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Some thoughts on perspective

Search and find illustrations are usually seen from a certain distance, so that you can fit a lot of different events, characters and objects in a single scene. That doesn't mean, however, that there's only one way to define how the scene will be viewed, and the perspective used.

3 samples of Mattias Adolfsson's work showing 3 different perspective views
One artist, different ways of approaching perspective: Mattias Adolfsson. Source:

If you look up different artists, you'll find different approaches. Scenes that show smaller environments and use two point perspective. Scenes that show the section of a house/tree/submarine/whatever place you can imagine, and use one point perspective. Scenes that use a top down view, similar to what you find in retro rpg games, where you can see things from above but still highlight important elements such as the front of the buildings. Scenes that don't use much perspective, but organize the image with different planes, like a theater play. And scenes that use isometric or dimetric views, which are the ones I use the most.

Why do I like to use isometric/dimetric projections? I'd say two main reasons.

One is that I come from an architecture background (I worked quite a few years before deciding to go full time as an illustrator), and we learn to use isometric perspective from early on as a way to precisely describe buildings and construction elements, since there's no distortion. I think the concept works for the kind of image I enjoy creating because it's a way to make the whole scene start out with the same level of importance, encouraging the viewer to wander around the entire piece.

And the other reason is that I want my work to have a sort of feeling that is reminiscent of miniatures, games, toys, to get to that enchantment and exploring sensitivities we have as kids. And while trying out different views and proportions of the elements of the drawing, I noticed isometric works like a charm for that, as it really can make you believe the illustration could be a miniature set of some sort.

3 samples of work by Giu Calistro  with isometric and dimetric perspective
Some isometric and dimetric approaches I've used to best convey the feeling of each illustration

I always start with a grid, but over time I've become less attached to it in order to position things in different angles and make the image more dynamic and lived-in. Most of the time I still respect the projection's rules for that, but now I'm more comfortable breaking a few rules when it makes the image more interesting and immersive to the viewer. That way the perspective we choose becomes a strong ally in achieving our vision for each illustration.


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