Improve Perspective: 6 Realistic Drawing Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Use a vanishing point
  2. Draw from life
  3. Create a grid
  4. Measure proportions
  5. Use shading and shadow
  6. Practice regularly

Imagine you're an artist, holding a fresh, blank piece of paper in your hand with a pencil poised and ready to create a masterpiece. You want your drawing to be as realistic as possible, and to achieve that, you need to understand and apply perspective correctly. So how do you improve perspective in realism? This blog will guide you through six practical tips that can help you enhance the realism of your drawings by mastering perspective. Let's dive right in!

Use a Vanishing Point

Mastering perspective starts by understanding and using the vanishing point technique. In the world of art, a vanishing point refers to the spot on the horizon line where parallel lines appear to converge. This technique helps to create depth and distance in your drawings, making them look more realistic.

What is a Vanishing Point?

A vanishing point, simply put, is a point in the distance where objects become so small that they seem to disappear altogether. When you're drawing a street scene, for example, the buildings, road, and other elements get smaller as they get further away—eventually converging at a single point. This is your vanishing point.

How to Use a Vanishing Point

Using a vanishing point in your drawings is simpler than you might think. Here are a few steps to guide you:

  1. Establish your horizon line: This is the line at your eye level, where the sky meets the land or sea.
  2. Place your vanishing point: This can be anywhere on your horizon line, usually it's at the center.
  3. Draw converging lines: These are lines that start at various points in your drawing but all meet at the vanishing point. They will guide the structure of your drawing and give it depth.

Remember, the key to improving perspective in realism is practice. The more you work with vanishing points, the more natural it will become, and the more realistic your drawings will appear.

Common Mistakes When Using a Vanishing Point

While using a vanishing point can greatly enhance your drawings, there are a few common mistakes that you need to avoid:

  • Multiple vanishing points: Unless you're working on a complex piece with multiple perspectives, stick to one vanishing point for consistency and simplicity.
  • Ignoring the horizon line: The placement of your horizon line can drastically affect the perspective of your drawing. Make sure it's accurate for the scene you're drawing.
  • Forgetting to converge lines: The whole point of a vanishing point is to have lines converge to it. If your lines don't meet at the vanishing point, the perspective in your drawing will be off.

By avoiding these pitfalls, you will be better equipped to use a vanishing point effectively, improving your ability to create realistic, perspective-accurate drawings.

Draw from Life

Sometimes, there's no better teacher than life itself. Drawing from life refers to the practice of drawing real objects, people, or scenes in front of you. This method can greatly enhance your understanding of perspective and help you improve the realism in your art. But why is it so effective, and how can you do it right? Let's explore.

Why Drawing from Life Matters

When you draw from life, you're forced to observe and understand how perspective works in the real world. This helps you notice the little details that make a drawing feel more realistic. Everything around you — from the mug on your table to the buildings outside your window — can be a lesson in perspective. Plus, it's a great exercise in honing your observation skills.

How to Draw from Life

Ready to give drawing from life a shot? Here are some steps to guide you:

  1. Pick your subject: Start with something simple — an object on your desk, for instance. As you get more comfortable, you can move on to more complex scenes.
  2. Observe: Before you put pencil to paper, take a moment to really look at your subject. Notice how it's shaped, how it interacts with the light, and how it sits in space.
  3. Start Drawing: Begin with rough, loose lines to capture the general shape of your subject. Then, gradually add details, keeping an eye on your subject to ensure accuracy.

Remember, the goal isn't to create a perfect replica of your subject, but to understand how perspective works. So, don't stress if your drawing doesn't look exactly like what's in front of you. The most important thing is that you're learning and improving.

Common Missteps in Drawing from Life

While drawing from life is a powerful tool in mastering perspective, it's easy to stumble along the way. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  • Rushing: Drawing is a patient art. If you rush, you might miss crucial details that could make your work more realistic.
  • Ignoring Perspective: It's easy to focus on the details and forget about perspective. Always keep in mind how your subject sits in space and how it relates to other objects around it.
  • Not Observing Enough: Observation is key when drawing from life. If you're not spending enough time observing your subject, your understanding of it — and consequently, your drawing — will be incomplete.

By avoiding these mistakes and practicing regularly, you'll soon see a noticeable improvement in your ability to capture perspective — and realism — in your drawings.

Create a Grid

Another beneficial technique for improving perspective in realism is creating a grid. This simple yet effective tool can help you maintain proportion and perspective, especially when drawing complex scenes or objects. But how exactly does it work? Let's break it down.

What is a Grid, and Why Use it?

A grid in art is a series of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines that can help you break an image down into smaller, more manageable parts. It's like having a roadmap that guides you through your drawing, helping you maintain correct proportions and perspective. Using a grid can make your drawing process less overwhelming and more accurate.

How to Create a Grid

Ready to try using a grid in your next artwork? Here's how:

  1. Choose Your Reference: You can use a photo or a live scene as your reference. If you're using a photo, you can draw the grid directly onto it.
  2. Draw Your Grid: Use a ruler to draw equally sized squares across your reference and your drawing paper. The number of squares can vary based on the level of detail you want.
  3. Start Drawing: Treat each square on your paper as a mini drawing. Focus on one square at a time, drawing what you see in the corresponding square on your reference.

Remember, a grid is a tool, not a crutch. It's there to guide you, not to do the work for you. The goal is to eventually be able to draw accurately without needing a grid.

