Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
Nsio explains: Foreshortening by Nsio Nsio explains: Foreshortening by Nsio
Number 8. tutorial in my "Nsio explains" series. Talking about foreshortening for continuation from perspective.

EDIT2: I thank all those who commented on my rude tone in this tutorial. I have definitely learnt my lesson by now, so I won't be replying back on any future comments regarding this. I have literally written essays as a response and you can find them if you browse trough the comments. Of course, if you find that it's all you have to say about this tutorial, then feel free to do so, but don't expect me to reply.
EDIT1: Few people have been reporting about my rude tone in this tutorial. I'm really sorry if you find it offending and condescending. My point is not to mock your ability to draw or insult you. For that sole reason, all my "bad" examples are always drawn by myself. However, my goal is still to make you feel a bit bad about yourself and wake new thoughts in you. The first step to understanding is to to see what you are doing wrong and accept it. I do this by slapping you straight at the face. While it may sound like I'm saying that you are bad, that's not the case. No one is bad at drawing: some have just had the chance to delve deeper into it. Some may grasp it faster than others, but since drawing isn't something we need for surviving, you don't get to do it very much. You didn't know how to walk or ride a bicycle when you were small, but you have had years to perfect them. Same goes with drawing.

Again, I humbly apologize if you found my tone discouraging and offending. I admit that I could have been more considerate.

Way too common mistakes:

Foreshortening is super hard, I admit with that. But it's hard mostly because of the lack of knowledge of how things really look like. That said, if you intend to foreshorten anything, you really need to know your subject rather well. Advanced stuff require advanced understanding. If you don't how the understanding, you will fail miserably, unfortunately.

Probably the most common mistake I encounter is the arm reaching the beholder. Most of the time, people draw the hand in upright position. Well, that's not necessarily an issue, but if you draw the hand in upright position, you need to draw the arm in a way that it's possible for the character to keep her hand in that position. However, people almost always do these two fatal mistakes:
1.The hand is far away from the face
2. The arm is not coming towards the beholder

People usually can draw the hand larger than normally, to indicate it's closer to the beholder. However, the two mistakes I mentioned before destroy the illusion instantly. Let's talk first about the position of the hand. We all know that our arms can reach quite wide area. However, the hand orientation is directly related to the arm position. That said, if the beholder is in front of you and your point your right arm to the right, you just CAN'T turn your palm towards the beholder while keeping the upright position. It's not physically possible. If you point your arm towards the beholder, then your palm can be seen. And when you turn your arm in a position where beholder can see your palm, the hand is relatively close to the face. From the beholder's point of view, that is. Now we can take a look at my illustration where I attempted to draw things as wrong as they can possibly get. See, the hand position is impossible there. So if you really want to draw the hand in upright position towards the beholder and the arm is straight, know that it needs to be close to the face (the face is just a reference point here, easy to remember).

Now on to the second issue I mentioned. Most of the time people don't even draw the arm coming towards the beholder. This makes it look like the poor girl got her hand dismembered. Take a look at the shirt: the opening of the sleeve is obviously pointing downwards.

I drew some other mistakes here as well, but basically they all are one big mistake. I didn't pay any attention to the beholder, viewing angle, not even to the drawing. I just drew individual elements one by one. If you you know that you are drawing like in my bad example, I'll need to ask you: are you really even trying.

I know I know, foreshortening is hard as I already said. But seriously, are you really even trying to understand it and what you are doing? Are you putting any serious effort in drawing at all? And are you reading this tutorial in hopes of getting easy way of drawing foreshortening?

Unfortunately, I have no magic tricks to offer. There are no shortcuts to experience and understanding. While this tutorial may help you to give some insight about the matter, you won't learn foreshortening unless you really give it all you got. And in order to draw foreshortening, you will need to learn seeing things the way they are, not the way you think they are. You must acknowledge that it's you that need to see the effort, do the studies, do the practice, learn from references and stuff.

Now, I wouldn't say that I'm perfect with foreshortening. I had plenty of problems to compile this tutorial, but at least I can say that I gave it all I got. And in fact, I think I learned a bit more about drawing foreshortening. This was valuable practice for me.

What is it really?
Foreshortening is a term for procedure, where the subject is drawn in perspective and coming towards the beholder. The subject is literally "shortened" to gain the illusion of depth. Usually perspective guides don't work very well with foreshortening, so it's mostly about trusting one's perception and doing decent guesses. And that's often enough, because it doesn't have to be perfect in order to look right. To draw anything foreshortened, you will need to have rather good understanding about shapes and proportions in three dimensional space.

