Yes, You Too Can Draw! – Ch 9 — One-Point Perspective

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Yes, You Too Can Draw logoWelcome back to another chapter of Yes, You Too Can Draw! The series that gets its name botched by the author constantly. In this chapter, I plan to introduce you to the concept of perspective and more specifically, one-point perspective. If you want to make any serious effort learning to draw, you will need to get a grip on perspective.

Before we start, let’s review what we’ve learned in the previous chapter:

What We Learned From Last Time

Why Perspective Matters

In order to understand why perspective matters, we need to understand what it can do for us and how it can improve your drawing. So what is perspective? Perspective is the representation of three-dimensional space on a flat two-dimensional surface, your paper. Artists use perspective to create realism and depth in their works. Doodlers and wanna-be artists fail in their drawings because they inherently do not know how to create the illusion of space. (You can always fake it. But even then it still looks bad.) When amateurs are unable to use perspective, their drawings look unrealistic, foreground and background objects are difficult to distinguish, and objects and subjects will look distorted. If you want to take that next step in your drawings, you’ll need to buckle down and learn how to use perspective in your drawings.

A graphical representation of the three axises.Representing Reality in a Drawing

Space is all around you. To help us break down space and to make it more manageable, man has found that space runs in three basic directions:

  • X-axis, left to right.
  • Y-axis, up and down.
  • Z-axis, foreground to background.

The best analogy I can come up with is when you measure the dimensions of a box you’ll plan to send off, you’re measuring the length, width, and height.

There are many types of perspective you can use in your drawings. The three most commonly used are:

  • One-point perspective
  • Two-point perspective
  • Three-point perspective

There are other types of perspective including orthoscopic, four-point (infinite point) perspective, zero-point perspective. These are much more complicated and used a lot of times for visual effects. (Think fish-eye view.)

 

 

One-point Perspective

The first type of perspective we’ll learn is the easiest to understand, One-Point Perspective. This type of perspective requires objects to taper to a single vanishing point on a horizon line. What’s a horizon line?  I’m glad you ask.

 

The Horizon Line

The horizon line is an imaginary line in space or our picture plane where your line of sight lies. A visual example is when you are out in an open field. If you look directly where the ground and sky meet, you notice how they both form a natural line.

A field outside a ghetto neighborhood in Corpus Christi, Texas

An example of a natural horizon line outside a ghetto neighborhood in Corpus Christi, Texas. Notice how the sky and ground meet.

Given the fact that the world is actually round, a flat horizon line is really an optical illusion. If the world’s circumference were much smaller and you stayed the same size, the way the surface curves would become more apparent. Let’s see what a horizon line would look like on your picture plane.

A demonstration of a horizon line on a picture plane.

The red line, as noted, is your horizon line. As of now, it’s placed in the center of the picture plane. This line is where all of your objects will taper to, and where the viewer’s line of sight will be pointed to. Does the horizon line have to be centered? Of course not! You can bring it towards the bottom of your picture plane to draw the viewer’s line of sight downwards or up towards the top to move the view upwards.

The Vanishing Point

Now we need the other piece of the puzzle, the Vanishing Point. As we learned previously in this lesson, all objects taper towards a horizon line. They don’t just taper to just anywhere on the horizon line. Objects have to taper to a specific point. That point is the vanishing point. Just like the horizon line, your vanishing point doesn’t have to be centered either. It can be located anywhere on the horizon line.

In the example below, the blue X represents our vanishing point. Both the cube and the cylinder taper off towards the vanishing point. To highlight this, I used green vanishing or convergence lines. We use convergence lines to help us construct our objects in one-point perspective. (We’ll talk about how to use these lines later on in this lesson.)

An example of using a vanishing point on a horizon lineYou’ll notice in the example above, based on where you place your object, will determine which sides you’ll see. Objects placed above the horizon line, see the cylinder, will have their bottoms exposed. Objects place below the horizon line, note the cube, will have tops that are visible. This effect is similar to if you place your object towards to the left or to the right of the vanishing point. If you place a cube on top of the vanishing point, you will only see the front face or the side facing you. The example below demonstrates this:

Cube in various positions in one-point perspective.

