpoint. The same rules apply in all cases. What changes is what you see in a scene. The rules of perspective help us interpret and understand what we're seeing, and enable us to "get it right" in a painting.

Troubleshooting eye level:


Three Point Perspektive:

Perspective lines corresponding to planes that recede into deep space as seen from an extremely high or low viewpoint, will converge at a vanishing point located at right angles to a picture plane that parallels the tile of the head as the viewer looks up or down into space. This vanishing point will occur either above or below the horizon line that corresponds to the viewer's eye level as he looks out into space along a sight line parallel to the ground plane.

Perspective Drawing:

The way a 3 dimensional environment appears to the eye and how this can be represented by a 2 dimensional drawing is what perspective drawing is all about.

All the phenomena of perspective can be simplified by referring to one or both of the following:


  1. Things appear smaller in proportion to their distance from the eye.
  2.  Only when objects are parallel to the face can the eye see them in their true dimension.


Eye Level:

The horizon will always be at the viewer's eye level no matter if she is facing North, South, East, or West, and no matter how high or low she gets. 

In art the location of the eye line on the canvas or paper is the viewer's choice in what view she actually does see or what she chooses to represent.

If you draw an imaginary line across the scene at the level of your eyes, that's the horizon line. As you change position, for ​instance, walk up a hill, the horizon line moves up with you. When you glance down or up, the horizon line doesn't move because the level of your head hasn't moved.


Vanishing Points:

The vanishing points, no matter how many are used in a composition, are always located on the eye level (Horizon Line). 

Each set of parallel lines has its own vanishing point located on the eye level line. Perpendicular lines (perpendicular to the eye line) have no vanishing point. They do not come together. The vanishing point may be located clear off the paper. It in this case, the use of an extra large ruler and a pin will be helpful in making or drawing.

If the object is below the horizon line, its vanishing lines angle up to the horizon line. If the object is above, they slope down. All vanishing lines end at the horizon line. And vanishing lines from parallel edges on the same object meet at a point on the horizon line.

Whether or not an object has vanishing lines depends on how it's positioned to the horizon line. Edges of objects parallel to the horizon line don't have vanishing lines. (Why? Because they don't recede into the distance and never intersect the horizon line.) For example, if you're looking straight onto a house (so you're seeing one side only), the front face of the building is positioned parallel to the horizon line (and so are its edges). You can easily check if it's parallel by holding a finger along the bottom of the house and another at the horizon line (eye height).

Size Relationship:

Objects at separate depth, by knowing the size of one object, you know the size of the other object.


Shows relationships between objects wirh diferente depths.


A plane surface can be equally divided into horizontal parts and into the same number of vertical parts by drawing a diagonal.

This is a great way to draw windows in buildings or a row of books on a shelf. There are a lot of applications; use your imagination.

How To Locate Fence Posts:

Draw the first post. Then draw two lines; one from the top of the post to the vanishing point and one from the bottom of the post to the vanishing point. A third line is drawn from the center of the post to the vanishing point. (You can draw as many lions as needed.) Now, draw a diagonal line from the top of the first post through the center of the second and so on. The angle you choose to use will change the distance between posts.

In drawing post that go over a hill, follow the same procedure only project them upward as they go over the hill.



The rules of perspective applied in Western art developed during the Renaissance in Florence, Italy, in the early 1400s. Prior to this time paintings were stylized and symbolic rather than realistic representations of life. For example, the size of a person in a painting might indicate their importance and status relative to other figures, rather than their proximity to the viewer, and individual colors carried significance and meaning beyond their actual hue.

Challenge: Paint a painting using the principles of perspective.

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