Perspective Cheat Sheet For Drawing And Painting
By Neil Blevins
Created On: Sept 7th 2015

So when you use a camera in either real life or in a piece of 3d software on the computer, you get the perspective for free. But when you're drawing or painting something from your imagination, you have to construct the perspective yourself. While you can certainly do it (one of the best books I've seen on how to do this is Scott Robertson's How To Draw), for a fast speed painting, you may not have the time to get everything in perfect perspective. In these cases, I'll sometimes use little cheat sheets to remind myself generally what a straight line would look from a specific camera position and lens, so my perspective is at least not totally off. Or I'll spend the time to fully set up my perspective, but then use a cheat sheet to double check I haven't made any big errors. Below is a set of cheat sheets you can use for your projects.

I use quite a number of different camera perspectives and types, here's a few notes:

Camera Position: I do Middle (which is a camera at eye height pointing straight out, with the horizon line in the middle of the canvas), Birds Eye (where we are placed high and looking down) and Worms Eye (where we are placed low and looking up).

Camera Lens: I use 3 different lenses, a 50mm (which is approx the same lens as in the human eye), a 200mm, which is a telephoto lens, usually used for making very far away things seem bigger, and a 16mm lens, which is a very wide angle lens.

Distortion Type: Some lenses have some distortion to them, a wide angle lens will usually have some barrel distortion, where the image puffs out from the center. And a telephoto sometimes has pin cushion distortion, where the image is getting sucked into the center of the image. I've done pretty extreme distortion in my examples to show the effect, but in reality the effect tends to be more subtle.

Front

Middle 50 mm lens
Horizontal lines of the cylinder tend to be a frown above the horizon line, a smile below, and straight across at the horizon line.

Middle 200 mm lens (Telephoto)
Flattens horizontal lines of the cylinder out so everything is pretty straight. Image flattens out where all objects seem to be on the same plane in space.

Middle 200 mm lens (Telephoto Pincushion Distortion)

Middle 16 mm lens (Wide Angle)
Horizontal lines of the cylinder make deeper frowns and smiles, objects close to camera appear to be even closer, and far away objects appear even farther.

Middle 16 mm lens (Wide Angle Barrel Distortion)

Birds Eye 50 mm lens
Horizontal lines of the cylinder tend to all be smiles because the horizon line is above the canvas

Birds Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto)
Horizontal lines of the cylinder are all smiles, but they are the same smile depth everywhere instead of getting deeper towards the bottom of the canvas. Image flattens out where all objects seem to be on the same plane in space.

Birds Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto Pincushion Distortion)

Birds Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle)
Horizontal lines of the cylinder make larger smiles, objects close to camera appear to be even closer, and far away objects appear even farther. All objects appear to converge towards a single point off the canvas at the bottom.

Birds Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle Barrel Distortion)

Worms Eye 50 mm lens
Horizontal lines of the cylinder tend to all be frowns because the horizon line is below the canvas

Worms Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto)
Horizontal lines of the cylinder are all frowns, but they are the same frown depth everywhere instead of getting deeper towards the bottom of the canvas. Image flattens out where all objects seem to be on the same plane in space.

Worms Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto Pincushion Distortion)

Worms Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle)
Horizontal lines of the cylinder make larger frowns, objects close to camera appear to be even closer, and far away objects appear even farther. All objects appear to converge towards a single point off the canvas at the top.

Birds Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle Barrel Distortion)

3/4s view


Middle 50 mm lens

Middle 200 mm lens (Telephoto)

Middle 200 mm lens (Telephoto Pincushion Distortion)

Middle 16 mm lens (Wide Angle)

Middle 16 mm lens (Wide Angle Barrel Distortion)

Birds Eye 50 mm lens

Birds Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto)

Birds Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto Pincushion Distortion)

Birds Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle)

Birds Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle Barrel Distortion)

Worms Eye 50 mm lens

Worms Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto)

Worms Eye 200 mm lens (Telephoto Pincushion Distortion)

Worms Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle)

Birds Eye 16 mm lens (Wide Angle Barrel Distortion)

So next time you're doing a quick speed painting, grab the image from here that has the closest perspective and lens choice and make sure you didn't do anything too atrocious. :)


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