What are the laws of perspective

Types of perspective & perspective representation when drawing

The perspective representation when drawing serves to give the viewer a feeling of spatial depth, of dimensions and three-dimensionality. In art history, when drawing, painting or even photography, there are different types of perspective representation, some of which are used in very different areas.
If you also want to give your pictures more three-dimensionality, the following types of perspective offer you the best options for making your drawing three-dimensional.

Different variants of geometric projection are used to apply perspective distances between objects and to align different objects with one another. These are the main types of perspective you need to know for your drawing:

Geometric projection methods

Central projection

Central perspective

The most classic variant is the central perspective. In the central perspective, all lines of a drawing run towards the center of the picture. The vanishing point, towards which all lines run, lies exactly in the center of the picture and thus gives a symmetrical feeling. This type of central perspective vanishing point is used, for example, in religious paintings, but is also one of the guiding principles of filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick. You represent planes that run parallel to the viewer as surfaces, all orthogonally running lines flee to the center of the picture - this has a particularly spatial effect.

2 point perspective

As a 2-point perspective, the characteristics of the perspective are less obvious, because in this use of the central projection the planes running parallel to the horizon are not parallel to the image planes. So here the levels flee to their own vanishing point.

The frog and the bird's eye view

Two special cases of central projection are the frog and bird's eye view. With these types of perspective representation, our focus lies below (frog's eye view) or above (bird's eye view) the motif of the drawing. However, you should use these types of perspective with caution, as a bird's eye view makes the object appear very small and objects or people appear overpowering from the frog's perspective. This shifts the power structure between viewer and subject. When used carefully, you can create a great effect with these two types of perspective representation.

Fisheye perspective

The fisheye perspective is mainly known from photography, as very wide-angled lenses distort the edges of the image. But you can also use this representation in the drawing and thus enlarge the perspective. For this purpose, all lines that do not go through the center are shown curved and smaller - so a viewing angle of 180 degrees or more is possible.

Book tip

Draw perspective & space:
The basics of perspective drawing

This book is entirely dedicated to the subject of "Perspective Signs". Above all, it describes the most important principles for implementing the vanishing point perspective.

You will find many examples and exercises in it, in which you can learn the spatial representation of many different objects from the most varied of views.


Learn to draw - part 2:
Perspective & space

An eBook about perspective drawing and the application of vanishing point perspective.

Here you will learn the most important basics for drawing with the vanishing point perspective. In many examples and exercises you will learn the spatial representation of many different objects from the most varied of views.

Parallel projection

The parallel projection appears less three-dimensional than other types of perspective representation, since with the parallel projection all lines of sight (i.e. the rays running from the eye to the horizon) run parallel to one another. As a result, a drawing loses its plasticity in the parallel projection, the various images in the picture appear like two-dimensional planes.

Orthogonal projection

In orthogonal projection, the lines of sight hit the projection surface at right angles.

Main plan / three-panel projection

With normal projection - also three-panel projection - the main cracks of the motif are shown. As a rule, the three sides are shown: front side and top. That is why there is also talk of a three-panel picture.
A spatial object cannot be clearly identified through a main crack alone, since only two of the three spatial coordinates can be mapped. To define a motif, you need at least two main cracks (e.g. floor plan and elevation).

Axonometric presentation

The axonometric representation, in turn, is a subtype of orthogonal projection and is particularly helpful in drawing for spatial understanding, since all three dimensions are mapped simultaneously in axonometric. Such a representation is known, for example, from building instructions. There are several subtypes of axonometric projection: the isometric, the dimetric and the trimetric projection - the only important thing is that you can represent all three dimensions of the objects from your point of view.

isometric axonometry
30 ° / 30 ° angle
Aspect ratio 1: 1

dimetric axonometry
Angle 7 ° / 42 °
Aspect ratio 1: 2

Inclined or oblique parallel projection

In the oblique or oblique parallel projection, the lines of sight hit the projection surface at an angle. The oblique projection methods include the cavalier perspective, the cabinet perspective, and the military perspective.

Cabinet projection
Angle 0 ° / 45 °
Aspect ratio 1: 2

Non-geometric projection methods

Meaning perspective

The perspective of meaning is mainly known from medieval and religious art, but directors such as Hitchcock or DePalma also use this type of perspective narration to draw increased attention to certain motifs. In the perspective of meaning, the real size and the relationship of the objects to one another is irrelevant. The size of a picture object reflects its meaning, the perspective of meaning is freed from the realism of perspective representation.

Color perspective

Finally, the color perspective remains to be mentioned, which creates a subtle perspective in the colored drawing or digital composition. Unlike the previous types of perspective representation, the color perspective does not work through the creation of a geometric spatial structure, but through the choice of the chosen color tones. This is based on the effect that objects that are further away appear paler and more bluish to the human eye. Choosing a bluish, brightened color palette for distant objects conveys the feeling of spatial distance, even without perspective tricks.

The right picture from the right point of view

There are many different ways to give a two-dimensional drawing the illusion of spatial depth or to depict spatial depth in a pictorial form. The choice of the respective types of perspective depends heavily on the subject, as the perspective has a great influence on the perception of the image and can generate feelings such as sublimity, power, symmetry or even religiosity and determination when looking at it.
With the right perspective you can put your object in the right light and add an additional dimension to every drawing. Perspective is one of the key elements of the composition and you should weight it accordingly.

Book tip - perspective drawing:

Do you want to learn more about perspective drawing? Then you should take a look at my book. It describes the basics of the vanishing point perspective and uses many examples and step-by-step instructions to illustrate the most varied of room situations.

► Draw perspective & space