There are a litany of fundamentals that you need to learn for mastering art. Whether you want to draw/paint for fun or as a career, the fundamentals will follow you every step of the way.
One fundamental you’ll constantly hear about is perspective. This defines how your drawings look from a certain point of view and it applies to everything whether you’re creating a character, animal, or a whole environment.
This subject is broad and very detailed. Many artists study perspective for well over a year before it fully clicks. But with the right learning resources you can reach a proficient understanding much quicker.
Perspective Made Easy
Norling’s Perspective Made Easy is right at the top of this list for good reason. The is widely regarded as the best intro text for artists who want to master perspective.
It’s an easy read and it’s also super affordable. The book has been around for decades and the teaching style is unparalleled. You’ll learn about the fundamentals of vanishing points and structuring a drawing based on perspective, and Norling teaches this through general theory & practice work.
In a total of 224 pages you’ll walk away with a much deeper understanding of perspective. This book takes time and it won’t make you an expert right away.
But if you need to learn perspective have no idea where to go I’d highly suggest starting here first.
The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium
The Art of Perspective is a much newer book that takes a different route on teaching perspective. Author Phil Metzger guides you through a series of mini-lessons and exercises teaching that perspective is really just how we see the world.
Most people think perspective is just about vanishing points and how parallel lines seem to converge in the distance. But Phil gets into atmospheric perspective, like how objects appear smaller from above and how subtle colors for lighting can change based on your viewpoint.
Drawing a 2D piece of art requires an eye that can see into non-real 3D environments. This book teaches you how to create depth in a realistic way that adheres to perspective rules.
Each chapter covers a handful of exercises along with the theories behind them. I’d highly recommend this to beginners and intermediate-level artists that want a modern guide to perspective.
How to Draw
I’m always recommending Scott Robertson’s books because they’re so unique compared to everything else available. Robertson currently teaches at the renowned ArtCenter in Pasadena which is one of the best colleges for studying concept art.
Robertson’s book How to Draw is a practical guide to seeing & constructing objects in perspective. But this isn’t a life drawing book. It’s aimed solely at drawing from imagination where you need to invent perspective.
Early chapters teach basic warm up exercises taken from Scott’s lectures. Later chapters get into tips for creating perspective grids by eye, and in the final chapters you’ll follow exercises for drawing vehicles from scratch.
This is not an easy book and it’s certainly not meant for complete beginners. You can pick this up with no prior knowledge but you’ll struggle to complete all the lessons without months of hard work.
But I still recommend this book to everyone because Scott teaches in such a unique way that can’t be found elsewhere. And if you put in the work following the lessons in this book I guarantee you’ll see improvements over time.
Perspective Drawing Handbook
At only 96 pages you may think this is nothing but a cursory read. But the Perspective Drawing Handbook is truly a great resource to have by your side while drawing.
Early chapters introduce the basics like foreshortening but you’ll quickly move onto exercises like drawing cubes & shading them properly. It may not seem like shading is a big part of perspective, but the more you study all fundamentals the more you’ll see how they’re interconnected.
Along with the written lessons you also get 150+ illustrations explaining each feature in prominent detail. When learning about eye-level and convergence points it helps to study visual representations rather than just written ideas.
This book can be valuable for any artist of any skill level. Even more advanced artists may refer to some of the diagrams for a quick re-cap.
Unfortunately there’s not much of an index but the table of contents is easy enough to skim and find exactly what you’re looking for.
Drawing Perspective: How to See It and How to Apply It
As one of the newest books in this list, Drawing Perspective by Matthew Brehm offers a fresh take on classic perspective lessons. This book targets newer artists who want to learn perspective through rigorous repetition.
Over 144 pages you’ll study a variety of live exercises and quizzes right within the book. You start with the basics and slowly move through topics like vanishing points and how these affect the total points in a perspective grid.
My favorite exercises are the ones that force you to draw objects in perspective based on a particular scene. You’ll be given the perspective and must then draw objects to fit within that space. It sounds a lot easier than it is.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants live practical exercises for studying perspective. And since this is a more recent book you’ll get a much loftier and more colloquial writing style.