I usually draw section planes and draw "middle lines" on top of the shape surface to analyse it's orientation and form. For example, if you draw a cylinder in any angle, you will need to be able to tell it's height in any given time. Even when the object is foreshortened, you need to know that the height of the objects remains the same.

How much smaller it should be?
As we already know, things look smaller the farther the are. The same principle apply with the foreshortening. However, you will need to know how far the object actually can reach and deduce how much smaller it really gets. If the object is very close or it's really large, it may look distorted. This distortion happens because of our vision (fish-eye). The more complex the subject of drawing is, the harder it gets to draw it foreshortened. Basically it means that you will need to study references and live models to gain understanding and knowledge about how things really look and then base your guesses on that.

Applying the cylinder example
The cylinder example seen on the tutorial can be applied on anything. The arm is probably the most straightforward subject to apply the example. All you need to do is to imagine that the arm is made of a pair of cylinders connected with spheres as joints. Then you will just need to draw the cylinders in a manner that they look like they were foreshortened. This sounds much easier than it really is, but using cylinders makes it a tad easier. Of course, if you don't know how to draw cylinders in the first place, then you can probably consider a bit easier matters to practice for the time being.

I drew some more complicated shapes than simple cylinders. To do this I had to draw few projections first in order to have the necessary references to draw the foreshortening. That said, I really recommend drawing projections of things that you are attempting to draw in perspective so that you know how they really look and you have references to look at while you draw the perspective. I must say, I hardly ever draw such demanding foreshortened drawings, so these really got me to the edge. I'm rather satisfied with the results though and this was super useful practice for me, as I mentioned before.

Some practice to try
I usually draw this kind of practice when I feel bored or I have gotten rusty. Anyway, the point is that you draw few circles, gradually changing their size from large to small (large ones are close, smaller ones farther). Then you will connect these circles with two lines in the same order you drew the circles. Now you will need to erase the circles partially to give it three dimensional look and make it look like a cable or a worm. If you have a lot of patience, you can draw quite complex thread of these cables.

Add a Comment:
callmetui Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2016  New Deviant
Thank you for the helpful tutorial :)
wizenedPomelo-hs Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2016
fadlising Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2016
it's easy to understand of the concept foreshortening thx. (CMIIW)
CelestialFire1 Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I might be a few years late, but your tuts are really helpful! Thank you!
J4B Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
INteresting tutorial, will study this more.
Auxuris Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
afdjaldkfds why doesnt this have a DD amg weeps its super helpful!!

also i liked your insults???? lauGHs keep going with these tutorials<33 thanks for making this!
Emperor-Koto Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Brilliant, thanks a lot for making stuff like this! Funny, too. A good, pre-emptive kick in the ass for when I'm feeling lazy. :)
Flashshadow Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, boy. I so needed this! :XD:
Gio-Yuki Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2015  Student General Artist
your tutorial is ok, the real problem is people, most of them dont want to accept their mistakes and feel ofended when someone tell them the truth... but well... that´s why they improve very slow...
indyrenegade Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you very much!! Your tutorial is really comprehensive ^_^ I've always had problems drawing poses that require depth so this helps <3
ArekusaSama Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I don´t think you came over rude. In the first section, I felt something addressed, but I felt not offended. I had been once or twice tried from a different perspective to draw it and have it be abandoned immediately. And when I no longer try it, I don´t wonder why I can´t. And that's why I'm going to take your advice to heart and finally practicing intensively! By the way I think it's great how much effort you have given you so.
amermaidslegend Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the tutorial! I never tried to draw anything like this, and if i did, i probably did it wrong XD, but thank you for the very helpful tutorial. :)
SairasuLuciger Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for this exellent tutorial! C:
rewton1 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Good tutorial, and I dont think it seemed  rude or condecending at all, if people are looking for tutorials to improve there drawing, having a tutorial that tells them there doing great and that there drawing is good enough just seems kinda counter productive, some criticism or harshness is good every now and then
Altern8ty Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Student Digital Artist
This is one of the most helpful tutorial! thank you very much for showing this! :)
ThatAngelGotArt Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Don't worry about the rude tone, I think everyone needs a good bitch slap every once in a while. 

