Point Perspective


Perspective Car Sketching

When I begin a sketching program I almost always start by drawing only in side views. The point of early sketch work is for the designer to 'find' many ideas in a short space of time. By sketching in side view (and usually reasonably small) I can generate many pages of ideas very quickly. This is mostly down to the fact that you need to think about perspective very little, and can therefore concentrate on thinking about ideas. Almost the only element of perspective visible in these drawings is the way that you can see the far side wheels. This is due to the fact that in 1 -point perspective the only convergence lines that actually converge are those moving towards or away from the viewer.

Stage 1

You can see here that I have started by gently roughing in a ground line and two wheel positions. I have also lined in a shoulder height for the vehicle. The important thing to remember here is to keep your line work fast and light.

This way you can change and move things around as the sketch progresses. A common mistake when learning to sketch is starting a new drawing when you realise something is out of place. Don't! Continue with the drawing, using the mistake as a guide to amending the problem, increasing the darkness of your lines as you refine the sketch.

Stage 2

Car Perspective Drawing Lessons

Here I have lightly marked in the rough proportions of the vehicle, using a centre line and the window opening. When putting in the centre line try to avoid the temptation to shorten the overhangs too much by bringing the front and the rear very close to the wheels. Look at a photograph of a car in side view and you will see that the corner of the vehicle falls somewhere in the space you are leaving. If your vehicle has a lot of plan shape at the front or the rear then you will have to leave even more space.

Stage 3

Stage 3

Car Art Work Front Rear

I have now defined the top edge of the bodywork from the rear window, over the roof and down to the front bumper. Remember when drawing this line that it denotes the curvature over the roof and through the two screens (when looking directly from in front or behind the vehicle). For instance you can see that the rear screen has a little curvature, which flattens out into the roof (although not completely flat) and then as the corner surface travels into the windscreen the curvature increases. You can see that the closer the edge line is to the centre line, the less curvature is implied for the surface between.

Stage 4

Once you are happy with the general shape and proportion you can begin to firm up some of the details (remembering of course that it is only a sketch). I have added some light reflection lines in the side window and down the body side. I have also defined the front corner. Again the same rule applies here as when drawing the roof. The further the corner is from the centre line of the front end, the more curvature you are giving the front bumper in plan view (veiwing from above).

Planned View Car

This is the final stage before applying colour. Here you can see I have firmed up all the details I am happy with and added some detail to the wheels. It is always worth putting a little bit of effort into getting the spacing reasonably correct on the wheel details since it will lift the look of your sketch a lot. Also important to note is that the sketch is still very loose and fast in its line work. This will only come through perseverance and practice.

Stage 6

Stage 6

Drawing Cars Perspective

Once you are happy with the general design and proportions you can begin to add colour. Here I have simply shaded the windows and wheels using a dark grey marker five or six. Note that this does not have to be super accurate. I have then further darkened the lower area of the windows and the front wheels, by letting the marker dry and going over the area again. The reason I have only darkened the front wheels further, and not the rears, is to help give the drawing a sense of movement. If you give all areas of your sketch the same weight and level of work then the final result can look very flat on the page.

Flat Perspective Car

This is the stage where you will have to force yourself to not become 'precious' about your sketch. Hopefully you will now have a nice drawing on the paper, and to attack it in a loose and fast manner with a marker pen is not easy. These lines represent the scenery reflecting in the body side. You can see that I have continued the reflection in the window onto the bodywork and darkened down just beneath the shoulder. The area I have lightly markered half way up the body side actually represents the horizon line, which is reflecting from behind the viewer. The important thing here is to be very loose and to keep your choice of marker very light.

Stage 8

This is probably the simplest part of the drawing, yet the one where you really see your sketch coming to life. Just choose a colour of pastel similar in colour to the previous marker work and apply it along the length of the bodywork, centering just beneath the shoulder line. Do not worry about going over the edges of the drawing.

beneath the shoulder line. Do not worry about going over the edges of the drawing.

Car Perspective Drawing

You are now in the final stage of the sketch and really just finishing off. Using an eraser and gently rubbing out all the areas the pastel has fallen on upwards facing surfaces of the car, you can really bring out the 3D form of your vehicle.

