Master Three Point Perspective With This Step-by-Step Guide

Drawing Three Point Perspective

Three-point perspective adds depth and realism to your drawings. It’s a bit different from one-point and two-point perspectives. In three point perspective, you use three vanishing points to create your drawing to give it a 3D look.

Step 1: Define the Horizon Line

First, draw your horizon line. This is where the sky meets the ground.

If you want to draw something below the horizon, put the line at the top of your paper.

If the object is above, place the line near the bottom. For this image I have placed it in the middle of the page.

drawing a horizon line for three Point Perspective

Step 2: Place the Vanishing Points

You need three vanishing points. Two go on the horizon line, just like in two-point perspective.

The third vanishing point goes above or below the horizon line.

This third vanishing point gives your drawing a dramatic effect.

My vanishing points are marked with a little ‘x’ but you can simply add a dot with your pencil.

adding vanishing points for three Point Perspective drawing

Step 3: Draw the Lines For The Main Object

From the Third vanishing point not on the horizon like, draw a straight line to the bottom of the image.

We will use this as a guide for the other orthogonal lines to the two horizon line vanishing points.

Orthogonal lines are lines that are perpendicular to each other, forming right angles. In the context of art, especially in linear perspective, orthogonal lines are lines that converge at a vanishing point on the horizon.

These lines help create the illusion of depth and three-dimensionality on a two-dimensional surface, guiding the viewer’s eye into the space of the artwork.)

Mark a spot on this line for where the top of the building will be. I have placed a dot.

From this dot, draw orthogonal lines to the other vanishing points.

Now draw a line from the top vanishing point to past the horizon line so that you can create the walls of the building or structure. Do this on both sides.

drawing main object lines for three Point Perspective drawing
Drawing main object lines for three-point perspective drawing

Step 4: Add The Other Orthogonal Lines From The Horizon Line Vanishing Points

Now from each of the vanishing points on the horizon line, draw intersecting lines going to the center of the page. As per the image below, they need to cross over at the intersecting point to look even.

This will form the basis of the ground floor of the building/structure. Giving it a three dimensional look already.

Repeat this step for every floor you want for your building.

adding orthogonal lines for three Point Perspective drawing
Adding orthogonal lines for three Point Perspective drawing

Step 5: Add More Detail Lines From The Other Vanishing Points

At this point you may want to add some additional details that can be used for walls or lines for windows.

So you can repeat some of the lines drawn from the top and third vanishing point downwards.

You can now repeat the same from the horizon line vanishing points to show floor details if needed (as per below).

more orthogonal lines for three Point Perspective drawing
Adding more orthogonal lines for three Point Perspective drawing
Adding additional lines from the horizon line vanishing points for three Point Perspective drawing
Adding additional lines from the horizon line vanishing points for three Point Perspective drawing
Repeat additional orthogonal lines to help define floors and walls for three Point Perspective drawing
Repeat additional orthogonal lines to help define floors and walls for three Point Perspective drawing
add some lines from the top vanishing point to help define walls going down for three Point Perspective drawing
Add some lines from the top vanishing point to help define walls going down for three Point Perspective drawing
Now adding some lines to help define the 3D look for each floor for three Point Perspective drawing
Now adding some lines to help define the 3D look for each floor for three Point Perspective drawing

Step 6. Optional Step – You Can Add Transversal Lines

Horizontal Transversal lines are lines that run vertically across a drawing or painting, often used in the context of perspective to intersect with orthogonal lines. They help with the illusion of depth.

In perspective drawing, these lines are used for creating the sense of height and for dividing space into sections.

They help maintain the proportional relationships of objects as they recede into the distance, ensuring that the perspective remains consistent and accurate.

Adding some transversal lines to the base of the 3 point perspective drawing can give the illusion of depth
Adding some transversal lines to the base of the 3 point perspective drawing can give the illusion of depth

So if needed, from the horizon line and going down, draw lines across the base of the image and each line should have more space or gap from the one above. These lines should connect with the orthogonal lines, adding more depth.

I find that these are not really needed for most drawings but if you add a lot of them you can easily create the illusion of depth.

Step 7: Refine Your Drawing

Add details to your drawing. Start using a darker pencil or pen and make sure lines look straight and connect well with the vanishing points.

Refining the 3 point perspective drawing by adding detail to the structure drawn
Refining the 3 point perspective drawing by adding detail to the structure drawn

If done right, your box will look like it’s in a lifelike space.

  • Practice by drawing intersecting roads that disappear into the distance.
  • Use a low eye level to show buildings towering above. Do this by placing the third perspective point lower down the page and even below the horizon line.
  • Experiment with different objects and shapes to get better.

Three-point perspective may take time to master, but each drawing will improve your spatial orientation skills.

Keep practicing, and soon you’ll make complex, engaging illustrations.

three point perspective definition using skyscraper as an example

Examples of Three Point Perspective

A Tall Building from a Low Eye Level

Imagine you’re standing close to a towering skyscraper. Look up. The building’s sides seem to taper towards the sky.

