Is Perspective Drawing Difficult to Learn?

Is Perspective Drawing Difficult to Learn?

Perspective is generally perceived to be one of the most challenging drawing systems to master. For most novices at least, this drawing method that can pose several problems, which inevitably led to mistakes and general frustration.

Why is perspective drawing challenging to learn? The issue of depicting a three-dimensional space or depth onto a flat surface has posed a problem for artists for centuries. Perspective is a technical drawing system which seeks to create the illusion of depth and space on a flat picture plane. Perspective drawing can be developed using any of the following methods:

  • Linear Perspective
  • Atmospheric or Aerial Perspective
  • Color Perspective

In this post, I will outline the basic principles of perspective. Plus, describe how you can create simple sketches to help you master the basic concepts. The technical aspects of this drawing method are one of the main reason why most people find it difficult to learn.

What are the fundamental Principles of Perspective

I will never forget how I learned to draw using perspective, during my technical drawing lessons in my early teens. Learning to apply the basic concepts immediately gave me the confidence to create a sense of space and distance on the picture plane.

Mastering the basic principles will immediately give you that sense of control that is required to create drawings successfully.

What is Linear Perspective?

What is linear perspective? Linear perspective is a simple method that employs straight linear lines to create the illusion of depth. This technique can fundamentally be broken down into three distinctive techniques.

One-point perspective sometimes referred to as single point perspective. Two-point perspective and three-point perspective.

This form of perspective lends itself to the drawing of rectangular architectural structures. Unlike organic and irregular subject such as flowers and figures which are not suited to this method of illustration.

Single Point Perspective. The simplest method of linear perspective, which I would recommend you begin with. Angle can be broken down into a few simple principles.

Firstly, the picture plane, which is a flat surface usually a piece of paper, onto which the artist wants to create the illusion of depth.

Horizon Line. What is the horizon line? Your eye level will primarily determine the place on the image where you want the skyline to appear. A low horizon line will give the impression of height, and a high edge will present an illusion of depth.

A simple exercise can be used to easily demonstrate this principle, is the application of a cut out viewing frame.

Hold the frame in front of your face and place it at your eye level. Moving the frame upwards will result in the lowering of the horizon line. This will give the viewer the impression of height with the viewers focus placed on what is above the eye level.

The same true once if the viewing frame is moved downwards. This will result in increasing the eye level with a resulting focus below the horizon line.

This is a fundamental concept, which is used in all forms of linear perspective and which is easy for the beginner to master, through the completion of several simple sketching exercises.

Vanishing Point. This is the point on the picture plane where all the lines converge at a single point. This can be located above or below the horizon line, or alternatively drawn on it. It is usual to find the vanishing point directly in front of sight, with all the vertical lines running parallel into infinity.

The Distance Point. This is the nearest point on the picture plane from which a straight line meets directly leads to the vanishing point.

For example, when a cube is drawn with an orthogonal line projected from the nearest leading edge of the form extending back to the vanishing point. This point which represents the distance from the object to the vanishing point is called the distance point.

Foreshortening. One of the main characteristics of perspective is that objects appear smaller as they recede into the distance. Foreshortening is the process creating smaller intervals along the line of sight as they recede into the distance.

Creating The Illusion of Distance Using 1 Point Perspective

As mentioned earlier in this post, if you are attempting to complete a drawing using perspective for the first time, it is advisable to begin a single point perspective.

Single point perspective will allow you to integrate all of the basic principles of linear perspective into one simple line drawing.

Firstly, begin by drawing the horizon line across the page, but making sure it is not central. Ensure that the page is placed in the landscape position and that you are drawing with a faint line, dark, heavy marks are not suitable for this type of drawing.

Next, draw five simple shapes in different parts of the page. Try to achieve a balanced arrangement of shapes. This can be accomplished by bringing a combination of large and small forms equally balanced around the page.

Progress onto drawing your vanishing point, when completing your first drawing I suggest that you keep it simple and position the vanishing point in the central area on the page.

Now that the main aspects of your drawing are in place, progress onto drawing faint lines from the edges of each shape back to the vanishing point. Once this stage is complete, you will have to render a series of forms or tubes which now appear to be converging into the distance.

The illusion of depth this creates can be taken a stage further with the introduction of foreshortening. As stated earlier in this post, the central principle of foreshortening is that objects appear smaller as they recede into the distance.

With this in mind, begin to subdivide these tubes into smaller and smaller intervals. The shapes have you have now drawn, should now appear to be receding into the distance. The option of add tonal shading or color is available, as the form of the shapes drawn can be enhanced with the addition of shadows and highlights.

Once this simple method of linear perspective has been mastered, progress onto attempting the more challenging aspects of two point and three-point perspective.

What is Aerial Perspective?

Aerial perspective is a technique which applies varying graduations of tone and color, to create the illusion of distance and space. One of the basic principles of aerial perspective is that features in the distance appear further away and are less distinct and more difficult to see.

Aerial or atmospheric perspective is the primary method artist use to illustrate the effects of light on objects or features on the picture plane, as it recedes into the distance.

The depiction of light and space is based on the fact that objects appear less distinct when they recede or are observed from a distance.

Shades of blue are rendered to reproduce the loss of color however this is dependent on atmospheric conditions such as the time of the day. Which can make features in the distance appear red or orange.

Atmospheric perspective also represents how different objects and features appear when illustrated under various climatic conditions, for example, fog, rain or dusk.

Simple Exercise To Render Aerial Perspective

The most straightforward approach of teaching the basics of Aerial Perspective is a simple tonal shadings task. This can be completed first using tonal shade and also with colored pencils.

Draw a basic landscape with two sets of hills. The form of the composition is simple, with 3 zone s of color or tone, the foreground, midground, and background.

  • Foreground, this area appears more distinct.
  • Midground, the application of graduated tone appears less distinct as it recedes into the background.
  • Finally, in the background, the hills which appear furthest away will be rendered with the faintest grade of tone.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

Recent Posts