freehand perspective sketching. Grrrrrrr!!!

Hello all,

i am new to this disscusion forum but have been following it for some time now and it has been very helpful in giving me ideas for my own assignments in terms of presentation techniques etc. Anyway…i am wondering if anyone can offer some advice on freehand perspective sketching as to how to improve this skill and any useful techniques which might speed up the process. I have been drawing shitloads of cubes at different perspectives and it is helping but i feel need more ideas as i am struggling to accurately sketch more complex forms in perspective without resorting to using guides etc.

Any help would be absolutely appreciated.


Cubes are the best basis to work from, if you’re starting out. Construct cubes and rectangles around where your other primitives are going to go, and work inside those. Spheres, ellipses, cylinders…you can build anything that way. Eventually you’ll learn little tricks, like how the far edge of an ellipse is flatter than the near edge, since it’s farther away.

Really the only advice I can give is to work at it. Just draw a few pages a day and keep at it. You’ll improve dramatically. Loosen up; don’t erase; don’t shade things until later.

A few things that helped me when I was starting:

  1. Draw every day. One of my profs suggested throwing down a sketch everyday as soon as you woke up- it helps

  2. Look more. I’d say like 80% of sketching is seeing. Understanding form and proportion in 3 dimensional space is essential to representing it in two dimentional space. I used to turn models of things over and over in my hand, looking at them with one eye shut and try to understand how it would look as a sketch.

  3. Make study models. Sketch for awhile, then make a quick study model (foam, paper, whatever) and look at it for awhile, then sketch some more.

  4. Don’t design it all in your head. As soon as you start to get an idea, start working it out on paper. Drawing is a language, and the sooner in your proccess you start thinking of your design in visual terms, the stronger you will be able to comunicate it.

  5. alternate between ridgidly constucted sketches and gesture sketches. The best product sketches combine both the analytical and expressive side of the brain to communicate to others.

  6. overlay your successes. Don’t throw a bad sketch away. Get a new sheet of paper, lay it over top, trace up the things that are working and try to fix what is not. Do this until its good. I still do this constsntly, you can’t get a complex idea out in one pass.

I hope these might help a bit. In the end it’s like learning French, or Alias. There really are not a lot of tricks, but if you sit down and put the hours toward it, you can learn it. It’s just another skill.

All of the above comments are great.

Another one is to “draw through”. Don’t be afraid to put in guide lines, pull VPs and transfer points as needed. This will help with proportions and general perspective. Keep pushing your linework and the shapes in 3D.

I posted some early process sketches in the projects forum, if you want to check them out…

Firstly, thanks for all the suggestions. I will definately try all of them. Been bored shitless doing my night job in call centre while not at uni and have been sketching cube after cube moving the vanishing points all over the place. My colleagues are like mmmmmm

Secondly, thanks for the link Yo, its work like that that make me want to improve my skills constantly and i have a couple of questions if its not to much trouble.

  1. On the first few sketches is the colouring all marker or are there other processes going on?

  2. If you dont mind answering, do you work for one company or do you freelance or both and how long is it since you left college or uni or whatever its called in the US (excuse my UK ignorance here).

Personaly im 26 and left school at 16 with not much education and have since sorted myself out and got back into University doing BSc product design with Eco design. We dont concentrate as much on perspective, marker rendering etc. as im sure other courses (BA’s) do. But after much research i realise that strong fluid sketching ability is crucial and thats the reason for my initial post

Dude, you are welcome, glad you liked them.

The answers to your questions:

  1. On the first few sketches is the colouring all marker or are there other processes going on?

I tend to sketch in color right away. It makes the final presentation drawings that much easier, having gotten all those other tries to refine my color pallet and light source. i posted another page at the bottom of that thread showing some of my rough black and white sketches, I tend to do those more in my sketch book or as “underlays”, rough layout sketches that I trace over again and again until i get to my final linework.

  1. If you dont mind answering, do you work for one company or do you freelance or both and how long is it since you left college or uni or whatever its called in the US (excuse my UK ignorance here).

I work for Nike fulltime. At the time i did that project I worked for the global metro design team (limited production, high end trainers), i now work for the Jordan design team. I’ve been at Nike about 2 years. Before that i worked for a consulting firm for a little over 4 years ( ). I still actively freelance for evo (I left on good terms), as well as for GAC, a small automotive manufacturer here in the states ( ). Also I participate in a lot of design competitions to stay fresh. I worked for GAC full time for about a year out of school, I graduated in 1998.

Keep up working on the sketching, sounds like you are in the right mindspace. Its all skill not talent, the more hours you get in the chair, the better you will get my friend.

As said earlier, all above comments are very helpful but what i find specificaly difficult is sketching an object in various perspectives which has no straight lines at all. Objects which various curvature in different directions. I cant find a way to connect up using a cube method with these sorts of shapes. Or am i missing something??

Any comments would be great.

PS i have some work i could post to get some criticism but ive never done it before so how do i do it??. I have jpegs, and some photoshop files

Everything can be broken down to primatives. Every primative can be based on cubes. How do you draw a shoe? How do you draw a sculpture? How do you draw a joystick? It all comes down to determining the proportion first, then draw a boundary box that depicts the proportion and fill it in with your shapes.

as said before:

break it down into the primitives…draw the primitives in perspective- cylinder + flat cube… bang! you just drew the original Atari Joystick! go on to more and more complex objects…don’t worry right away with whether things link up or exactly touch, the point is to think about the ‘volumes’ of all the pieces in space.

start putting radiuses on the edges, chamfers, etc. till the pieces start to flow together…

…I found that with curvy things that after breaking things into primtvs that drawings ‘center lines’ on them helped…or maybe think of them as the high point along the top. draw that line in, it helps define what the shape is doing…its a bit like drawing the ribs in the hull of the ship- each one is like a cross-section that defines the form…if you look at it that way- draw the cross sections which are essentially 2-d things, in 2 point persepctive…then link them with the surface…is that to abstract without illustrations?
good luck

a few places to find help:


more extensive instruction:

I’ve watched a few of these, they helped me a ton - of course I have an expense account, but see if your school will purchase them for your department’s library, if they don’t have one these would be a good start.

The best $1000 you could spend [if you want to spend 1k on learning to draw]:


A lot of good advice from the folk here. One thing I remember from uni that help immensely with perspective sketching, along with control, speed and flow, was a life drawing class that students were required to take second year. (Sketching nude models in defined time intervals. Really organic!)

The class refined the skill of dissecting extactly what a particular line’s composition must be to create an accurate representation along with recreating what you have identified a key. The poses that you had to sketch were of varying durations (30 seconds up to 3 minutes). After the first few classes of being slightly awe struck (nekid up close and personal) you soon realized just how fast you had to work and how efficient you had to be at interpretting the visual before you. By the end virtually everyone sketched freely and fluidly, with control, and for the most part accurately (perspective in tact).

Perhaps this might help and it maybe break the monotany of cubes…thought they are somewhat of a staple.

Hope this helps. :slight_smile:


Cheers for the links man, very helpful. We are setting up a design society at uni and will get funding for events, exhibitions etc. Will use some of the money to invest in some of the DVD’s you showed me.

Nice one