Tutorial: Foreshortening Tricks

Hi folks! Tutorial Tuesday is going to be a basic one – I’m a bit under the weather currently so this may not be the best post, but I want to give you something that I feel is important in the world of drawing – some pointers on foreshortening. Check this out.

Foreshortening is basically an optical illusion created from a compressed looking drawing in perspective. This perspective is distorted in order to create a false sense of depth, and is used a lot in comics – Superman flying with his outstretched arm coming out of the page, or a fist connecting with a villain’s face, etc. These comic drawings you see that appear to come off the page use some form of foreshortening to create that illusion.

There’s several ways artists choose to render their drawings using foreshortening. Here’s a few examples.

Receding Plane Technique

Scruffy Ronin uses a method that relies on a drawing a flat plane that recedes into space as a boundary. From there, the center line is determined, and the object is drawn within the confines of that area. Knowing that objects appear to get smaller the further they recede into space, you’ll note that these planes often taken on a trapezoid type shape. Click on the image below to view it in full size and see the way it works.

Five Points in Foreshortening

Here’s another basic set of rules you should follow when working with foreshortening. Studio2ndStreet defines 5 methods that you should keep in mind when attempting to draw figures with foreshortened parts. You should determine the object’s length and carefully examine how it recedes into space, the way the contours of the object either cross or come in close contact, how overlapping the linework gives a visual illusion of depth, use the rules of perspective to make the object appear realistic, and finally use line weights to enhance the object – with heavier lines in the foreground, and thinner lines in the background. Click on the image below for more details.

Size, Overlapping Shapes, and Surfaces

This brief little tutorial from Gene Kelly illustrates some quick and easy methods to apply the “textbook” techniques that I showed above. By breaking the rules of foreshortening down to three basic principles, you can easily draw any form with dynamic foreshortening in minutes. The three basic things you need to remember are the object’s size, how the shapes within the object overlap to create the form, and which surfaces are seen by the viewer’s eye. Click on the image to get a better look.

Blocks and Circles

An even simpler break down of drawing foreshortened objects (mainly figures) is through the use of basic blocks and circles. This brief primer by ‘glockgal‘ shows how perspective can be easily achieved by looking at figures in an abstract manner, then building upon those shapes to create a completed form. Click on the image to view the tutorial.

There you have it – tutorials within a tutorial (sort of). These basic tips should give you a better example on how to achieve properly foreshortened limbs and objects in your comics. Remember, keep practicing and following the instructions – it’s often difficult starting out, but after enough tries, it will be a piece of cake and you’ll be drawing like the masters in no time.

See you next week.

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14 thoughts on “Tutorial: Foreshortening Tricks

  1. Wow, I didn’t realise there was so much technical process behind these types of illustrations. I found your blog via a comment you left at Yaro’s blog. Although I am not any sort of artist I admire those who can turn a few strokes of a brush or pen into a terrific illustration. Is the last image on this page your own creation?

  2. Thanks for dropping in, Michael – the image of Namor the Sub Mariner is a cover done by Michael Turner. I wish I could take credit for it – it’s a great illustration.

  3. Absolutely amazing. I’m still a beginner and don’t have these skills but breaking the process down into steps really does help me get a handle on the process. Thanks for sharing!

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