- In The Box (finding the center of a quadrangle)
- Little Boxes; Made of Ticky-Tacky (drawing a shed with eaves and door)
- Box And Box Again (dividing a quadrangle into thirds)
- Step Up On The Box (drawing a 3-story building)
- Boxed In (drawing a multi-story tower)
- Box It All Up (conclusion)
A building should be one of the easiest things to draw since it is essentially a box. What makes it a challenge is placement of things like windows and doors. This essay presents simple methods.
IN THE BOX
Most structures are symmetrical, with doors and windows disposed around the central axis of a wall. The X-the-box technique explained in Perspective Basics provides a simple system for determining where the center of a wall is located and for spacing objects evenly.
As you may recall, to X-the-box just connect opposing corners of a quadrangle with diagonal lines (dotted lines in Figure-1), and where the two lines intersect, that is the center of the four-sided figure. This approach can be used with any four-sided shape, from a simple rectangle to the most extreme.
LITTLE BOXES (MADE OF TICKY-TACKY)
With this basic tool in your belt, you’re now ready to construct a shed. Our shed will have a peaked roof and a door in the center of one wall.
From observation (if possible), sketch the body of a shed. If drawn well, it will conform to the most fundamental rule of perspective, meaning that the nearest edge will be taller than the more distant edges. Each visible side of the structure is essentially a rectangle. In Figure-2A, however, the building is rotated at an angle so that its sides appear as trapezoids. For each wall, X-the-box as shown in the illustration. (A horizon line is included in the diagrams.)
On the narrow end of the shed, draw a vertical line through the center of the X. Extend the line upward well above the body of the shed (Figure-2B). The roof's peak is somewhere on that vertical.
Determine how high the peak of the roof should be and place a tick-mark at that spot. With diagonal lines, connect the tick-mark to each of the two upper corners of the wall to describe the eaves, and then complete the rest of the roof (Figure-2C).
(Note: It is possible to determine exactly where the peak is at the other end of the roof as well. Merely draw the two other - hidden - walls of the shed, X-the-box at the far end of the shed, and then draw the vertical centerline. This is illustrated in Figure-2D.)
The procedure for placing a door in one wall of the shed is similar to that used for drawing the roof.
Since you have already Xed-the-box of the long side of the shed, just draw a vertical line through the X (Figure-3A).
Sketch in a door that straddles the vertical centerline (Figure-3B). Keeping the near-is-larger-and-far-is-smaller rule in mind, make sure that the nearer part of the door is a bit broader than the distant portion. Likewise, the near edge of the door frame should be slightly longer or taller than the far edge.
(To add windows to your structure, one on each side of the door and evenly spaced, do the following. Begin by extending the door's lintel to the edges of the building to describe a quadrangle on either side of the door. Find the center of each quadrangle by Xing-the-box. Draw a vertical centerline through each X, and then place the windows.)
BOX, BOX, AND BOX AGAIN
Using the techniques outlined above, any 4-sided shape can be divided into halves, quarters, eighths, or any fraction that is a multiple of two. Using a similar method, we can also break a rectangular form into a number of segments that are multiples of three.
To do so, X-the-box of the rectangle and draw a vertical line through the center of the X as in Figure-4A. (This can also be done by dividing the rectangle horizontally.)
Draw diagonal lines from the top of the vertical (labeled Point-A in Figure-4B) to the corners of the rectangle.
Each of the lines drawn in Step-2 crosses one of the X-the-box diagonals. In Figure-4C those intersections are labeled as Point-D and Point-E. Run a vertical line through each of those points to divide the rectangle into three equal sections.
Figure-4D is the same rectangle with the construction lines erased to make it more understandable.
STEP UP ON THE BOX
We are going to undertake two construction projects to help you understand how to apply this system to real-life situations you are likely to encounter. For these projects the buildings we will erect are imaginary. Out in the field when drawing from observation, you will be drawing actual buildings.
For the first project, we will construct a 3-story apartment building that has 3 windows across its face. Begin by sketching the shape of the structure, and then complete the following steps.
For the face of the building, X-the-box and draw a vertical through the X (Figure-5A).
With the top of the vertical as Point-A, draw a diagonal from Point-A to the front-bottom corner of the building (Point-B), and another to the far-bottom corner (Point-C). Refer to Figure-5B.
At the intersection of Line A-B with one of the X-the-box diagonals at Point-D, draw a vertical line as illustrated in Figure-5C. Do the same at Point-E. The face of the building has now been reduced to three vertical sections.
Since this is a structure with three stories of windows scaling its face, it must be divided into thirds horizontally as well. One way is to draw a horizontal centerline and another set of diagonals, as illustrated in Figure-5D. One of the drawbacks of this is that it is necessary to plot the location of the vanishing point (not shown in the illustration), which may be beyond the edges of our sheet of drawing paper. Another drawback is that, when there are many floors to the building, this technique can become extremely cumbersome.
Instead, it may be more convenient to use a measuring device. This is possible to do in certain circumstances, as discussed in Perspective Basics. The use of a measuring device like a ruler is reliable when all points along the object being measured are equidistant from our eyes. Since it doesn’t tilt or angle away from us, one point along the vertical edge of a building is the same distance from our eyes as any other point. So, using a ruler, both vertical edges of the building’s face have been divided into thirds (Figure-5E).
To complete the drawing, connect the tick-marks to draw lines for the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building (Figure-5F).
Our second project is a multi-story building with many columns of windows. When a rectangle must be broken up into many segments, the method outlined below is generally quicker and easier than way we went about it in the previous project. We will now build a 7-story office tower with 5 windows spanning its face and 3 going across its side.
As before, sketch the building. Then, along each of its three visible vertical edges, measure seven sections equal in height (you should have 6 tick-marks). This is shown in Figure-6A.
Connect the tick-marks to establish the floor-lines (Figure-6B). We now have a 7-story edifice.
Since there are to be 5 windows across the face of the building, count down along the rightmost edge to the fifth tick-mark from the roofline. Draw a line from this spot (Point-5 in Figure-6C) to the top near corner (Point-A) of the structure. (You can also do the same thing by counting up from the base and using the near-bottom corner of the building as Point-A.)
Where line A-5 crosses a floor-line, draw a vertical. You should end up with 4 verticals that describe 5 columns of windows as in Figure-6D.
Using the same procedure for the left side of the tower as we did for the right face, count down 3 floors and draw a diagonal from Point-A to Point-3 on the left edge of the structure (Figure-6E).
As in Step-4, draw verticals through the intersections of line A-3 with the floor lines to define the 3 columns of windows (Figure-6F). You now have your 7-story tower.
BOX IT ALL UP
These are relatively simple methods that yield drawings that are believably consistent with the effects of perspective that we see every day. As you review what has been discussed, you will see the basic idea of near=larger and far=smaller constantly at work. It is apparent with the windows of our 7-story condominium, where the nearest column of windows is appropriately wider than the furthest column. It is also evident in the 3-story apartment house, with the nearest edge being taller than the other vertical edges. You will also notice that all the “horizontals” in a picture seem to recede toward a vanishing point on a single horizon line, even when the vanishing point is outside the frame of the picture.