This is the point you could actually stop. The drawing is now complete enough that anybody can look at it and get a good idea of the 3D form you are trying to describe. For a little bit of extra sparkle to the drawing however you will probably want to add the smallest hint of highlights.

Stage 10

By using an airbrush (if you are lucky enough this is easiest to do in Photoshop) you can brush a very quick faint line down through the bodywork. Then on all the upward facing surfaces it falls on, you can spray a light halo of white. Remember to be subtle here since you don't want to lose the definition of your surfaces, you only want to add that final bit of sparkle.

Quick Sketch Technique - Flat 2 Point Perspective

Whilst you are producing the side views you will want to work out what is happening at the front and rear of the vehicle. To do this without resorting to a simple front or rear view, you will now have to begin sketching in two-point perspective. For these early sketches however you will not want to get too lost in trying to draw good perspective. Because of this I like to sketch in a view I call flat perspective. Essentially this is a car



viewed at an angle but from down low so that all the convergence lines fall on the horizon line and through the centre of the vehicle.

Car Perspective Lines

sketch. Take note of the way the centre

Stage 1

You start this drawing in a similar fashion to the side view, by sketching in a ground line and two wheels. You can see however that this time the rear wheel is at an angle. The more you want to see the front of the vehicle the thinner this ellipse will be. Remember to sketch lightly, since you are now more likely to want to adjust things than when drawing a simple side view.

Stage 2

I have now added the profile of the vehicle. During this stage I am lightly working out the rough proportions and theme of the vehicle. If at this point I want to adjust something such as the position of the wheels, in order to fine tune the proportion of the vehicle, then I can. By sketching lightly at this stage you can make these adjustments without fear of spoiling your e is most visible on the more vertical surfaces

Stage 3

Here you can see that I have added the wheels from the far side of the car. A trick usually employed by designers is to exaggerate the position of the far side front wheel, putting it out in front of the car. This gives a dark background to emphasise the body shape of the bumper against. At this stage I am still working things out and sketching lightly, making changes where necessary. Also of note is the way the base of the windscreen is not simply horizontal. In fact from this angle you can see the swell of the hood in the way this line climbs towards the centre line and then disapears down the other side.

sketch. Take note of the way the centre

Stage 4

Once you are happy with your design and its proportions you can begin to firm up the lines you want to emphasise. These are usually the lines that represent a strong graphic element of your design. Other lines, which represent changes in the body surface should be left lighter, since you can emphasise these better with the use of colour and shading.

In this final stage before adding colour you can see that I have drawn the final details, and added some more light line work defining my surfaces a little better. Take note of things like how the shoulder highlight runs through the front wheel and down, becoming the corner of the bumper.

Stage 6

Now that you can begin to add colour to the design, the process is very similar to a side view sketch. You can see that I have used a dark grey marker, in a similar manner as the side views, to colour all of the windows. The reason for using such a dark colour on these elements, and a light colour on the bodywork, is that it makes the sketch easier to read. At a glance you can get a feel for the shape and graphic of the vehicle, because of the strong contrast.

surfaces and the general 3D feeling of the

Stage 7

Following the same rules as in the side view sketch, you can now add a little light marker work representing reflections in the body side. Keep these simple and loose without adding to much marker. You can see that I have also shaded everything on the far side of the centre line (with the exception of the upward facing surface on the bumper). This helps to emphasise the curvature of these sketch.

Stage 8

This, as in the previous example is the easiest part of the sketch. Just apply a quick brush of pastel along the body side of the vehicle.

Two Point Perspective Car

Using an eraser I have now picked out all the upward facing surfaces on the vehicle. This includes the surfaces of the spokes on the wheels. Try to be gentle when erasing against a line that represents a soft change in the body surface, since a sharply erased edge will obviously signify a sharp angle in the body.

Stage 10

Finally you can if you wish add some gentle highlighting.

