Knowing that our fast-forward design profession has become more reliant on 3D computer modeling, I wanted to backup and explore a simple traditional method of generating quick perspectives with what I call “reverse engineering” from photography. For this drawing exercise, I took a photograph of a small commercial building that had a strong linear roof line and rectangular shaped courtyard. The corner view angle in which I took the eye-level photograph established a basic two-point perspective for easily locating the two vanishing points. The new sketch illustrated an imaginary modification to the building and outdoor space.
The “step-by-step” images below show how I began with a print of the photograph, found my vanishing points, created a red pencil mockup of the new building, illustrated the drawing in pen and finally colored it with markers. The process involved a basic “overlay and trace” method in which the drawing was developed in a series of paper layers.
Original Photograph. This image taken at eye level had very defined edges in which I could follow to establish the location of my vanishing points. The red lines converge to a vanishing point off to the right side of the image. The green lines converge to a second vanishing point just to the left side of the photograph. For the drawing exercise, I printed the image approximately 7”x9” and taped it to my drawing surface.
Red Pencil Mockup. I covered the base photograph with a sheet of tracing paper and proceeded to find the two vanishing points. The four images above show how I modified the facade, added a second story and made changes to the foreground terrace. I always referred back to the vanishing points to maintain the accurate two-point perspective.
Completed Perspective Mockup. I added trees, landscaping, signage, people, furniture and other elements to the red pencil drawing. Once I was confident that the composition, scale and proportions looked correct, I taped a second sheet of trace over the mockup and began my final ink line drawing.
Ink Line Illustration. Using a Pentel Sign pen, I traced over the red pencil mockup and continued to add more detail to the drawing. I carefully drew the stone wall, roofing, windows and other elements that were not detailed in the red pencil drawing. Tracing over red lines with a black ink pen became easy to keep track of original and new information - similar to image layers in Photoshop.
Scan Your Line Drawing! Before adding color to your original artwork, scan the original at 300dpi in color. With a record scan of your drawing, you can always make an extra print to color if for some reason your original is ever ruined.
Color with Markers. Because the original line drawing was illustrated with a water based pen (Pentel Sign pen), the alcohol based markers had no effect on the linework. If however the drawing was made with a permanent ink pen, the markers would have smeared the linework. I colored the sky, trees and walls first and then added brighter colors and shadows.
Final Colored Perspective. If you are coloring with markers on tracing paper, remember that you can avoid building up too many colors by applying your marker colors on both sides of the paper. For example, color the sky on the back side of the paper and color the tree leaves on the front side. There is no difference scanning your drawing with marker on the back side of the thin tracing paper.
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