Ahhhhhh, I'm so happy I finally found this! I've always struggled with foreshortening!!!
Mirage-Epoque Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Rude? What rude tone? I think it's funny and a clever way to poke at your own mistakes and make fun of them. Besides the truth is supposed to hurt a bit when it comed to learning. :)
This tutorial is really helpful and great at explaining the mistakes as well giving advices.
avikbellic911 Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2015  Student Filmographer
Your Tutorials are amazing....atleast i could approve this and say you are teaching better than my University so far. Thanks :D
DazedLeaf Featured By Owner Edited Jun 3, 2015
I'm just starting to draw, but foreshortening doesn't seem any different than normal perspective drawing, where some object is really close to the viewer. I'm confused as to why there is a distinction. Further, from what I've researched so far, tutorials commonly combine the idea of a vanishing point/line with the horizon/line where the ground and sky converge. However, logically, perspective depends on the viewer, not the ground-sky horizon.  So they don't have to align, even though tutorials commonly suggest so (or at least fail to distinguish the two). For example, if you're on top of a tall building looking all the way down at the street or ground, people look smaller, like ants. The vanishing point is down towards the street, towards the center of the earth, and no longer the ground-sky horizon. Another example, bring a pencil close to one eye and look down it's axis (the pencil slightly angled so you can see the other end). Now look in any and every direction of the room like this. The pencil's size doesn't change depending on the ground-sky horizon. This result should be obvious and intuitive. The main idea is that objects get smaller as they get farther, independent of what direction you're looking at.

It seems to me that you could still use perspective lines. You just have to determine where the vanishing point is, since it's no longer aligned with the ground and sky horizon. With a cylinder already drawn with perspective, it's where all the parallel edges converge in 3D space (the perspective lines go through edges of the cylinder's circle faces).

Like I said, I'm just starting to draw, but I like to understand things in a logical way. I'm just confused why foreshortening isn't considered regular ol' perspective drawing when it is. The only interesting property of foreshortening is that some object is directed toward and/or close to the viewer. Even in your examples, it looks no different than perspective drawing, except named differently.

Besides that question, I really enjoy your tutorials. They're very helpful and in depth, thanks!
Nsio Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're right, foreshortening and perspective are basically the same thing. However, foreshortening is more like simplification of perspective in a sense that it's based more on intuition and understanding how perspective works rather than being meticulously constructed with common perspective tools. But in the end, it's indeed as straightforward as you just said, so there is no need for separation. In fact, it's possible that because most people are taught to use classical perspective and it's rules, it makes it only harder to truly understand how perspective in reality works.

Although it's simple, the problem lies in converting 3D vision on 2D plane. It's common to think the view as camera view, but I don't think it that way because camera is static. I prefer thinking how I see the view when I move my eyes. Because of eye movement, there will be quite a lot of distortions when the view is drawn on 2D plane. There are no real straight lines anymore. :D

I've wanted to draw a better tutorial about perspective, but I haven't figured how to explain it in layman terms or what kind of demonstrations I could use so that the message would be really clear. I follow simple rules which I don't need to explain to myself because they just work. The problem is how to explain this way of thought I have :D
mla197 Featured By Owner May 26, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is one of the most informative guides to Foreshortening I've seen.
CJAYCE Featured By Owner May 22, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Holy poo this helped me too much! :D thnx a bunch
JustInCaseUAsk Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
It is absurd for people to criticize you or your tone in the tutorials you willingly share to the public for free. For that matter, even if it was not free, criticizing you for the way you communicated your point of view and doing so with a bit of flare or sarcasm makes me SMH. Perhaps those that are offended should spend a bit more time on other self help pursuits.

In truth, I have no dog in this fight, but no one is forcing anyone to read and follow the leader.

BTW thank you for the tutorials!!
ShinigamiRyuku Featured By Owner May 12, 2015
omzig89 Featured By Owner May 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I see a lot here helping me with light source/shadow as well!
AliceSacco Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2015
I wonder how people got offended when in your bad example, you weren't aiming to nobody in particular (you just bashed your own bad example)

I remember I've laughed when I've read the tips around the bad example. I find amazing that you can still do a so convincing bad drawing when you need to. Many artist lose the ability to simulate a bad drawing, because they actually forget that there was a time they could not draw.
When I find a mistake in my drawing, I write notes, using exactly the same tone (or even worse, I often write 'this sucks because' 'this is crap because' 're-draw' or 'only first grade children draw like this') to remember my mistakes. Just like the early critiques I received in past.
Nsio Featured By Owner Edited Apr 26, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I guess it still feels condescending. But seriously, one needs to accept the facts. Even though everyone (I believe) wants to hear compliments, it's up to the artist to take proper actions to get better. The critique literally needs to feel bad in a sense that people would do their best that they would never ever do the same mistakes again. Then it just depends on how competitive attitude the artist has. I have always been very competitive, so when ever I see someone drawing better than me, I just want to try my hardest to get better.

