one point perspective

One Point Perspective: A Guide

Understanding perspective can transform your art from flat drawings into realistic, dimensional masterpieces.

The one point perspective technique is particularly useful when drawing buildings, cityscapes, and room interiors, where the lines of edges and surfaces converge to mimic the way our eyes perceive distance and depth.

This guide aims to demystify one-point perspective, a technique that adds depth to your drawings by converging lines towards a single ‘vanishing point’ on the horizon.

What is one point perspective?

one point perspective

One point perspective is defined as a drawing technique and type of linear perspective that uses a single vanishing point on the horizon line to give an illusion of depth and distance in artworks.

cityscape drawing

This technique relies on several key terms including the horizon, vanishing point, and orthogonals. The “horizon” is the imaginary line where sky meets land or sea; this line can be placed higher or lower in your artwork to alter the composition. The ‘vanishing point’ is a single point in the artwork where all lines appear to converge, and the orthogonals are converging line segments that extend outwards from each corner of your object or building towards the vanishing point.

Drawing with one-point perspective

Once you understand the basic concepts, you can start to apply one-point perspective to your drawings. As a starting point, use a ruler to draw your horizon line.

Then mark the vanishing point on the horizon line. This is where all the lines will merge.

Orthogonals Linear Perspective

Finally, draw the face of the shape you want to draw and draw the orthogonal lines, converging towards the vanishing point on the horizon. The other sides of the shape will follow these lines towards the vanishing point.

It’s important to take your time and be precise when drawing in one-point perspective. Make sure the orthogonals are drawn correctly—if they’re not straight, the object will appear distorted. Additionally, use a pencil or pen for outlining as it will help you visualise the vanishing point more clearly.

One point perspective applications

Filippo Brunelleschi: Perspective drawing for Church of Santo Spirito in Florence

One point perspective is a type of linear perspective that applies to drawing scenes where there is a singular vanishing point, all the lines of the edges of the shapes in the drawing converge to that single point, except from the faces that are pointing towards the viewer.

Camille Pissarro: Boulevard Montmartre Morning, Grey Weather

It’s most commonly used for creating realistic drawings of landscapes, buildings, and interiors. For example, to draw a cityscape with one-point perspective, you would start by drawing the horizon line and vanishing point. Then add orthogonal lines to create rectangles (or other shapes) that represent building facades or street fronts.

One point perspective tips & tricks

  • Experiment to understand the relationship between the vanishing point and horizon line. If your object is large and closer the viewer, it will be higher than horizon and vice versa.
  • Practice drawing one point perspective by first drawing it with basic shapes such as cubes. When you feel more confident, try drawing a more complex image, like buildings and the surrounding details.
  • Before starting to draw, take time to map out what you want your object or building to look like from all angles and plan the composition of how all the elements will appear when together. This makes it easier to create realism in your drawing.
  • When drawing interior scenes, use the vanishing point and horizon line to map out furniture or people. This makes it easier to create a realistic sense of space in your artwork.
  • Perspective techniques can be used for portrait scenes as well—think about how you can create backgrounds in your portrait art.
  • Remember to focus on shape, proportion, scale and form when drawing with perspective.
  • Create atmospheric perspective when you come to shade or colour the drawing. Distant objects will appear lighter and more blue in tone.

Other types of linear perspective

Two-point perspective is similar to one-point perspective but uses two vanishing points positioned on the horizon line. This technique is often used when drawing architecture, vehicles, or other objects viewed from an angle, rather than straight on. The object’s edges that are parallel to the viewer’s line of sight do not converge to a vanishing point, but the lines that are orthogonal to the line of sight converge towards one of the two vanishing points. This technique allows for more dynamic and realistic depictions of complex forms and is particularly useful when drawing buildings or objects at an angle.

Three-point perspective takes things a step further by adding a third vanishing point, typically located either above or below the horizon line. This point represents the viewer’s line of sight looking up or down. In a three-point perspective drawing, all lines will converge towards one of the three vanishing points. This technique is commonly used to depict buildings or objects viewed from a high or low angle, creating an exaggerated sense of depth and scale, making the viewer feel like they are looking up at a towering skyscraper or down a long, winding road.

Both of these techniques build upon the fundamentals of one-point perspective, providing artists with more tools to accurately represent their world. Understanding how to use one, two, and three-point perspective allows you to choose the best approach for your particular drawing and helps you create more realistic, engaging artworks.