How to draw ellipses in perspective | 7 steps easy tutorial

How to draw ellipses in perspective step-by-step.


If you wonder what is an ellipse, it is basically a circle in perspective.

For example, if you see a cup from the top, you see a circle. If you hold the cup below your eyes, you’ll see an ellipse!

Knowing how to use ellipses will be great for you to start drawing things such as glasses, bottles, bowl, wheels… basically cylinders and offset.

However, you will need to know how to draw a box in perspective first. If you don’t know yet, I invite you to watch this first: How to draw a cube with a 2-point perspective.


Step 1 |  Draw a box with 2-point perspective

We will use this box with a 2-point perspective as a base for the ellipse drawing.

Step 1 |  Draw a box with 2-point perspective (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


Step 2 | Divide the front face into 4 equal parts and find the center.

Remember to use foreshortening. In this picture, I use my eye estimation.
DRAWING TIP: If you want to find the perfect spot, draw the diagonals first. Their intersection will be the center.

Step 2 | Divide the front face into 4 equal parts and find the center (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


Step 3 | Draw the Minor axis going through the Vanishing point and the center.

Far behind on the right, you have the Vanishing point.
This is the start of this blue arrow (called the converging line).

Step 3 | Draw the Minor axis going through the Vanishing point and the center. (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


Step 4 | Find the middle of each edge of the square

Spot where the box gets divided at each edge.

Step 4 | Find the middle of each edge of the square (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


Step 5 | Trace your ellipse!

Draw the ellipse following these 2 conditions:

  • Connect the 4 blue dots
  • Get the blue arrow (Minor axis) as a Symmetry axis

Step 5 | Trace your ellipse! (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


Step 6 | Optional: Check that the Major axis is Perpendicular to the Minor axis

Step 6 | Optional: Check that the Major axis is Perpendicular to the Minor axis (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


Step 7 | Check that both minor and major axis is the Symmetry axis of the ellipse!

Step 7 | Check that both axis are the Symmetry axis of the ellipse! (Ellipse drawing tutorial)


GOOD TO KNOW

    • The Minor axis is the shortest distance of the ellipse.
    • The Major axis is the longest distance of the ellipse.

The Minor axis is the shortest distance of the ellipse. The Major axis is the longest distance of the ellipse.

Take a pen, explore multiple angles of the box, and draw many ellipses from different angles!


To complete this tutorial, I have created a video on How to draw ellipses freehand.

See you there!

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About The Author

Chou-Tac

Hello! My name is Chou-Tac. I am a Product Designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim to help you all along with your design projects and journey. Anytime, feel free to leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com : )

10 Comments

  • John

    Reply Reply May 4, 2017

    Hi Chou-Tac, thanks for your and this video.

    Your ellipse and perspective is wrong! But let me explain:

    You can put a perfect circles in a box, where all sides have the same length, so you can put a perfect circles in a square.

    If you want a perfect square in perspective, you are using ellipses.
    They are not the only tool to get a square in perspective, but its one of the fastest ways.

    In your video, you first established the right and left vanishing point, you draw the “square” in perspective, and then you draw the ellipse in it. Maybe it will work sometimes, but thats not the correct way, because this can lead to a wrong ellipse.

    The right way doing it, is to draw the ellipse first and let your ellipse guides your vanishing points, or you draw your left and right vanishing points first, draw a square but only with 3 edges (top, down and left side), then you put your ellipse in and CHECK if its the correct one, to get the 4th edge (right side).

    I hope you understand what I mean and that you can do a video about that, because there are only a little material about that topic.

    thanks!

  • Julia

    Reply Reply July 22, 2016

    Thank you!
    In fine I understood how to draw the minor axis. But it doesn’t work with ellipses in the rectangle. How to draw those? Just with four points in the middle of every side?

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply July 22, 2016

      Hello Julia,

      this tutorial works for circle inside a square only. 🙂

  • rooben

    Reply Reply January 27, 2016

    Hi Chou-Tac,
    Thanks for the tips…Any chance in having a quick explanation of using eye level perspective to draw complex objects

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply January 27, 2016

      Hello Rooben,

      In few words, you have to SIMPLIFY complex objects in multiple simple one. To do that, you need to ignore the details, colours, logos… Think” “structure”.

      For example, if you create a new way to ride a bike, draw the “architecture” of the bike. Focus on how it works, how people will ride it. Then only you will spend more time on the shape and details of the bike. It’s convenient start drawing a side view so you can get the proportion. Later your challenge will be “transposing” this side view in perspective.

      There is multiple ways to start a project, but this one is pretty efficient.

      About the eye level, it’s all the same as what you can find in the Designer Starter Kit for a cube.

      • rooben

        Reply Reply January 27, 2016

        Thanks Chou-Tac,i will apply this methodology and try to avoid getting distracted by details.

  • Luke

    Reply Reply January 27, 2016

    Good stuff Chou-Tac!

    I feel it’s worth adding that we usually draw ellipses to present CIRCLES in perspective. As a result, the bounding box needs to be a SQUARE in perspective. If accuracy is important, you may need to use a few more steps and construction techniques in your sketch. Personally I need more practice with this, but I’m down on the theory involved.

    Cheers – Luke

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply January 27, 2016

      Hey Luke, you are right it’s worth mentioning the Circle. Thanks !

  • Nick Bourantanis

    Reply Reply January 26, 2016

    Hi Chou-Tac,

    Great tip! By drawing the cube in perspective first you eliminate the guesswork as to how open the bottom ellipse should be compared to the top.

    thank you and keep it up,

    cheers,
    Nick

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply January 27, 2016

      My pleasure Nick !

      I agree, it’ all about eliminating the guesswork.

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