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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.

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Naughty-b-Nature Featured By Owner May 12, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ayay, you totally get it. It will take some time and lots of practice before I can even near that level.

I´m playing with a wooden puppet now, but find it not so helpful because to my opinion it´s arms are too long. But yes, I´m thinking in body parts already.
I used to draw technical stuff but switched to anatomy instead.

Thank you very much for this helpful tutorial! And a watch so I´m able to learn some more.
Krysella Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2017
Thank you!
Silveztra Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2017  Student Digital Artist
I feel the need to mention that if you are a super newb use this and "" it goes into perspective and shapes and doing those excercises AND looking at this helps. I think this is very harsh, but art, in the end, is meant to be a criticism of what it looks like and not to the person who drew it! but really try draw a box too! 
Keraera Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2017
Hey, thanks for the site, it was fun reading through the entire site. it's definitely a good site for beginners!
Silveztra Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2017  Student Digital Artist
of course! 
TomoeMichieru Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2017
You've got some pretty great tutorials. When it comes to length in foreshortening I actually put some of that high school trig to use. If you know a few basic relationships and shortcuts you can pretty much draw at any angle.

For example: if you know the longitudinal axis of what you're trying to draw has x length at a 90 degree angle (say, an arm hanging at the side), and want to draw it rotated at the shoulder at a 45-degree angle toward the beholder, you can take the sine of 45 (about 0.707) and multiply it by x as the foreshortened length of the whole arm. I wouldn't necessarily advocate or suggest having a slide rule or scientific calculator at your desk when drawing - this is art, not architecture - but I figure if you have a basic understanding of the underlying math, you can do a lot even without exact measurements.
zeldarena Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2017
Hi there - Thank-you for the information. I didn't find you mean and offensive either. I'll admit, I am not practicing foreshortening enough. I doodle around a lot when listening to the news or music, so I am going to practice doodling around with cylinders and arms reaching out to me. A wonderful tutorial by the way!
RandychKeener Featured By Owner Edited May 4, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hi Nsio, I've registered here at just very now to tell you how much I've got driven completely sad and lost by your comment about someone who found your approach offensive.
I honestly completely do not understand people that watch such kind of material, which meant to motivate, and be offended by anything.
I am myself learnt many, like, literally to many things to count, just because accepting how I suck at them.
I don't really believe there is someone on this planet who thinks that he can get better without accepting they suck and start doing something from this point.
Welp, this may not have any value to you, but I'd like to say that I greatly appreciate all the colossal effort you put in these tutorials and for your most direct approach.
If tutorial author tells its readers/watchers they suck and need to accept this, they care. And this what differs heartwarming material from pointless flat timewaste.
I hereby came, thanks. I'd be really honored if you read this.

P.S. I don't understand almost anything in a whole tutorial, but no one cares :р
Cocoacchu Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2017  Student General Artist
This gives me a new perspective on the thing. I've been having trouble with foreshortening, so thank you very much! <33
HeartHadria Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you, finally someone gets how much of a big deal foreshortening is. I pretty much have a blind eye to geometry and depth and that makes this all the more harder. I hate how a lot of art books just skim over foreshortening like it's as basic as simple anatomy.

I'll be looking back at this a lot.
Raqonteur Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I didn't find this rude, but them I'm not particularly sensitive to things like that.
I did find the whole tone mildly amusing though, so thanks for that.

It's a great article/tutorial.
Thanks for providing some insight into a problematic area of drawing. 
As for those who complained...
How many of them have thought to put in the time and effort to help others learn in this fashion?

So again.  Thanks.
Thehoodedteddy13 Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Foreshortening, what separates Good artists from Rob Liefeld
xXVVSOSVVXx Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I tried foreshortening once.. Failed miserably and have not tried again
Sinswolf999 Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I honestly don't know how people see you as rude? You stated the blunt truth that it wouldn't be easy to do. Foreshortening is hell. You stated the truth. Jfc grow up people this tutorial is honestly great and explains things in depth for me. Thanks for the tutorial, this really helped!
TehAwesomeFace Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
My god this is super helpful but imagining myself applying these techniques makes me feel super uncomfortable because it's a somewhat new concept to me
HerosLegend Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2016
This is great man. Thank you for this.
MoonyMina Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
really helpful :) thanks for sharing!!
SirIronD Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
hi dude, just wanna say thank you for taking the time to make this tutorials, so im starting in digital art and also starting to draw again in general, so this things has been really helpfull at keeping me from being bored of doing things, so yeah thanks.

also was wondering if there is a way for you to make a tutorial on how to draw thos grid bodies you do, i think that would be really helpfull to practice, so that i can tell where to putt the shading and lighting and stuff, also would help to learn basic anatomy,, keep it up dude and if you cant do that tutorial could you lead us to where you learn how to do it??
Nsio Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome. Good to hear you have found my tutorials useful.

