This article represents Part 3 of a mini-series that teaches how to draw in perspective. We continue now with the drawing rules for the second type of perspective known as the Two-Point Perspective Drawing.
Under Part 1. Types of Perspectives I explained the very basics of 3D space and how to generally capture the illusion of volume and space. I illustrated the main three types of perspective using just some cubes in space.
And then under Part 2. One-Point Perspective I introduce the drawing rules for the frontal view using one vanishing point.
What is two-point perspective?
Two Point Perspective represents a three-dimensional drawing system that creates the illusion of depth as an angular view. It’s actually a build up system over the previous one, One Point Perspective (Frontal Perspective).
Two Point Perspective is also known as Two Vanishing Points Perspective or Angular Perspective.
Whenever you notice an angular corner of an object or, outdoors when you look at a street corner, what is in front of your eyes is called Two-Point Perspective.
You may just look left or right, sitting or standing, looking up or down, in an indoor or outdoor environment and the view is still called Two-Point Perspective.
Who invented the two-point perspective?
Let’s start with a short historical context.
One hundred years later after the demonstration of the drawing rules for One-Point Perspective by Filippo Brunelleschi (1387-1446) there was another huge discovery for the art world on how to draw and paint with more convincing depth using a two-points perspective system.
Two-point perspective was demonstrated around the year 1525 by the German painter and woodcut artist, Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528). Dürer was already well-known for his masterpieces such as engravings for book prints and altarpieces.
Albrecht Dürer, a writer of the German Renaissance, is sometimes called the German Leonardo because of his work involving principles of mathematics, perspective drawing, and ideal proportions of the human body.
Dürer used a simple installation based on a pointer and a wire thread (a thread running through a pulley fixed on a wall). He demonstrated that the thread represents vanishing rays passing through the picture plane. As one person fixes the pointer on an object, another person records the X and Y coordinates of the thread as it passes through the frame (picture plane), and plots each new point to create a drawing. Check out this simplistic demonstration of Dürer’s method.
What are the two-point perspective drawing rules?
The drawing rules for Two Point Perspective are very similar to One Point Perspective meaning that we construct the drawing using vanishing points placed on the Horizon Line.
But this time, the observer sees a minimum of two planes at the same time, the Left side and the Right side (an angular view made out from 2 planes). So the logic is quite simple:
- for the visible left side plane, we construct from the Left Vanishing Point (LVP)
- for the visible right side plane, we construct Right Vanishing Point (RVP)
Of course, the third plane as the Top or the Bottom planes are also possible for a Looking Up or Looking Down perspective.
So the drawing rules and terminology for two vanishing points perspective are:
- Eye Level or Horizon Line (HL). The height from which we look within a certain angle, left or right, sitting, standing or climbing, represents the Eye Level. We can also look above and below the Eye Level.
- Vanishing Points (VP). The drawing is constructed with two vanishing points placed on the horizon line (Left Vanishing Point and Right Vanishing Point). These points represent imaginary points to which all lines facing the observer will converge.
- Narrow and Wider View. The vanishing points can be placed arbitrarily along the horizon line. The closer they are to each other, the narrow and more distorted the view will be. The farther the points are from each other the angle will be wider.
- Convergence. All edges moving towards the observer will converge to the two vanishing points.
- Parallelism. All vertical lines will always remain vertical and parallel among them.
- Diminution. All objects appear smaller as they recede into the distance, getting farther away from the observer.
Another purpose of two-point perspective is that it can be used to draw the same object as one-point perspective (frontal orthographic view) but this time, is being rotated under a certain angle (angular view). In my next two exercises I’ll demonstrate this.
Breaking down the two-point perspective rules from real photo references
I always say the same thing … start by observing!
The best way to understand perspective drawing is by simply looking and observing the space around you. Use real-life photography and start breaking down all the construction rules. And remember, perspective drawing simply means drawing volumes in space, with depth.
Use your own reference, take your own photos, indoor or outdoor, small objects or full scenery because this way you can be very specific in your study.
In my analysis, I specifically use street views simply because the reference feels “busy” by the multitude of elements and details. I also want to challenge my observational skills in simplifying everything that I see.
A good perspective drawing implies good observational skills and a very simplistic drawing style.
So here’s a step-by-step analysis process of a photo reference that illustrates two point perspectives. Keep in mind that I also use the same construction steps in my next two drawing exercises.
- Horizon Line. Identify the eye level of the observer or of the camera. Are you looking above or below eye level?
