A mathematical system for representing three-dimensional objects and space on a two-dimensional surface by means of intersecting lines that are drawn vertically and horizontally and that radiate from one point on a horizon line…
Although this definition sounds complicated, the concept is relatively simple. One point perspective is a drawing method that shows how things appear to get smaller as they get further away, converging towards a single ‘vanishing point’ on the horizon line. It is a way of drawing objects upon a flat piece of paper (or other drawing surface) so that they look three-dimensional and realistic.
Drawing in one point perspective is usually appropriate when the subject is viewed ‘front-on’ (such as when looking directly at the face of a cube or the wall of building) or when looking directly down something long, like a road or railway track. It is popular drawing method with architects and illustrators, especially when drawing room interiors. To understand more about the history of perspective in art, please read our accompanying Guide to Linear Perspective (coming soon).
Note: If you need to draw something that is not facing you directly, but rather has a corner nearest to you, two point perspective is likely to be more appropriate.
Rules of perspective: true shapes, vanishing points and horizon lines
In one point perspective, surfaces that face the viewer appear as their true shape, without any distortion. They are drawn using primarily horizontal and vertical lines, as illustrated by the diagram below:
In this one point perspective photo, surfaces facing the viewer are undistorted and show their true shape. For example, we see the side of the bath, window and facing surfaces as ordinary squares and rectangles. Their sides are parallel with the edges of the photograph.
Surfaces that travel away from the viewer, on the other hand, converge towards a single ‘vanishing point‘. This is a point that is located directly in front of the viewer’s eyes, on a ‘horizon line’ (also known as an ‘eye level line’), as illustrated in the photo below:
All receding edges of the buildings in this one point perspective photo angle towards the single vanishing point. The position of the vanishing point tells us that the photographer was crouching down, with his eye level lowered.
It is possible to draw over photographs to identify vanishing points, horizon lines and true shapes. Studying the work of famous artists can also help you gain an understanding of one point perspective, as shown in the example by Vincent van Gogh below.
‘Bedroom in arles’ by Vincent van Gogh – identifying perspective lines
- Surfaces that face the viewer are drawn using their true shape
- Surfaces that travel away from the viewer converge towards a single vanishing point
One point perspective tutorial
The following tutorial explains how to draw one point perspective step-by-step. The exercises are designed to be completed in the order given, with each one building upon the previous task. All worksheets are available as a free perspective drawing PDF that can be printed at A4 size (more worksheets will be added to this over time).
The downloadable PDF has been provided by the Student Art Guide for classroom use and may be issued freely to students (credited to studentguide.com), as well as shared via the social media buttons at the bottom of this page. The worksheets may not be published online or shared or distributed in any other way, as per our terms and conditions.
- Mechanical or ‘clutch’ pencil (with an HB or 2H lead)
- Blank paper and/or the printed worksheets
A ruler and compass can be useful while learning to draw in one point perspective, however most Art students find that these exercises are best completed freehand, with dimensions and proportions gauged by eye. This is so that the skills are easily transferrable to an observational drawing.
- Explain 1 point perspective drawing
- Draw an object in 1point perspective