Vanishing points; finding the location of the vanishing points on the horizon?

by Summers
(Perth, W.A. Australia)

Question: Vanishing points; how do you work out how far they are from the PP? My question is simple, yet not one single source of information on perspective seems to answer it directly. My question is; "In a 2-point perspective picture, exactly how do we work out the location of the vanishing points on the horizon? Is there a specific formula or do we just guess a random position?

Your help would be much appreciated.

Answer: Great question! I'm not surprised that you could not find an answer to this. It's a bit difficult to explain in writing! If I could just show you it would be much easier but let me give it a shot anyhow. Now, there is much explaining to do so bear with me till the end!

Are you drawing the interior of a room or the exterior of a building? Once the concept clicks in your head you can apply the following rules to either interior or exterior spaces.

Lets pretend first that it is the interior of a room or hallway. Drawing in 2 point assumes that you are facing a corner (instead of a flat wall which would warrant 1 pt drawing). Ok, now look at the walls to either side of you. If you are standing at equal distances to both walls then the corner of the room will go smack in the center of the page and the vanishing points will be drawn somewhere off the page at equal distances from the corner of the room. To find out how far from the page you can either choose randomly or you can measure the angles using your pencil and transfer to them your drawing - unless measuring and angling comes easy to you I recommend choosing randomly!

(note: when drawing interior spaces, vanishing points should be drawn OFF the edges of your drawing paper! Otherwise objects near the corners of your page will appear distorted. Steps 5 and 6 on the 2 Point Perspective page explain in more detail).

Next lets pretend you are are standing closer to the wall to your right. Notice that you can now see more of the wall to your left than the one to your right. The wall to your right is now more foreshortened than the wall on your left.

This will dictate several things -

First, If you are standing closer to the right hand wall, and can therefore see more of the left hand wall, then you should draw the corner of your room closer to the right hand side of the page.

Second, this also means that the lines of the ceiling and floor of the right hand wall will meet with the vanishing point on the horizon at a wider angle - and they will reach their vanishing point sooner than the wall on the left, so the left hand vanishing point will be closer to the page (lines of both ceiling and floor of right hand wall will meet at a vanishing point on the left hand side of your drawing).

Third, you may notice that the wall on your left is less foreshortened. This means that the lines of the floor and ceiling of the left hand wall will meet their vanishing point at a more gradual slope. So you should draw the right hand vanishing point further away from the page (remember that this vanishing point is where ceiling and floor lines of the left hand wall will meet).

Have I lost you yet? Luckily you can re-read the answer as many times as you wish!

Ok, your next question might be: how close does the left hand vanishing point go and how far away do I place the right hand vanishing point?

Well, the answer would be: If you are drawing from life, you would measure angles to figure out the angle at which the ceiling and floor lines should be drawn on the page ... (watch the how to measure distances and angles video for detailed instructions).

However, if you are not drawing from life - you will have to simply guess at the actual distances.

Hope that helps! I don't know whether I answered your question exactly - please feel free to comment and ask further questions if you need.

Thanks for your question!

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Failing miserably
by: Anonymous

Question: I have looked at your videos and read your posts and instructions. I believe that I understand what I am reading and seeing until I try to practice the theory. My assignment for class is to draw a 2pt perspective of any room. I just cannot figure out where to start and how to place the furnishings without something looking like it is sitting incorrectly. I don't even know what question to ask....but, I need to accomplish this task. Can you suggest a room design that might be easiest to attempt? It doesn't have to be real--it can be made up or from a picture, or an actual room in my home. I'm lost. ;-(

Answer: Why don't you take a look at the room drawing in 2pt perspective (found int he 2pt perspective page on this website) and draw something similar? You can place an imaginary table or chair along one of the walls to make it a bit different. Good luck with your assignment - I'm sure you'll do very well!!

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