Perspective! for Comic Book Artists
When drawing from imagination you need to “see” the artwork on your paper first. Some artists dive in and create while they draw, and this is totally fine. But studying perspective allows you to pre-plan your ideas before putting them on paper.
Perspective! for Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea is a fairly old book first published in 1997. But as with most art fundamentals, the topics never go out of style and there is no wrong way to learn.
This book teaches you how to draw perspective from the point of a comics artist. You’ll learn about characters, landscapes, animals, and construction techniques for drawing anything you want in realistic perspective.
I do not recommend this for a complete beginner with no prior knowledge. The information is accurate, but it’s also hard to comprehend if you’ve never attempted to draw before.
Pick this up once you know you’re ready to jump into comics. You don’t need to be an expert artist by any means. But it helps to have a little background in the basics of perspective before reading this book.
Perspective for Artists
Many older perspective books have been republished by Dover and they’re excellent resources for studying on a budget. Perspective for Artists spans 288 pages with over 400 illustrations & diagrams scattered throughout the book.
Each chapter covers a different area of perspective with accompanying text and exercises. But this book can work as a study guide with the diagrams leading you along the way.
And since this book is so thick it works great for any skill level. However the language can feel outdated since the original text was published almost 100 years ago.
Yet it’s still a fantastic reference guide and much more technical than you’d expect. I’d recommend this more for intermediate-to-advanced artists as it does require a higher level of reading to comprehend the writing style.
Perspective Without Pain
Earlier in this post I recommended one of Phil Metzger’s newer books on perspective. But he actually has a couple out there and Perspective Without Pain is one of his best works.
With this book you’ll learn how to create perspective without any tools. Perspective does have specific rules, but if you learn how to eyeball these rules you’ll have a much easier time putting pencil to paper.
You’ll learn about differing viewpoints and diminishing objects as they move into the distance. But Phil also shares tips for critiquing your own artwork and problem solving issues with your perspective. Why does your cube look irregular? Or why does your landscape seem wonky in one section?
With Phil’s advice you’ll learn how to diagnose problems and fix them confidently.
Absolute beginners should consider grabbing a copy of this book. It’s used in college classrooms even beyond fine art for students in architecture & interior design. Phil’s teaching style gets right to the core of perspective while ignoring the complex calculations & mathematics that don’t truly matter as much.
Creative Perspective for Artists and Illustrators
I really love this book and how it teaches perspective to artists. But I want to clarify that you absolutely need a fundamental knowledge of true perspective before reading this book.
The author Ernest Watson taught at Pratt for 20 years and knows how to reach students with a clear style of writing.
In this book you’ll learn techniques for manipulating perspective while still appearing accurate in your work. There isn’t a single right or wrong way to learn illustration, and since everyone has their own style it’s tough to critique with accuracy.
The goal isn’t to tell you how to draw. Instead it’s to get you thinking about how you want to draw and how you want to exaggerate.
This book is filled with diagrams and real illustrations from talented artists to help you understand each point presented along the way. Incredible book for anyone who wants to go beyond life drawing and venture into the world of cartooning/illustration.
Basic Perspective Drawing: A Visual Approach
Now in it’s 6th edition, this book is one of the most detailed guides for learning artistic perspective. Basic Perspective Drawing: A Visual Approach by John Montague teaches the basics of perspective drawing through live examples.
You’ll find a ton of illustrations and links for online video tutorials that supplement the written content. Early chapters start with the basics of convergence, foreshortening, and just seeing the world in the right perspective.
Later chapters get into shapes and how to render full room interiors in perspective. The later exercises can be frustrating for younger artists with less experience. This is where supplemental materials can help you understand a bit more.
However I really do recommend this book for anyone that’s up for a challenge. It’s not quite a beginner’s book and it’s not quite an expert’s book either. The materials are meant for anyone who just needs to solidify their knowledge of perspective through real practice.
Truthfully all the books in this post can be valuable for entertainment artists. Even the books teaching how to distort perspective get you thinking about perspective rules and how they affect your own personal style.
But always start small and work your way up. I recommend Perspective Made Easy as the very first book to study. From there you just need to put in the work and over time these basic concepts will make a lot more sense.