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Are there any general rules of thumb on whether to use one-point or two-point perspective?

EDIT: I should point out that I'm asking this question in the context of general art and painting.

  • In what context? – Zach Saucier Dec 14 '15 at 3:00
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    I think you really need expand on this question. You might as well ask "when to use photographs versus line art?". Personally, I've never much seen much use for one point perspective, apart from teaching the principles of perspective. But if you have a situation where it would be valid, then please provide this as an example. – Lucien Stals Dec 14 '15 at 3:10
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    @LucienStals one point is a special case of 2point perpective where one side is against the projection plane. – joojaa Dec 14 '15 at 5:03
  • @joojaa Yeah, I know what it is. I just don't see much use for it. Whenever I do technical drawing, I use either 2 point perspective, or isometric drawing. For me, 1 point perspective doesn't show enough information. But here is where this question could devolve into "opinion" without further clarification. We don't even know if this question is about technical drawings. – Lucien Stals Dec 14 '15 at 5:32
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    @LucienStals offcourse you find it has limited use as theres a infinite number of cases where 2point perspective is more appropriate. But yes it can have some use like looking along a road or somesuch. – joojaa Dec 14 '15 at 5:44
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One Point Perspective and Two Point Perspectives serve slightly different purposes.

In general if you want any of your vertical elements to be parallel to the Horizon line you would want to use a one point perspective:

enter image description here

If you don't want that flat face then you're probably wanting to use two point perspective:

enter image description here

Likewise on an interior if you want to see flat sides such as the back wall or the profile of furniture you'd want 1-pt perspective:

enter image description here

Compared to 2-pt perspective:

enter image description here

Here's another quick sketch showing how they differ. Notice the flat faces on the 1pt perspective... yet its actually in a way a 2-pt perspective -- the other vanishing point is just so far away that it appears to be a 1-pt perspective:

enter image description here

They're very closely related and can intersect with each other. Its basically about how far apart your Vanishing Points are, combined with what Joojaa mentioned in comments about the plane. If the object you're looking at rotates or the viewer is not looking straight at the object it can no longer be 1 pt perspective:

enter image description here

So if you want to see a flat vertical plane then you're looking at 1pt perspective.

these are not at all drawn accurately, just quick sketches to give you when to use one or the other

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One point perspective is a special case of 2 point perspective, where the view plane and front plane of objects coincide perfectly.* So you would use 1-point perspective when something is head on. Examples include houses sided by a straight road, or a straight ahead shot of a skyscraper. 1-point perspective is good if you want to emphasize one thing or straightness.

1 and 2 p perspective in same image

Image 1: 1-P and 2-P perspective can and do live in same images.

Otherwise you would use 2 point or 3 point perspective.

* And again 2 point is similarly a special case of 3 point perspective. But a more common and normal situation for humans.

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I'm not exactly clear on your question:

If you actually mean "whether" to use one or two-point perspective, the only rule is that you should use it when it helps achieve your goals. If you're having trouble imagining the correct lines for an object in 3D space, that's when you should pull out one of the point perspective methods. Use it when it's helpful.

On the other hand, if you meant when to use one-point "vs" two-point, then that's an entirely different answer. I would say there is no reason not to use both methods in the same drawing if it helps achieve your goal. For example, two star ships may be approaching from different origins (each requiring its own one-point perspective vanishing point), from over the horizon of a post apocalyptic city (the main horizon would need its own two-point vanishing point set, while the fallen and/or falling buildings may need individual two-point perspective vanishing point sets). In fact, two-point perspective is nothing more than two one-point perspective points. You could theoretically use as many as your geometry requires. The real world is a messy mish-mash of vanishing points in all directions, so there is no reason to limit your drawing to just one type.

Good luck, and happy drawing!

*EDIT: Here's an excellent article explaining the value and use of multiple vanishing points;

enter image description here

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