How to Bring Depth into a 2D Drawing

by Hogart Huwes

This is a lesson for the beginner artist, animator or painter.

A drawing done on a piece of paper is flat.  However, very easily depth can be brought into it.  How? 

1.  Linear perspective

Have you ever been in a very long road that continues on a straight line beyond the horizon?  What you will notice is that as you look further and further away, the sides of the road seem to be getting closer and closer to each other as the road appears narrower and smaller into the distance, until perhaps if your vision and circumstances allow to see, the two sides of the road seem to touch on the horizon.

All lines of any objects that run parrallel to each other seem to run closer and closer to each other as they run physically or imagined farther away from the viewer.  

This is your first technique to create depth - liner perspective.  Remember to draw for example the two sides of a table in such a way that if they were to continue on they would run into each other right on the horizon.  This will create the illusion of distance looking like there's a Z-axis in your picture.    

2.  Aerial Perspective

This has to do with the weather and the humidity, smoke, dust, fog or any other particles in the air.  Since the particles aren't very dense, you can see right through them and it doesn't noticably affect objects close to you.  

However, if you look at something over a distance, more particles are present in that space and you're watching through a lot more of it, whether it's fog or dust or just the atmosphere. 

This will result in objects in the distance, like hills or mountains, or any object away from the viewer to become fainter and fainter, depending on the distance or the density of the particles the viewer looks through. 

This will explain why many artists love to draw or paint mountains like these blue, faint things in the background. 

And this of course is another technique you can use to bring depth to your drawing or painting:  The further something is away "into" your drawing, the more feint it can be depicted. 

3.  Light and shade

Now let's look at the objects themselves.  Without light and shade, all objects would appear flat.  Think of a black and white television - how do you make out any shapes?  By the different shades of gray there is on every object between white and black. 

Train your eye to look at an object, even an object of even color, and you will notice that though it's one color, it has different tones because of the light and shadows on it. 

Reproduce that in your picture, combined with the other two techniques, and you should successfully create the illusion of depth and perspective in your images.