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The Eight Basic Tricks of Perspective

Eight? I thought there were three: diminution, foreshortening, and convergence. Well, actually there are as many as you need. While the basic three are very effective in explaining the concept of linear perspective, the other five are just as helpful in illustrating the point, and they tend to come in handy in practical application. Even without true linear perspective, these concepts can go a long way toward adding some depth to your artwork.


Without getting too deep into the concept of the horizon, it should be noted that objects higher in a picture tend to look farther away. Without the use of some other trick, this technique will not create great depth, but it can help to distinguish spatial relationships to some small degree. This trick works best when the picture is meant to be seen below eye level. For pictures of sky, higher objects often appear closer. For space pictures, the farther objects might be situated closer to the center. This Trick does work, but usually in conjunction with some other trick.


Shapes that should be about the same size if they were real, will appear smaller as the become farther away. This is the classic law of diminution. It works best when whoever views the picture has an expectation of relative sizes, like when a bunch of people should be about the same height. Any change in that expectation causes a shift of perceived perspective.


When one image obscures another, there is little doubt which is meant to be in front, and which behind. This can be as simple a process as erasing the parts that should not show. When one shape effectively cancels what we see of another, the interposed one always seems to be in front.


The closer something is to us, the more detail we can perceive. By selectively eliminating detail, we can force objects to seem to disappear in ah haze. The next time you are walking or driving in fog, notice how things fade more quickly, and the feeling of perspective becomes enhanced. This principle is less noticeable, but also present without fog, and occurs naturally over great distances where the landscape fades in the distance.


The careful application of surface line and perceived texture can add depth and a feeling of weight to a picture. When lines curve around the surface of a shape, they can create the impression of areas that curve in and out. The depth created may initially seem negligible, but when built up throughout a picture, surface line can create the feeling of great depth with intense precision.


Simply by adding proper shadows, a flat image seems to acquire mass. When shadows are cast on and by objects, a strong feeling of spatial relationships is created. Without mass and perspective, shadows are meaningless. The Converse is also true. Meaningful shadows create an illusion of mass and perspective.


This is a catch all concept that illustrates the fact that as an object is turned away from the viewer, the overall shape seems to distort. Closer surfaces may take on emphasis in size and detail, while parts turned away will become smaller and even disappear from sight. Circles become ovals and ellipses, and squares become rectangles, while previously unseen surfaces may become prominent.


Adding color to an image can make a great difference in how it is perceived. Darker or "cooler" colors like violets and blues often tend to seem to recede, while "warmer" colors like red and yellow will tend to pop forward. Colors that are hazy in appearance may bring the trick of density into play as well.

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