If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content


We create the illusion of depth and space in 2D art using linear perspective, size differences, and location. Artists use vanishing points, horizon lines, and simple geometric shapes to make objects appear closer or farther away.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- In the last two videos, we talked about how line and shape are used to support storytelling. We also used visual language to create a sense of space. If you look at this photograph, you can see how the parallel lines of the walkway appear to get closer together as they move further away. Also, the closest balls are lower in the frame and appear far apart, while the ones in the distance appear closer together in frame and are obviously much smaller. We mimic these attributes in our story boarding to create the illusion of depth. This is known as linear perspective. By positioning the vertical lines, we can create the illusion of space or depth like a road receding into the distance. By using heavier weight at the bottom of the frame and lighter weight towards the top of the frame, we can make it look like they're getting further away. We add to the illusion using the location of elements within the frame, placing things higher to make them appear further away. Using location as a depth cue is even more effective when we combine it with size differences, making things smaller to make them appear further away. Let's take a look how the illusion of space is created in our storyboards and concept art. - I really like this image. This is, I love this sequence of storyboards. This is when the house floats up, and the way that he created depth in the 2D plane is by giving a vanishing point in the background, so one point perspective is basically showing depth at a single point, so let's say you look here at this point and that's your vanishing point, and then you'll have like a horizon line that goes across there, and then all of your lines converge at that one point, so if you look over here, like, this line coming down towards there, as well as that line, which comes towards there, and then these lines coming towards there, and this one coming towards there, and everything sort of points to that, and it gives you an easy way to see how forms will look in the distance. So like, if you look at this car, usually like when you start off, you wanna start with just blocks 'cause it's real easy to see it that way, so this is a block and then this is a block here, and as you can see, it gets smaller and smaller, so you have like these geometric shapes that are really simple, even up until like the largest buildings here. They're all just simple geometric shapes. - This is a great image of concept art from The Incredibles where we see Bob, now he's no longer a superhero and he's working in an office building as an insurance person. One thing that I really love about the image is that everybody gets a cube, and Bob, this amazing guy who's supposed to be a superhero, gets the one cube with the giant pillar in it, so space is described as like, there's an emotional component where we talk about how he is not doing what he's supposed to be doing, and he's not free to do what he wants to do, and the space is telling us that he's compressed, this giant guy, is compressed in this tiny little space and he's sort of almost imprisoned by this space that we see here. - Now, our compositional elements in this panel from Cars 3 really help us achieve a sense of space. This curve that's happening in the distance, because we know that these gridded patterns in the artist's mind are of equal length, really give us a sense of movement around this curve. They give us a sense of space as these bigger versions of that shape recede into smaller versions around the curve. Again, directionals, we have boxes that feel stagnant, maybe slower than Lightning McQueen, who's a more dynamic shape, but we've also got them all aiming towards Lightning McQueen so we know where to look at all times, and they really help force our eye. I mean, and really force it because of how the line work is also pushing our eye that way. - It's kind of fun to play with what happens when you remove all of those visual cues in space, and so the Abstract Thought sequence became sort of a fun sequence where we kind of really got to play with perspective and just kind of trick your eye in a way. When there's no visual cues to tell you that there's anything around you, you're in this room where there's no corners even, everything is just blown out, it's just pure white light, you start thinking like, "I know there's a wall "here somewhere, but is it right in front of me "or is it like, 1,000 feet away?" You can't even tell and it's really disorienting, and so it's until all these things are removed where you realize you rely on these things every day and we rely on that for storytelling, but what happens when you just remove it all? And so we thought with Abstract Thought, we're gonna just remove the background and all the visual cues that you start off with in the room and just really play with space. - It's pretty amazing that you can create an entire 3D world with just a few lines and shapes. In the next exercise, you'll have the opportunity to think more about space and perspective.