- Vanishing Points. Identify the 2 vanishing points, Left VP and Right VP because all the visible corners or edges are being constructed from these two imaginary points. Meaning that all the lines (except the vertical ones) will converge to these points.
- Closest element to the viewer. Identify the edge that is being the closest to the observer. This edge is always vertical and not tilted.
- Visible Planes and their center. In a two point perspective we always see 2 lateral planes at the same time. Sometimes we also see the 3rd plane as the top or the bottom. Any plane in perspective has a center point that helps to divide that face in half, third, quarters. Use the intersection of the diagonal to establish the center point.
- Contextual details. Once you have the construction lines and volumes in place start to add the contextual details which basically are just wrapping the forms. Keep this step very last so you don’t get last along the way.
Feel free to draw over your own photos. You are not cheating! You are learning by deconstructing. You are reversing the engineering plus, you are training your observational skills.
Now, after analyzing the general construction method, let’s draw from scratch in two points.
As I’ve said, the two point perspective is also being used to capture the same object from different angles of view. Obviously if we draw a small object (like a coffee cup) it means we are rotating the object along its own Y axis. But, if we draw a larger object (like a vehicle) it means that the observer is moving and rotating around that object.
In my next two drawing exercises I suggest drawing a small trailer in two different angles. Don’t forget that in 2VP perspective we always see 2 lateral planes at the same time and the only element which has a frontal alignment towards the observer is just a vertical edge (the closest edge to the camera).
So let’s draw:
- Exercise 1 – Rear and Left views which are visible at the same time – as angular view above the eye level.
- Exercise 2 – Rear and Right views which are visible at the same time – as angular view at the eye level.
Exercise 1. Rear and Left view – as angular view above the eye level
We basically have the two main primitive shapes: a cube is the trailer’s body and a cylinder is a wheel. Pretty easy to draw them, right?
The drawing process is a 5-steps process, just as I mentioned above. We start with a construction process using the vanishing points and then we sketch out the details.
- Step 1. Establish the Horizon Line or the Eye Level.
- Step 2. Establish the Vanishing Points and the distance between them, Left VP and Right VP. The more space is between the vanishing points the wider the view will be.
- Step 3. Establish the closest element edge to the viewer. In this case it’s a singular edge since the construction is just a cube. And that edge is always vertical.
- Step 4. Find the center point of visible planes. The wheels are aligned with the middle of the lateral sides so I must know where the bottom center of the Left and Right sides is so I can place the wheel there.
- Step 5. Add the contextual details. Be very sketchy and just give a contextual feeling of light and texture. Keep it simple and don’t over do it.
Exercise 2. Rear and Right view – as angular view at the eye level
Remember that what we want to capture is the “illusion” of volume and space of the same object but this time from a different angle of view.
It’s like taking photo snapshots of the same object. I imaginary rotate around the trailer, I stand or squat while taking those snapshots so that I experiment with a different Eye Level at the same time with a different angle.
I follow the same exact 5 steps as I mentioned above.
- I block first the volume of the cube as the trailer’s body.
- I block the position and the volume of the cylinder as the wheel.
- I’m adding simple sketching details.
Perspective drawing can be a challenging thing for most beginners. When you look at a finished scene it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the visual information (shapes, light, colors, texture) and sometimes it’s challenging to break down the very basics.
But if you practice like I’ve done, master the simple forms first and afterwards you wrap it with some nice details. That’s a great recipe for learning 3D drawing.
In perspective drawing there’s no such thing as random lines. All the lines have a convergence or parallelism relationship. And then the center of any plane is established using the intersection of the diagonals.
But then as artists we don’t need exact precision, we don’t need mathematical calculations nor measurements. We do need a very strong feeling of space, volume and depth. And you get a grasp of that by simply breaking down everything to the basic rules.
The secret is simple. Work from inside-out. Volumes first, details later!
Start with construction shapes first in order to establish a believable 3D volume and then, add the necessary details to give it a style and visual cues. And easily increase the complexity of your work.
When you feel like you are ready to go out of your comfort zone then start working with multiple objects at the same time until you get to a full scenery.
Related Drawing Articles
- Practical Guide In Perspective Drawing. Part 1 – Types Of Perspectives.
- Practical guide in Perspective Drawing. Part 2 – One point perspective drawing.
- Get Started With Sketching In 8 Exercises. Warm-Ups For Eye-Hand Coordination