Yes, You Too Can Draw! – Ch 11 — How To Draw In Three-Point Perspective


Yes, You Too Can Draw logo   Welcome to the next, long-awaited edition of Yes, You Too Can Draw! If you could nail down the two-point perspective lesson from the previous chapter, then this lesson on Three-point Perspective will be a piece of cake. Let’s review the previous chapter…


What We Learned From Last Time


The Magic of Three-Point Perspective

So far you’ve gotten one-point perspective down. And just recently, you added two-point perspective to your arsenal of drawing tools. Now it’s time to step it up a notch with three-point perspective. Three-point perspective will add an extra dimension to your work, adding to the illusion of depth on your flat surface. Three-point perspective is stereotypically used for overviews of urban landscapes and dramatic moments in comic books/manga, cartoons, and movies. It can also be extremely useful for living up a normally dull scene.

Worm's eye view vs. bird's eye view

Examples of three-point perspective in action.


So What is Three-Point Perspective Anyway?

Three-point perspective is basically two-point perspective with an additional vanishing point off the horizon line. What?! Another vanishing point that’s not even on the horizon line? How is this even possible? Allow me to explain…

When you are viewing an object in one-point perspective, you are viewing it head-on. Or your attention is mainly focused on one side of the cube. When the cube gets rotated, it is in two-point perspective. Now your focus covers two sides of the cube, which we consistently see regardless of where it’s placed. When the cube is tilted, we can now see three sides of it. You’ll also notice that the lines that once ran parallel up and down now recede and look foreshortened. This is due to the fact that the cube has been moved above the viewer’s eye-level.

In the image below, when Willard views a cube that rests at his eye-level, the cube will be in one or two-point perspective. When Willard views the cube above his eye-level (when he’s looking up), the cube will look to have a wider bottom than top. The lines of the cube that used to run parallel when at eye-level now recede upwards. When drawing that cube, you’ll find that they’ll meet at a vanishing point far above the horizon line. The reverse occurs when Willard looks down towards the cube below his eye level. The lines that once ran up and down on that cube now recede towards a vanishing point below the horizon line. The top of that cube visually becomes wider than its bottom.

Willard Mouse staring at cubes across horizon line.

How to Use Three-Point Perspective

Now we’ll learn how to draw a cube using three-point perspective. It’s just a tad more difficult than drawing in two-point perspective, but not by much.


Step 1:

Draw a horizion line and two vanishing points. We’ll start like we did when working with two-point perspective, with a horizon line and two vanishing points, one on each side.


Step 2:

Draw a vertical line from the center of the horizon line to the nadir. Draw a vertical line from the center of the horizon line. We’ll refer to this line as the Gravity Line. It’ll lead us to our third vanishing point, the Nadir. The nadir is the point where your objects will taper up or down to. For the purposes of this example, both the gravity line and the nadir will be below the horizon line. They can also be drawn above the horizon line to draw scenes from a worm’s eye view. And to my knowledge, there’s no reason that the gravity line must be drawn from dead center of the horizon line. But for the purposes of this demonstration, I’ll draw it in the center.


Step 3:

Draw two convergence lines from the right vanishing point to the gravity line. Next up, we’ll create the facing edge of the cube. To do this, draw two converging lines from the right vanishing point to the gravity line. When these lines meet, they will determine the height of your cube. “Well, what if I don’t wanna draw a cube in the middle of my picture plane?”  In that case, you would need to draw a converging line from the Nadir, to where you want your cube to be. Then connect converging lines from both the left and right vanishing points.


Step 4:

Draw two new converging lines from the left vanishing to the gravity line.

Now we’ll add another two converging lines, drawn from the Left Vanishing Point to the Gravity Line. These new lines will meet the intersection, created by the converging lines coming from the Right Vanishing Point.


Step 5:

Draw a converging line from the nadir.

To complete one side of our cube and to create the first edge of the cube’s tope face, we’ll draw a new converging line from the nadir to the top converging line on our left-hand side.

Step 6:

Draw converging lines from both left and right vanishing points.

To complete the cube’s top, we’ll draw converging lines emanating from both the left and right vanishing points. Guess what’s gonna happen next?


Step 7:

To complete the outside of the cube, we'l draw a converging line from the nadir.

To complete to outward appearance of the cube, we’ll draw a convergence line from the nadir. If you want, you can stop here and outline the edges.


Step 8:

Draw two more converging lines to create the bottom of the cube.

But we’ll take it a step further and complete the rest of the cube. Due to the fact that the Gravity Line makes up both the cube’s front and back edge, we can easily create the cube’s bottom. Let’s do so by drawing convergence lines from both left and right vanishing points. Both new lines will cross at the Gravity Line.


Step 9:

Outline your cube and you're done!

All that’s left to do is to outline your edges. Now you have a brand-spankin’ new cube in three-point perspective.


Your Homework Assignment

Yes, you have a homework assignment! Practice drawing five cubes in different positions using three-point perspective. For extra credit, draw a cityscape in three-point perspective.