How to Draw in One-Point Perspective

Now let’s apply what we learned to our drawing. I’ll take you step by step drawing a simple cube.

Step 1:

Draw your horizon line. Pick a vanishing point, and mark it out with an X.

Draw your horizon line. Pick a vanishing point, and mark it out with an X.

 

Step 2:

Step 2: Draw a square. This will be the front face of your cube.

Draw a square. This will be the front face of your cube.

 

Step 3:

Step 3: Draw your vanishing lines from your vanishing point to the corners of your square. These lines will help you construct your cube.

Draw your convergence lines from your vanishing point to the corners of your square. These lines will help you construct your cube.

 

Step 4:

Step 5: Draw a vertical line somewhere between the two vanishing lines that connect to the points on the right-side of the square.

Draw a vertical line somewhere between the two convergence lines that connect to the points on the right-side of the square. Using those same convergence lines as guides, connect the right-hand corners of the square to your vertical line.

 

Step 5:

 

drawing-a-cube-in-one-point-perspective-step06

A few of you may think, “Weren’t we done already?” That answer depends on where you had placed your square. Since I placed my cube on top of the horizon line, it certainly looked as if it was complete. For those of you who placed your cube above or below the horizon line, you’ll still need to draw your cube’s top or bottom. Go ahead and draw vertical lines from the far corners of your cube’s newly created side to the convergence lines that connect to the corners on the left-hand side of your original square. Complete the back-side with a vertical line. Using those same convergence lines, connect the left-handed corners of the front and back sides to complete your cube.

Step 6:

Shade and add in your details

Go nuts! You can simply shade your cube. Or better yet, use it as a basis for something like a building, a house, or anything else.

 

Your Home Work Assignment

This time around you have two assignments to complete. Your first assignment is to practice drawing cubes using one-point perspective. Keep drawing until you become more confident. This will lead to your second assignment, draw something using one-point perspective, and post your work on either the ChrisHilbig.com Facebook page or Tweet me(Use the hash-tag #OnePointPerspective) I’d love to see what you’ve done.

 

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  • Jonny Cadman

    Chris. I have a question for you. I have a 24 inch square that I’ve broken up into two inch squares around the perimeter. Like a checkerboard with just the perimeter squares remaining and the rest cut out. And the big hole would be centered on the horizon. I want to make these square into cubes that have surface space on the face that’s created by heading towards the vanishing point. My single vanishing point method works great for the top and the bottom but the issue I’m having is the sides. They’re the same as the top and the bottom in regards to size and it doesn’t have the same feel as looking through a door jamb that I’m after. I’m trying to crate the feeling of a portal and the single point isn’t doing it justice. Do you know the proper method. Any tips would be outstanding. Thanks a ton. Jonny

    • Hey Jonny,

      I’m trying to visualize what you’re trying to accomplish, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll have the same feel as looking through a door jamb. That’s simply due to the fact that wether you’re literally drawing an entry made up of cubes that are 2 x 2 inches when facing the viewer or a representation of such, there will be too much visual space between the cubes, and not a lot of depth (or the depth you want) from the sides of those cubes. That’s my interpretation.

      I think you’re currently suffering from the same problem that I run into. The ideas in my head look great until I commit them to paper. That’s when you need to learn how to adjust and become more flexible with your ideas. You may want try shortening the width of your hole or extend the length of your cubes towards your single vanishing point. Play around with your idea by roughing out different variations. If your subject exists in reality, try to find a photo of it or something similar and sketch it. Sometimes I try constructing what I want to draw in a 3D program such as Blender or SketchUp. That’s a great way of clarifying how a more geometric subject will actually look. What I teach here are just tools. There are no magic bullets.

      Good luck,

      Chris