It's not easy for me to draw those bad examples, it requires me to actively ignore everything I know about drawing. It's sort of brainless drawing, paying no attention at all on the drawing. :D

For me it's usually enough just to have the picture as a reminder of how I did. I check the good and bad points and then try to fix the issues on future drawings.
AliceSacco Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2015
It seems to me that at early age, you get praised not really for your drawing skills, but more for, how many hours you hold a pencil in your hand.
I see often that the kid that draw more, is the one that is considered 'the artist of the family' or 'the artist of the class', even if, in the group, he is the worst at drawing. 
For this, at the start is hard to accept the fact that you may be not as good as you believed. To me was even harder. I discovered I wasn't that good at the age of 11, but then, i believed I had, at least average skills for my age, instead later I discovered I was severely below average, and the worst at drawing in my class, and that was a total shock. Do you know who Chris Chan(CWC) is? I drew like that. I'm glad that, even if I'm still not good, I don't draw anymore like him.
Recently I don't receive the amount of critiques I received in past, so I try to learn from others. I've found your tutorial helpful in that, but of course, I need to practice then.
Nsio Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, that seems the case. Though all children get praised for their drawings on early days, even if it's just a plain hurricane :D.

Starting young has its benefits and downsides... the good thing is that children are enthusiastic and can keep drawing even if the drawings aren't that great. The problem emerges when these children believe they are the very best. I'm thankful I was such a naive kid back then, or rather, that a friend of mine made me realize that just at the right time.

When I was at upper comprehensive school, I wouldn't say I was the best in my class, but I was definitely most interested in drawing. Some of my friends could draw better than I did, but they didn't keep spending as much effort on drawing as I did. As I said in my earlier reply, I'm very competitive, so I only got more enthusiastic when I saw how good my friends were. The moment I was better than them, I began to stall.

At university I hoped I would make many friends sharing my drawing hobby, but to my surprise there were only very few who drew/painted actively. Everyone were great though, as expected of those applying to school of architecture. I didn't get much of that competitive drive though, I probably degraded even. At this point my friend from upper comprehensive school told me that I was terrible and that was quite a shock. But it invoked that competitive drive again and I started to improve very quickly. What took me 6 years earlier, now took only one or two years. That was enough to build up the foundation for further improvements.

I guess my friend knew that I had what it takes to become good at drawing, but found it sad that I wasn't trying my best.

Sadly I don't know that Chris Chan. I do know how bad art looks though, so it's good to hear that you have gotten overt the worst. It's good to hear that my tutorials have been useful for you and many others.
AliceSacco Featured By Owner Edited Apr 30, 2015
The benefit is surely that you have great times when you draw. I had several notebooks, all filled with drawing. almost no blank space left, unless it wasn't for a purpose. Pure enjoyment. Now I spend more time to practice and to study to get better, and I don't draw much for my own enjoyment. I realized i enjoy more when I draw from imagination, rather than when I copy (even when I draw for study purpose).

I'm not very competitive, probably because having autism, when I was little, I was more focused to reach the average level of social interaction (that I considered genius) or understanding, rather than to challenge my classmates and shine, and when I was not the worst in my group (in any activity), to me it was a little victory.

This doesn't means that I do not try my best to improve my drawing skills. I use good artists as meter to set my goals, and I look a lot at their drawing, trying to figure out what caught my attention, how they draw anatomy etc... The thing that worry me is when I find a good artist that doesn't catch my attention, for example Yuumei, I fell something is wrong with me. I should learn from those that are better than me. She's good, probably one of the best, but there is nothing in her drawings that catch my attention. Therefore I look to artist that have something that stands out in his drawing, example your drawings that seem to coming out from the screen (due to your ability to use 3D forms). Is not enough to know perspective to be able to get that effect (I see many drawings around that may have a correct perspective and still look rather flat), or there is another artist here on DA that I admire for her ability to draw every character with unique features. I tend to not think as 'I want to draw better than...' but I'm more like 'I want to draw like...'

Then I observe, I read, I study from both real stuffs and cartoons and I practice.

Surprising, even if I did art school, most of my classmates weren't interested in drawing at all. I wonder then why they did art school. Many said it was to 'get a diploma with less effort'.

A curiosity: are you and your friend still in contact?
Nsio Featured By Owner May 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I myself enjoy drawing whether I'm studying it or not. In fact, I consider everything I draw as practice. I feel that the moment I start producing art (doing commissions for example), I kind of lose that enjoyable part of drawing. I'm not very interested in coloring either, because I find it more fascinating how lines alone can produce so strong immersion. It's like, why would I spend tremendous efforts on something I can achieve the same with much simpler look. At some point I made many colored pieces, because I felt it was what other people expect to see. I guess that's what made it not so enjoyable for me, although I don't really hate coloring itself.