I already have a tutorial about the concept: [LINK] While it's not really about drawing the "grid" body, the same principle apply. The rest is about observation (either my or other drawings) and experimenting. That's how I have learned it as well.
SirIronD Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
oh, i didnt saw that tutorial yet... welp :p
and yeah you are right with that, at first i was trying to get everything right like with the body details and practicing alot of things aswell, but i got bored with those after a while, so now that i see that you use basic things to draw in your tutorials at leasts, makes me want to do the same, so thats what im going to do aswell, just gonna go with it and learn from my mistakes instead of being scared of screwing things up, cus the only way to learn its by making mistakes right xP?... i will try to apply the things i have learned so far and will keep learning new things everyday, keep it up dude, and dont be affraid of being "mean", peace :)

(also check my first devian post, i use one of your tutorials for the linework, now i feel more confident while doing line art, you cool bro)
Kariru851 Featured By Owner May 22, 2016
Hello. Can I take screenshots of this lesson please?? Unfortunately, I won't be able to read it today and I think it's really gonna help alot. Thanks.
mkauf84 Featured By Owner Edited Jun 24, 2016
Why not just download it? That option is available and you'll get better quality image then if you took a screenshot.
Or favorite it.
Kariru851 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2016
Ah that's right, thanks!!!
Nsio Featured By Owner May 22, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There is a download button on the right, so no need to take screenshots :)
Kariru851 Featured By Owner May 22, 2016
Ah alright thank you, I appreciate it(^-^)
jazzyyazzy Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm not trying to be an asshole but this is genuinely coming from a place of curiosity...why did you feel the need to say, "No references used for any example?" It comes off as really cocky and as an artist myself, I personally would never feel the need to say that to anyone, despite the fact that I'm not exactly the best when I draw. It's just really weird. Anyways, it's an interesting tutorial but like a lot of people I do see where the condescending tones are seen..>_>; 
ahldskjsjkgdf Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2017
Hi, and sorry for my English. I will try my best to explain this.
I understood he was just showing us how effort and practice will lead you to a better understanding of form and perspective, to the point of being able to draw without references. You say you draw without references, but you aren't very proud of your drawing skills. He always mentions how crucial it is for begginers to use references. But, of course, we all aim to be able to draw by ourselves (again, you say you already do that, but then you mention you aren't very good at it.). That's why he is showing us that he can already do that, and then he teaches us how to improve like he did. He's not strutting, he is sharing his knowledge, and therefore he must show us where it will lead us: to the capacity of drawing without reference, with pleasing results.
However, anyone who shares his work and knowledge on the Internet will have to deal with haters, jealous begginers, rookies who don't want to be told they have to put more effort, bored users who criticize anything just for fun, people who just misunderstood his intentions, either because they didn't pay much attention or because they just don't get it...  And then, the kind people who put that much effort into making tons of useful free tutorials, has to apologize just for helping out.
Had you thought of that? He didn't tell you anything. He just apologized for nothing, because he doesn't want you to get more offended. Because he doesn't like problems as much as you seem to do. Or maybe he just honestly thinks you are right. But even if you were right and he was being cocky, you shouldn't criticize it.  It's not like you paid for this tutorial and have to complain to get your money back. It's free, if you don't like it it's not his problem. Even if you copy a lot of references and follow lots of tutorials to get as good as he is, you still wouldn't have the right to get mad at him. "It's my right to comment whatever I want", you may answer. And that's right, no one can stop you from being and asshole (and no, saying "I'm not trying to be an asshole" doesn't make it much better).
But I just wanted to point out how much effort and patience he put for sharing these tutorials, showing us what whe will be able to do and how to get there, and reminding us that we must practice in order to improve. I don't get how can you get mad at someone who gives you all this for free.
Now it may annoy you that I assumed you were a begginer who doesn't want to practice, without even checking out your gallery.  But it's you who took his advices personally. He was talking to those who need to be told to practice more, be less arrogant and take advices and references. By being offended, you are showing you consider yourself one of them.
Nsio Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're not an asshole for mentioning this, because you're very right. "Who are you to tell me anything" would probably be the most typical reply on this kind of "hostility" xD

