Make It Pop With Perspective! One-Point Perspective Drawing

The two-dimensional surface of a painting is called the picture plane. When figure artists attempt to represent 3-D on this 2-D picture plane, a basic knowledge of perspective is necessary in order to make the painting believable and realistic. Here’s an overview of the basics of one-point perspective to give your drawings depth and dimension.

"Representation of cubes in a one-point perspective" by Oliver Harrison

“Representation of cubes in a one-point perspective” by Oliver Harrison via Wikimedia

 Objects will appear smaller as they recede in the distance. In a one-point perspective, the plane of the object is facing the viewer.

Don’t stop here! Explore the many facets of perspective that take your works from flat to fully dimensional in the Craftsy class The Art & Science of Perspective. You’ll join artist and architect Jeff DiCicco as you create works of art so deceptively realistic, you’ll feel as though you can step inside!

What is one-point perspective?

One-point perspective is a perspective with only one vanishing point; the vanishing point being the place where all the convergent lines in the drawing are meeting. If you are looking at a rectangular object, like a building, the front plane of the object is directly in front of you. If the drawing used a two-points perspective, the angle of the object would be in front of you.

"Two-points perspective" by Mmroberts

“Two-points perspective” by Mmroberts via Wikimedia

In a two-points perspective, the object corner is facing the viewer.

In a landscape, the vanishing point will usually be situated at the horizon line. In an interior scene, it is usually situated at the center of the painting.

Notice that on the following examples of one-point perspectives:

  • All lines parallel to the picture plane are drawn parallel to each other.
  • All lines perpendicular to the picture plane are drawn converging to one point, which, in this case, is the center of the room.

"Shibai Ukie" depiction of the Kabuki theater Ichimura-za in its early days.

“Shibai Ukie” by Masanobu Okumura, depicting the Kabuki theater Ichimura-za in its early days via Wikimedia

In this interior scene of a theater, the lines parallel to the picture plane are all parallel, and the lines perpendicular to the picture plane are converging to the center of the stage.

Artist’s note: The artist of this painting, Masanobu Okumura (1686–1764), is thought to be the first Japanese artist to use a one-point linear perspective in an interior scene.

"Trinity" by Masaccio

“Trinity” by Masaccio via Wikimedia

In Western art, Renaissance painters were the first to use a one-point perceptive, often using architectural elements such as tiles on the floor and columns to create depth. Or, like in Masaccio painting above, the coffers on the vault (decorative squares on the arched ceiling) were used to emphasize the perspective effect in the picture plane.

Artist’s note: The above painting, entitled “Trinity,” was completed in 1428 and was one of the first paintings in Western art to show a greater understanding of one-point perspective in an interior space.

Claude Monet's "L'hôtel Les Roches Noires"

Claude Monet’s “L’hôtel Les Roches Noires” via Wikimedia

Artist’s note: You can tell there is clearly a use of one-point perspective construction in this painting by looking at the hotel on the right, which is balanced by the very eye-catching and roughly painted flag.

Since the Renaissance, perspective has been widely used by painters to depict depth, and it can be seen in the work of the Impressionists, as in the Claude Monet painting above. After the Impressionists came the post-Impressionists, causing paintings to become more abstract and experimental. At this time, most artists chose to ignore the “rules” of classical perspective.

"Still life, drapery, jug and fruit bowl" by Cezanne

“Still life, drapery, jug and fruit bowl” by Cezanne via Wikimedia

In this painting, the artist, Cezanne, seems less interested in classical realism and depiction of perspective as the painting becomes more abstracted: Shapes are simplified and look flat with an emphasis placed on the edges.

How to draw a simple shape in one-point perspective

Step 1:

horizon line

Draw a horizontal line.

Step 2:

vanishing point

Now, draw your vanishing point.

Step 3:

Add your single shape by drawing a square or a rectangle

Add a single shape by drawing a square or a rectangle either below or above your vanishing point.

Step 4:

Connect shape to vanishing point

Draw lines to connect each of the corners of your rectangle to the vanishing point.

Step 5:

draw parallel lines to connect background shape to vanishing points

Draw lines parallel to the sides of your rectangle that match up with the connecting lines.

Step 6:

finished drawing of a rectangle using one-point perspective

Now, erase all unnecessary lines to finish the drawing.

How do you use perspective in your paintings and drawings?

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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