Figures in Perspective

Drawing a single figure in the middle of an empty piece of paper may be fine, but what if you want to show a group of people, and you want to place them in a setting? In this case, it is important to understand something about perspective. Perspective deals with the figure's relative size compared to everything else around it. For instance, if a character is standing in a room, you want him to look as if he will fit through the door behind him.


Horizon Lin Eyeline Sky

Horizon Line: The line where the Earth and the sky meet. It is also your eye-level line.

Vanishing Point: The point(s) where all parallel lines meet on the horizon line.

Point Perspective Figures

One-Point Perspective

The first type of perspective is called one-point because there is only one vanishing point on the horizon or eye-level line. Lines that meet at this point show how an object's apparent size shrinks as it moves away from the viewer.

Vanishing Horizon Line


Point A m

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Vanishing Point B

Two-Point Perspective

In two-point perspective there are two vanishing points. One point connects with the length, and the other with the width of an object. The third dimension, the height, is represented by parallel lines that run up and down.

Vanishin. Point A

Use the Horizon Line as a Guide

Remember that anything that lies on the horizon line is at the same height as the viewer's eyes. For example, a standing character whose eyes are on the horizon line is the same height as the viewer, no matter how close or how far away they are. The eyes of taller people are above the horizon, and shorter people are below.

Vanishin. Point A

Manga Point Arm Foreshortening Side One

Practice Basic Foreshortening

Imagine an arm in a cylinder. As we turn the two, notice how the cylinder and the arm taper toward the back. The farther end gets smaller, shrinking as if toward a vanishing point. Note also that as the arm points away from you, you tend to see less ofthe length. It appears to get shorter. This effect is known as foreshortening and it is a very important concept for any artist to master.


There are entire books dedicated to teaching perspective. I only touch on the basics here, so if you are a serious art student it is a good idea to pick one of these books up. Check out page 94 for some recommendations.

Point Perspective Manga Drawing
Running Figure

Looking at this running figure gives you some idea of how foreshortening is used in a drawing. Both the upper arms are foreshortened. The body is leaning forward, so the chest appears flattened. And the free leg is at such an angle that we no longer see the lower half of it. Foreshortening is a powerful tool for creating depth in your drawings, but there are right and wrong ways to use it.

Bad Foreshortening

Consider the first figure here with his finger pointed at the viewer. Because the pointing arm is aimed directly at us, we can hardly see any of its length. While this may be technically correct, it is visually poor. This view makes it extremely difficult to even identify that as his arm.

Good Foreshortening

Now the arm is pointing slightly off to the side and down. This lets us see enough of the length to read it as an arm, but still gives the impression that he is pointing at us.

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