How To Draw 3 Point Perspective

You can see 3 point perspective at work when you look at a picture of a tall building taken from near the base. In this situation, not only do you have the regular 2 point perspective, but the vertical sides of the building seem to draw together toward the top. They are pointing to a third vanishing point.

3 Point perspective-the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Amiens, France

So in your drawings, if you can find that third vanishing point, drawing 3 point perspective should not pose much more challenge than 2 point perspective.

There are two situations you must deal with in 3 point perspective: bird's eye view and worm's eye view.

In a bird's-eye view, you are looking down at objects from a viewpoint well above the horizon. Suppose you are standing on a hill looking down at a small town with houses and trees. To create a scene like that:

  1. First, set 2 vanishing points on the left and right sides of your drawing surface. Make sure to set them wide enough apart so that you will have room for whatever you are going to put in front of the horizon.

    Draw 3 point perspective

  2. Next, imagine a line (or draw one) connecting the first two vanishing points; this is your horizon line. Place a third vanishing point somewhere between the first two, but well below the horizon line.

    The closer together you place these points, the more extreme the “fish-eye lens” effect will be. The further apart the points are, the less effect you'll see from perspective.

    Draw 3 point perspective

  3. Now that you have your 3 vanishing points, let's create a flat surface (like the roof of a boxy office building). Draw 2 lines from the left vanishing point diagonally toward the right side of the drawing surface.

    Next draw 2 lines from the right vanishing point which intersect both the other lines. Connect the points where the 4 lines intersect and you have just defined the roof of your building.

    Draw 3 point perspective

  4. Connect the corners of the roof to the vertical vanishing point down below. At this point your guide lines should resemble something like an ice cream cone (possibly tilted). These lines are “vertical” in your painting (never mind what the slant is on the paper—in the 3 point perspective frame of reference, they're vertical).

  5. Pick the desired height of your building and mark it on the middle vertical line.

    3 point perspective

  6. Draw lines from the base point you just marked to both the left and right vanishing points. Where they intersect your other vertical lines defines the base of your building (and the walls).

  7. You can add features like windows or a sloped roof to suit your needs. Remember to make the windows and other architectural features subject to the same law of perspective. Same with trees and anything else you put in the painting.

When the vanishing point is below the horizon line, as in the above example, you have a bird's-eye view looking down on the scene. In a worm's-eye view, you are looking up at things and the vanishing point is above the horizon. Otherwise, you follow the exact same procedure as before.

3 point perspectiv e-a worm's eye view

Having this knowledge of how to draw 3 point perspective allows you to tackle any scene, whatever the viewpoint. Even if you never need to use it, understanding how the laws of nature govern what we see will shed light on why things look the way they do.

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