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Drawing ellipses in perspective

From: Digital Matte Painting Essentials 2: Perspective

Video: Drawing ellipses in perspective

Now that we know about the anatomy of an ellipse, let's talk about how we place an ellipse in perspective. Every circle will fit perfectly inside of a square, and we can take advantage of that fact to find the center of our circle by drawing an x through each corner of our square. Where the two lines meet is the exact center of the circle. If you draw lines horizontally and vertically through that center, you'll find the place where the circle and the square will touch, in the middle of each side of the square.

Drawing ellipses in perspective

Now that we know about the anatomy of an ellipse, let's talk about how we place an ellipse in perspective. Every circle will fit perfectly inside of a square, and we can take advantage of that fact to find the center of our circle by drawing an x through each corner of our square. Where the two lines meet is the exact center of the circle. If you draw lines horizontally and vertically through that center, you'll find the place where the circle and the square will touch, in the middle of each side of the square.

Let's do that same thing again, only this time do a circle in perspective, an ellipse. Remember that an ellipse is a circle viewed at an angle so this ellipse is the same as the circle we were just looking at only at an angle to our eye. I've already added a horizon line to this scene. So let's choose a vanishing point and draw the sides of the square that our circle will fit into. Only this time in perspective. Now draw the top and bottom of the square, draw an x from corner to corner on the square and you've found the center of the ellipse in perspective.

If you draw a horizontal line through the center and a vertical line back to the vanishing point where the horizontal and vertical lines meet the sides of the square is where the ellipse will touch the sides of the square. Let me undo some of these guides so we can talk about the percentages of ellipses. To get this ellipse, I scaled down the circle we started from to 20% of its original height. So, I refer to this as a 20% ellipse. For those of you who have a knowledge of geometry, you'll want to refer to ellipses in degrees with a perfect circle being a 90 degree ellipse.

I find that to be confusing. Since in Photoshop there is no way to deal with degrees when scaling down circles. So throughout this training I will refer to ellipses by percentages not degrees. Let's project down the corners of this square that bounds our ellipse and create two more ellipses. One halfway to the horizon and one at the horizon. Using the lines we drew down from the top square as guides. Draw another square halfway down to the horizon.

Taking the sides back to the vanishing point, as before. Then drawing the back side based on where those lines to the vanishing point meet the guides. Note that the square we drew half way down to the horizon is half the height of the higher square. Since the closer to the horizon you draw a square that is perpendicular to your eye line, the less you will see of that square. Now, let's duplicate that top ellipse and scale it down to fit inside the new square lower to the horizon.

Again, if I scale this 50% vertically It will fit right inside the square. Let's draw one more ellipse that is in line with these other two. This time on the horizon. This one will be absolutely flat. You won't see any of the ellipse since you're looking at the side of it. If you think of this top ellipse as your master ellipse this lower one that is halfway to the horizon will be 50% of the master ellipse. And any ellipse on the horizon will be 0% of the master ellipse.

We'll use this fact to keep all of the ellipses consistent in our project a bit later. Since you're digital artist you'll probably never manually draw ellipses, but it will increase your understanding of ellipses if you know how to do it. I've pre drawn a cube in perspective that you'll find in the lynda.com course materials. I suggest you open it up and work alongside me while I'm doing this. As you'll soon discover, I'm not very good at drawing freehand ellipses. If you know an automotive designer their ability to draw ellipses is astounding but I don't do it much.

Let's draw ellipses on all three visible sides of this cube. First draw an x from corner to corner on one side of the cube. I don't have the vanishing points visible on the cube, but extrapolate where they would be by looking at the other sides and draw a line through the center going back and another line side to side. Where these center lines touch each side of the cube is where the sides of the ellipse will touch the cube. Lower the opacity of your brush and lightly sketch in the ellipse so that it touches the middle of each side.

Once you have it roughed in, raise the opacity to 100%, and holding down the Shift key, draw short segments to get the ellipse clearly defined. If you're an expert you can get this in one swift gesture. I'm just not that good. So I take this more conservative approach. Let's test this ellipse to see if we got it right. Draw the short axis which will vanish to the lower right vanishing point. Again I don't have guides for the vanishing points so I'll extrapolate it from the other sides of the square.

Select the lower half of the elipse and flip it over the short axis. If it exactly matches the other side, you have drawn the elipse and the short axis correctly. Let me undo that and let's draw ellipses on the other side. That short axis is going to get confusing, so I'm going to turn it off. Draw an x through another side of the cube to find the center. Draw a line through that center to each side to find the side centers. Note that since we already found the center of one side on the cube the center line for the new side will go through that point also.

Mark each side of he square where the ellipse will touch. And lightly draw it in. Increase the opacity to 100% and then draw the final version of the ellipse. Like I said, as a digital artist you probably won't do this very often but it's a good idea to know how to do it. I'm going to speed through this final side, since I'm doing exactly the same thing, but take your time and get a little experience hand drawing ellipses on each side of the cube.

Next up, I'll show you the most common mistake that's made in drawing ellipses. Then with your full ellipse education completed, we'll return to drawing the castle.

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Digital Matte Painting Essentials 2: Perspective

30 video lessons · 3143 viewers

David Mattingly
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