There aren't many people that I follow in deviantart. There are definitely great artists out there, many of them, but kind of like you, they don't seem to catch my attention. My field of interests is rather narrow, so finding very inspiring work isn't easy. I mostly reference mangas I read because that's the look I'm aiming for in the first place. I don't know, maybe I'm just more inclined to Japanese way of presentation rather than that of western. It's not just about style and how the drawing looks, but also the atmosphere and feel in the drawing. I think Japanese manga just captures the moments with strong feelings in them, there is this dialogue between art and viewer. I'm hoping to achieve that same feel in my drawings as well, so that I'm just not drawing a character, but a character that seem living and real, flesh and bone.

My fellow classmates at the university were definitely artistic, all of them. I guess they just weren't into manga that much :D

Sadly I haven't been in contact with him for a long time. I wonder how is he doing these days.
WaiLau Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Don't worry about your tone, for many artists, myself included, the usefulness of the cup is its emptiness.
ThatSwedishPerson Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2015  Student Digital Artist
OH MY GOD! I've been looking everywhere for something like this! :squee:  I'm so glad that I found this! Whenever I draw, I always have trouble with this... Meow :3 
mikichihiro Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Fool Emoji-37 (Waving and Crying) [V3]  that's sad I really find your tutorials very helpful like super, considered i downloaded some for guides and tips, I don't understand why there were people who find your tone rude here :( and i really like how you explain things and what you said in your edited note, 
"However, my goal is still to make you feel a bit bad about yourself and wake new thoughts in you.The first step to understanding is to to see what you are doing wrong and accept it. I do this by slapping you straight at the face."
I think that, THAT is the purpose of 'tutorials' and 'learning', well at least thats the reason why i'm here XD .. I hope that you will still continue imparting knowledge HappyHappy 
fayriii Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Great tutorial! And, to be honest, I didn't think your tone was rude or condescending at all, so please continue to make amazing tutorials! c:
TheMasterfulDork Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Student Filmographer
I actually think that the bad vs good example is helpful.  Probably won't change anything, and I understand why you changed it.  Thanks for the tutorial.  Hope I can improve my skills a lot.
Hyenax Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Why does your comment take up half of the page? haha
Terubii Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
... it doesn't?
Hyenax Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Weird, it does for me.
MegaAnimeFreak7 Featured By Owner Edited Feb 22, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
it's not just you bro. Does for me too. I think its cause of there signature
Hyenax Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, good to know there's not a problem with my computer lol
RiaMishra Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2014
This has been one of the most helpful tutorials on the world wibe web! thanks alot for postinG!!
Arkannos Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Great!!! Big thanks!!! :-D !!!!!
MelodyLaw Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2014
In all honesty, I didn't think that you were being rude. You were just voicing out opinions and extremely helpful advice. So, thank you for all your tutorials. It really helps me grow as an artist and strengthen my fundamentals. Keep up the good work!
dsp2003 Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Do not apologize, please! This tutorial is marvelous. And not just that - it highlights several important points, which are extremely hard to grasp on your own. If people are insulted by "Do you even trying?", it's an indication they, in fact, are doing nothing but feeding their bogus self-esteem, therefore their opinion is worthless.

Keep up the good work! :D
sekaipower Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014
this tutorial is amazingWink and Dimples !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FutureofM Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This tutorial slapped my face telling me that I foreshortened things wrong. I used to foreshorten arms using cuboids facing towards the viewer with the width decreasing as it goes to its origin point, sure it may sound right but I didn`t apply the same thing to my torso :c.
FancyHatShop Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014
thank god for ur walk though XD
jonathino001 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014
I was always told that doing life drawing classes would help with foreshortening, and then I had to do life drawing for the entire first year of my design art degree... The bloody thing was useless. Copying what you see in real life onto paper is completely different to copying what you see in your mind.

Trying to keep track of not only scale, but horizontal distances between reference points, is the reason I stopped practicing. I don't have the patience to practice something the brain just naturally understands, but the right hand doesn't.
Nsio Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think that one can't really learn foreshortening before understanding perspective fully. Since I studied architecture, I got to work on 3D CAD modelling a lot. When I orbited around the 3D models, I understood how perspective works. I also understood that it's the beholders movement in relation to the subject that helps understanding perspective and foreshortening.

Basically, when people are taking life drawing classes, they should "orbit" around the subject, not just stick to one view point. Even though the actual drawing is drawn from one chosen viewing angle, it's important to know how the subject looks from other directions and compile that knowledge to construct the subject on the canvas.
Add a Comment:


Submitted on
January 16, 2014
Image Size
2.0 MB


132,337 (65 today)
7,900 (who?)
4,616 (4 today)