Quick Sketch Technique - Full 2 Point Perspective

Proper two-point perspective is the hardest of the three examples here to get correct. For this reason I usually wait until I have a rough idea of my design before moving to this kind of view. It is however essential that you do learn to sketch using full two-point perspective, since sketching with simplified viewpoints does not allow you to fully resolve all the surfaces in a design. You can see in the graphic on the left that using this kind of perspective means that all parallel lines running both down the body side and across the front or the rear of the vehicle will converge. This can make it hard to figure out how to draw things such as sloping shoulder lines. A good way to practice to begin with is by sketching a simple cube or rectangle in perspective, and then by adding wheels at each corner. Once you are confident at this

Sketches Car Wheels

you can begin to add simple forms to this box, building the drawing into a more car like image. From there you can begin to disregard the box and only use the guidelines you feel will help you sketch your design.

Stage 1

I have started this sketch by drawing some simple guide lines, all showing the convergence of the parallel lines. Onto this I have sketched the wheels. You can see that as explained earlier, the major axis of the ellipses are at right angles to the axle lines on the vehicle. Remember to sketch lightly here as it is almost certain you will want to adjust your ellipses as the sketch


Stage 2

Ellipse Perspective

In the second step I have built up a simple side surface for the vehicle. You can see how the shoulder line of the vehicle also creates the rear corner, creating a single surface down the side of the vehicle. It is usually easier to work in this way, working out the major surfaces before adding the smaller surface details such as wheel arches. You can see I have also added the front shutline from the door to help me define this side surface.

Stage 3

This stage is the hardest part of drawing in perspective. You must now work out how the surfaces you have drawn on the near side of the vehicle will appear on the far side. There are some very technical techniques of perspective construction grids you could use to do this, but when sketching I prefer to work these out roughly in my mind. The important thing is that you understand the general rules and principles of perspective. From there you should practice sketching using only simple guidelines which will ensure that the sketches remain fast fluid and spontanious. It is usually helpful at this point to have some pictures of similar vehicles at the same angle of view on your desk that you can look at. As in the previous step you can see that I have worked out all the major surfaces first. Also of note is the way the tumblehome (leaning inwards) of the side windows flattens out the far edge of the vehicle. Again, looking at pictures of actual cars will help you get a feel for this

Stage 4

Once you are happy with the rough proportions and are confident you have got

Car Two Point Perspective

the major elements of the perspective correct you can add the rest of the detail surfaces. Note how the centre line of the vehicle can be used to emphasise the treatment of the surfaces. You can also see that I have exaggerated the plan curve of the rear by putting the far side lamp almost out of sight around the corner of the body.

Two Point Perspective Car

Stage 5

The final pen stage is to add some interior and alloy wheel details to the drawing. When adding the interior details you don't have to spend a lot of time, since all you want to do is give a suggestion of the shapes inside.

Stage 6

To shade the inside of the vehicle I have used two grades of marker. With these two markers you can achieve four tones of colour. By using only two grades of dark gray you can help keep the change in shades very subtle. If you half shut your eyes and look at the sketch, you should "read" the whole window, and not each separate shade. The same should be true after you have applied the colour to the bodywork, which is why you should choose a reasonably dark colour for your windows and a light one for the bodywork (or vice versa).

Stage 7

Remembering to keep things simple you can now add a light coloured marker to the bodywork. You can see that I have also added a little marker at the furthest edge of the vehicle. You could also try blocking in every surface on the far side of the centre line except the upwards facing ones, as shown in the flat 2 point perspective sketch

Stage 8

It can be easy to over-complicate the pastel work when shading a 2 point perspective sketch, since you try to 'correctly' shade every surface. I always try to resist this temptation, and try to use only two dominant areas of colour. The first one passes down the body side of your vehicle just as in the side view sketch, whilst the second goes on the far surfaces. This

Car Perspective Back View

leaves a core of brightness running through the surfaces closest to the veiwer, which helps give the sketch a strong 3D feel.

Stage 9

The last two stages are quick and simple. Add a quick bit of red marker or pencil to the rear lights and erase the pastel from the up facing surfaces just as in both previous examples...

Stage 10
Nascar Car

.and finally add the little bit of airbrush shine.

Allan Macdonald is an automotive designer currently at Volvo Trucks. His previous employment included MG-Rover and ARUP Design Research. He is a graduate of the MDes Transportation Design course at Coventry University, UK. Allan's tutorials are also featured in the book How to Design Cars like a Pro by Tony Lewin, Motorbooks International, 2003.

How Design Cars Like Pro

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