This happens because of the third vanishing point, way up high. Draw the horizon line below the building.

Place two vanishing points far apart on this line. Set the third point above everything else. Use orthogonal lines to connect corners to these points.

This makes the building appear to soar.

tall building from low level three point perspective

Looking Down at a Street Intersection

Think of being in a tall building, looking down a busy street with intersecting roads. The horizon line sits high.

Place two vanishing points on it. The third vanishing point drops below your view, off the page. Imagine drawing the roads leading away.

Use orthogonal lines to join edges to all three points. This gives the streets depth, like a map coming to life.

tall building from a high view point for three point perspective

Box Shape at an Angle

Begin with a simple box shape, like a cereal box. Set the horizon line above or below your box for different views. Imagine the box tilted, showing different sides.

Place vanishing points – one on the left, one on the right, and one far above or below. Connect box corners to these points.

This illustrates how the box’s sides converge, adding realism to your drawing.

cereal box 3 point perspective drawing

Lifelike Space with Buildings

Picture a scene with multiple buildings. Draw the horizon line where the ground and sky meet. Place three points – two on the line, one above or below.

Using orthogonal lines, sketch buildings’ edges toward these points. Add details like windows and doors using vertical transversal lines to enhance depth.

This method creates a lifelike space, making buildings pop out.

multiple buildings drawn with 3 point perspective

Drawing a Cross in Three Point Perspective

drawing of a cross with 3 point perspective

To draw a cross in three point perspective, start with defining your horizon line. This line helps establish your perspective.

Place three vanishing points: two on the horizon line and one above or below it. These points guide the angles of your drawing.

First, draw a vertical line. This line is the spine of your cross and connects to the third vanishing point.

To find the width of your cross, draw two diagonal lines from the second and third vanishing points. These lines will guide the arms of your cross.

Next, add the horizontal arms. Draw two lines that extend outward from the vertical line. Make sure they point toward the first and second vanishing points.

Check that these arms seem parallel but remember they actually converge at the vanishing points.

Complete the ends of your cross. For the top, draw a short line from the vertical line that points to the third vanishing point.

For the bottom, make the vertical line longer so it seems to disappear toward the third vanishing point.

Add depth with orthogonal lines. These lines connect the endpoints of your cross pieces back to the vanishing points.

They create a three-dimensional look. Imagine these lines as spider legs reaching back to their sources.

Finally, refine your cross with vertical transversal lines. These lines help keep proportions correct. Make sure each part of your cross looks balanced and realistic.

That’s it. With practice, your cross will look lifelike and fit well into a space with other objects drawn in three point perspective.

Differences Between One, Two and Three Point Perspective Sketches

One Point Perspective Sketches

One point perspective uses a single vanishing point on the horizon line. Imagine standing in the middle of train tracks and looking straight ahead.

The tracks seem to meet at one point in the distance. That’s one point perspective in action.

This method works well for drawing roads, hallways, or buildings in a straight-on view.

  • Vanishing Point: One
  • Ideal For: Roads, hallways, simple building facades
  • Example: Drawing a street where all lines converge to a single point

Two Point Perspective Sketches

Two point perspective uses two vanishing points on the horizon line. Think of standing at a street corner and looking down two intersecting roads.

Each road seems to vanish at different points on the horizon.

This method is great for drawing box shapes, giving them depth and dimension.

  • Vanishing Points: Two
  • Ideal For: Corner views of buildings, cityscapes
  • Example: Drawing a building from a corner where lines converge to two points on the horizon

Three Point Perspective Sketches

Three point perspective introduces a third vanishing point, often above or below the horizon line.

Picture looking up at a tall building from a low eye level or looking down from a skyscraper.

This method makes your illustrations dramatic and lifelike. It’s perfect for depicting height and depth.

  • Vanishing Points: Three
  • Ideal For: Tall buildings, looking up or down viewpoints
  • Example: Drawing a skyscraper with lines converging to three points, creating a realistic three-dimensional look

Using these techniques, you can create convincing.space in your drawings. Practice with each perspective to understand how parallel lines and vanishing points work together.

Whether you are sketching a simple road or a complex cityscape, knowing these methods helps you create visually stunning and accurate illustrations.

three point perspective building

Three Point Perspective Overlay

By overlaying a three-point perspective grid onto a drawing, artists can accurately plot the dimensions and angles of objects, ensuring that all lines converge correctly towards their respective vanishing points, creating a cohesive and realistic depiction of spatial depth.

You can create a 3 Point Perspective Overlay for any drawing or artwork that depicts a scene in 3 dimensions but as in nature, not all drawings will strictly follow the rules but they will come close.

You can easily make a three point perspective overlay by drawing over the existing drawing or creating a new layer using transparent paper or plastic.

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