Anime-by-Example June 28, 1998 Update

  This Page is Printer Friendly!

3-D Perspective

 This Page is Printer Friendly!



        Alright! So you've decided you want to do 3-D perspective, and you're having problems. 3-D's really not that hard, once you get the knack of it. You'll see.

        For those who don't know much about perspective, here's a little tid-bit. Perspective, in this sense, does not means "a person's opinion," rather, it pertains to the way objects are distorted when we look at them: a long highway reaching beyond the horizon (thereby narrowing until the road's width converges to one single point on the horizon; effectively, a pair of intersecting lines). When you put your hand in front of your face, your hand blocks your whole field of vision. THAT'S perspective.

Depth Width and Height

        Okay, before you go clambering off trying to master 3-D objects, let's start with the basics:

Implementing Perspective

There are a few things you should know about perspective before we move on:

The Different 3-D types

0-Point Perspective.

Notice all the "length" sides are parallel, all width sides are parallel, and all height sides are parallel. I forgot the geometric term for this condition, but the box in this form is said to be not realistic: it has no point perspectives. You know that Nintendo 64 logo that spins around? That's irregular 3-D.

1- Point Perspective

The width lines are pinched and grouped so that all the lines seem to originate from one point. Notice how lines in the other 2 dimensions still remain infinitely parallel to the all the lines of their kind. This is the most simple of the perspective drawings, and consequently, the most widely used for drawing backgrounds and extra little things in a picture.

This type is only useful for objects which have a side faced DIRECTLY head on to the camera (angle of picture).

A lot of shots utilize the "radial spoke"-like properties of the one-point perspective. Tunnels are often shown coming head on from a perspective point located at the center of vision.

2- Point Perspective

Now both the length and width are bounded each by a single point. It's as if the length and width are "pinched". When drawing 2-point perspective objects, usually the 2 points are positioned on the horizon and the object lines are extended from them to the correct shape boundaries.

3-Point Perspective

(3-pt object viewed from above)

(3-pt object viewed from below)

Finally, the third point is added to bind the height lines. This gives the effect that as you look down upon the object, the object tapers off into the distance below you. Notice how the box seems to appear way lower than the observer. Look familiar? A lot of shots in movies and animation that look down on a city from a roof top employ this general shape of building.

Similarly, if you wanted to draw a building as you would view it looking up at it, simply place the height-point above the 2-point horizon. See the bottom drawing.

  • REMEMBER! A common mistake is made when people taper buildings off to a point! Notice now there is actually an implied bottom face to the top 3-point object shown. If it's a building you're trying to draw, don't forget the area that the building will occupy in relation to the street around it.

Multi-Point Perspective

Basically, you can combine the perspective types together in one picture. See how I combined the 2 point and 3 point together? It works! You can even create a new set of 2- or 3-point from which to create another object rotated at a different angle.

Think of objects as having certain perspective attributes of their own. For example, The top object in this picture has 3-point justification. It is independent from the 2-point justification object in front of it. This is an extreme case, and looks kinda bad, but it shows how you can easily use different point-perspective objects in the same picture.


"Okay," you think, "I've got that much down. Now I'm having problems scaling the 3-D to look realistic."

Application and Examples

Buildings and Planar Structures

Drawing buildings is a reatively easy task. A simple building structure is basically a shaded box. Whether you choose 2-point or 3-point type buildings, you always use the same process, draw length, width, and height lines from the respective length origin point, width origin point, and height origin point. From there create a box plane by using two of the three dimensions (for example, use the length and width to create horizontal roofs and platforms, etc.).



2-Point Perspective Application

Take a look at an example I scrounged up around the house:

(Click on the image to see a larger picture.)

I did this picture as my final for an art class at my school. I had to be careful that at a certain distance, all objects would be the correct size in relation with each other. For example, The chairs at the kitchen counter look like someone could sit in them and be able to reach over to the torso-length shelf and grab a reasonable hand-sized bottle of seasoning.The books in the small entertainment room (the room at the bottom right, behind the stairs to the first floor) look correct such that you could lay them on the couch or easily grab one, without having them be too big or too small.

  • Look, you don't have to get the perspective proportions exactly, but make sure you've scaled around the right size.


Click on image for a larger picture

This was a 3-point exercise that I did in the same class. Notice the three points which everything in this picture originated from: the two top points, and the center point which everything radially "explodes" from. This picture shows you what you can accomplish with a little time, effort, and most importantly perseverance (hey get off your butt and start drawing! It's summertime [as of 6-26-98], so don't get lazy!). Don't just draw boxes.

  • REMEMBER! All buildings have a base, so don't taper the bottoms of the buildings to a single point. That's usually bad, and it's a bad habit.

Characters Subject to Perspective

If you are aiming for a dynamic shot, where the camera is either looking down on a character, or a camera is situated on the ground looking up at a him/her, then the characters' proportions need to be changed to accommodate for the change in perspective. The normal equal measurements for the torso, arms, and legs no longer hold true. Well, actually, they are distorted in such a way that the parts of the body that are farther away from the camera appear smaller than those parts which are closer up. Of course, you probably knew this already.

Take a look at this Evangelion group picture:

Notice how the size of Asuka, Rei and Misato's heads are different, the one closest to the camera being the largest. Now, the parts of the body can be viewed similarly to the three heads: those closer are bigger. I know it's a stretch in thinking, and please tell me if you find a better way to explain it. Think of each part of the body (torso, lower arm, upper arm, wrist, fingers, upper legs, head, lower legs, etc) as a separate "head". Therefore, when subject to perspective, they are transformed similarly to the three EVA girls' heads. The only difference is that you must make sure the body parts look WELL CONNECTED.

That takes us to this next Evangelion picture, which employs such a technique.

Is something wrong with the proportions? Of course they are! They're supposed to be! Surely, Asuka's fist isn't really as big as her head. We all know that it's just closer to the camera. And look at Shinji's satchel. It's looks way too small to carry books-- or even a lunch at that. but when given the scope of the rest of the perspective, we realize that it really is quite big.
  • REMEMBER that objects at any given distance from the camera will be proportional in size to other objects at the same distance from the camera.

We see that it is basically the case. In reality, Shinji's luggage is big enough to hold an average-size textbook (he's a schoolboy). Take a magazine-- Animerica, TIME, your old Geometry book, whatever. See? the foot is about as long as those reading materials, and therefore, the picture perspective makes sense, because it seems that Shinji's foot will JUST fit into the satchel.

I am thinking about expanding this section on character scaling. If you would like to see more, please send me your comments or requests. My e-mail address is on the bottom of this page.


Troublekilling Summary...



If there are any comments, questions or requests for addition, please feel free to e-mail me at

Back to Top | Back to Anime By Example

Main | My Art | Your Art | Anime by Example | ADIDR | Amp Skins | Gnostic UK | Links | Send Mail

All characters and icons are copyright to their respective company/author,
and use of these images are intended to be used solely for analysis and
educational purposes, and should not be distributed.

Animex / Anime by Example is the work of Manhattan.