I have made this tutorial when I have felt cocky about my increasing popularity here in dA. I'm very proud of my ability to learn things on my own or draw without references, to an extent that I've said some things that can be considered cocky. I've come to realize this later, but I rarely edit anything I have done in past for the sake of honesty. These are all part of my journey and I don't want to hide or sugar coat any of it. Only by analyzing my own actions I've been able to reach my current level, I should never forget what lead to me to this day so that I won't repeat my mistakes.

On the other hand, I also wanted to make it clear that it's possible to draw these kind of things by purely relying on my understanding about perspective. If anything, I would want people to feel inspired of it, that they could do it as well if they just practice enough. :)
Iza-nagi Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
fantastic response, i believe to draw without refs would be a true mark of mastery of any kind of concept in art. 5 years in and i still heavily rely on references for work, so if i do something without referencing something i would defnitely write that onto the description :)

Hope you remember me from our old days haha, on a long long hiatus. and sorry to butt into this comment.
Nsio Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks. By building an extensive visual library in ones mind, it's possible to draw just about anything. It requires studies and experiments of course, but many things can be applied just by know the basics. Also, many behaviors that apply humans also apply animals for example.

Of course I remember you, how could anyone forget your 3D illusion drawings :D. And it's okay, I didn't expect someone to actually follow my replies though :P
Iza-nagi Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
im having trouble building said library. I know this aint the place to discuss this but after about a year i tried sketching something without references. any tips on improving?
you can draw over it if you want, ill send you the PSD if you have the time.
Lol by Iza-nagi  
Nsio Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
When you don't have/use references, you make them yourself ;)

You can use the drawing you are working on as a reference in many ways. In this case for example, you can compare the legs together: his right leg is slimmer in comparison to his left. Depending on which is closer to your intention, you can use the other leg as a reference for fixing the other. By following the rules of symmetry and proportions, you can fix many inconsistency errors (like unequal thickness of legs here). Of course, the legs are mirror images of each other and seen from slightly different viewing angles, so you need to "twist" the reference in your mind so that you can see the "hidden" side and fix the other leg accordingly.

It's a mind game. By knowing how basic objects like cubes behave in perspective and in different viewing angles, you can make decent approximations, even if you don't know how legs actually look like. Basic forms are easier to visualize in mind than complex forms. That's why it's good idea to draw just cubes in different viewing angles over and over again. Once you grasp how they work, complexity is just about adding a "skin" or "texture" on the cubes :D.

You can also draw projections of the object and then use them as references to construct the object in different viewing angle. In my opinion, the right use of references (self-drawn or photos) involves constructing the image from different viewing angle than the reference. That kind of translation requires active mind processing of the image, which makes it easier to memorize the features.

I'm sorry, but I won't go as far as to redline your work. Even though I want to help others, I need to set limits somewhere :D
Iza-nagi Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
sooooooooooooooooo back to drawing cubes!

I still cant "think" an image in my head and "twist" it there and reproduce it as it was in my head..... *flips table* I dont even know how to begin to do that.

Its always been my dream to make a manga, and i have a kickass concept in mind, but im not confident of my proportions and poses. i want them to be dynamic and you are the alltime inspiration for that. Jus sayin :P
Nsio Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You get used to drawing from imagination the more you do it. For example, if you want to draw a castle, you only need to know what elements make up a castle (brick walls, arrow slits etc) and the combine them in a convincing manner. To do that... you need to look references first :D.

Thanks. Proportions, dynamism and depth have always been my long term goals in drawing. :P
(1 Reply)
Laugh-Butts Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
callmetui Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2016   Traditional Artist
Thank you for the helpful tutorial :)
wizenedPomelo-hs Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2016
fadlising Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
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  Hobbyist Artist
This is one of the most helpful tutorial! thank you very much for showing this! :)
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