Common Mistakes When Using a Grid

While using a grid can be immensely helpful, it's important to avoid certain pitfalls:

  • Being Too Rigid: While grids help with accuracy, don't let them rob your drawing of its life and energy. It's okay if your lines aren't perfectly straight or if your squares aren't all exactly the same size.
  • Over-reliance: A grid is a great tool, but it's not the only one in your arsenal. Don't forget to use your own judgment and observation skills.
  • Skipping the Fundamentals: Grids can help with perspective and proportion, but they can't replace a solid understanding of these concepts. Keep learning and practicing the basics of perspective.

With time and practice, using a grid can significantly improve your ability to draw with accurate perspective and bring a touch of realism to your art.

Measure Proportions

One critical aspect of achieving realism in your drawings is mastering the art of measuring proportions. Proper proportion can make your drawings more believable and lifelike. Let's get into the specifics of how you can effectively measure proportions to improve perspective in your artwork.

Understanding Proportions

Proportions refer to the size relationship between different elements of your drawing. In other words, how large one part is in comparison to another. For example, in a face, the eyes are usually halfway down the head, not at the top. Getting these size relationships right can make a world of difference in your drawings.

Techniques for Measuring Proportions

Measuring proportions might sound tricky, but a few techniques can make the process more manageable:

  1. Use a Pencil: Hold your pencil at arm's length and use it to measure the size of one part of your reference. You can then compare this to other parts of your reference to ensure you're getting the proportions right.
  2. Visual Comparison: Simply use your eyes to compare different parts of your drawing. This method might be less accurate, but with practice, it can become a valuable skill.
  3. Use a Grid: As we mentioned in the previous section, a grid can be a great tool for maintaining accurate proportions.

Avoiding Common Proportion Mistakes

When learning to measure proportions, there are a few common mistakes you'll want to avoid:

  • Rushing: Take your time when measuring. Accuracy is more important than speed in this case.
  • Ignoring the Big Picture: Don't get so caught up in one part of your drawing that you lose sight of the whole image. Remember, everything is interconnected.
  • Avoiding Practice: Like any skill, measuring proportions accurately takes practice. Don't get discouraged if you don't get it right on the first try.

By focusing on measuring proportions accurately, you'll be well on your way to improving perspective and adding a touch of realism to your drawings.

Use Shading and Shadow

Another essential tool in your realism toolbox is the use of shading and shadow. These elements are key to adding depth and dimension to your drawings, which will make them appear more lifelike. So, how can you master shading and shadow to improve perspective in your work? Let's dive in.

Understanding Shading and Shadow

Shading refers to the process of adding varying degrees of light and dark to your drawings to give them a 3-dimensional look. Shadows, on the other hand, are the dark areas that occur when light is blocked by an object. Both of these elements play a vital role in achieving a realistic perspective.

Shading Techniques

There are several techniques you can use to add shading to your drawings:

  1. Cross-Hatching: This involves drawing intersecting sets of parallel lines to create a textured effect.
  2. Stippling: This technique uses small dots to create different shades and tones.
  3. Blending: You can use a blending tool, or even your finger, to smooth out your shading and create a gradient effect.

Using Shadows Effectively

Shadows can be a bit tricky, but here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Observe Your Reference: Pay close attention to where the shadows fall in your reference image. This can guide you in adding shadows to your drawing.
  2. Don't Be Afraid of Contrast: Shadows can be quite dark compared to the rest of your drawing. Don't be afraid to go bold with your shadows—it can make your drawing pop.

Shading and using shadows effectively are powerful ways to give your drawings depth and dimension. By mastering these techniques, you'll be taking a big step towards improving perspective and making your drawings more realistic.

Practice Regularly

Now that we've covered some essential techniques for improving perspective in realism, let's talk about an aspect that's just as important: regular practice. Just like any other skill, the more you draw, the better you get. So, how can you make your practice more effective? Let's explore.

Set Aside Dedicated Time

One of the biggest challenges you may face is finding time to practice regularly. Here's what you can do:

  1. Schedule It: Treat your drawing practice like any other important appointment. Schedule it into your day and stick to it.
  2. Start Small: If you're struggling to find large chunks of time, start with just 15 minutes a day. You'll be surprised at how much you can improve with consistent, short practice sessions.

Focus on Specific Techniques

Each drawing session is a chance to improve a specific aspect of your drawing skills. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Master One Technique at a Time: Focusing on one technique at a time allows you to deeply understand and improve that particular aspect of your drawing.
  2. Apply What You've Learned: After learning a new technique, like shading or creating a grid, make sure to apply it in your next drawing session.

Embrace Mistakes

Mistakes are simply part of the learning process. Here's how to handle them:

  1. Learn from Them: Whenever you make a mistake, take it as an opportunity to learn. Try to understand why it happened and how you can avoid it in the future.
  2. Keep Going: Don't let a mistake discourage you. Keep drawing, keep practicing, and remember that every artist, no matter how experienced, makes mistakes.

Regular practice is key to improving perspective in realism. By setting aside dedicated time, focusing on specific techniques, and embracing mistakes, you're well on your way to becoming a better artist.

If you're eager to improve your perspective drawing skills even further, be sure to check out the workshop 'A New Perspective on Perspective' by Roberto Bernal. In this workshop, you'll gain valuable insights and techniques to help you elevate your realistic drawing abilities and achieve more accurate perspective in your artwork.