Best Perspective Books and Online Courses in 2022

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jul 20, 2022 •  Guides

Since perspective is such an essential part of art and art education, I think it is important enough for any artist and designer to really study it, in both concept and execution. So, in this article, I will provide a practical guide to excellent perspective books and online learning resources you can take advantage of. Let’s have a look!

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

My Top 3 Perspective Books

Table of Contents

I have written a lot about and for self-taught artists, especially around making sure we have the tools, skills and basic education we need to make ourselves better artists, to make the creative process as fun and successful as possible, and to make our art as good as it can be.

And one of the most important parts of this is the understanding of, and ability to properly render, perspective in our art. In drawing and painting, as well as digital art, concept art, and pretty much any other medium, perspective is one of the most important elements in creating space, energy, relationships and realism, and it touches on every other aspect of artistic creation.

And as I began to think about this article, I realized that it’s not just self-taught artists, or people who haven’t had the benefit of a formal art school education where you practice perspective a lot, that I’m writing for.

Even people who have had a great, complete and comprehensive education can always benefit from a refresher in such a complex topic as perspective drawings, and its importance and use in art – again, both digital art and traditional media.

What is Perspective?

Perspective is the representation of three dimensional space in art, or, as an alternate definition, is the representation of objects, spaces and scenes exactly as they would appear from a viewer’s “perspective.” Kind of the same thing when you think about it…

In terms of rules of perspective, normally we think of this chiefly in relationship to two dimensional art – when we are working with a flat piece of paper or canvas, or a computer screen, we need certain techniques, tricks and tools to make that flat surface appear to have depth, and the objects in the art to have a spatial relationship with each other.

But we can also think of perspective in three dimensional art. That is, if we are making a sculpture, a diorama or some sort of art installation, or even doing interior design drawing or architecture, with actual three dimensional objects in space, the basic understanding of perspective is still quite important – allowing us to use color, texture and space, light and shadow, and to place and distribute objects in a way that is most pleasing, emphasizes their relationship with each other, create perspective, more energy and/or a sense of motion, even gives the illusion of more space or space that is somehow different or intentionally distorted.

But again we mostly associate perspective in art with the idea of creating space and spatial relationships on a two dimensional plane. In western art the effective use of perspective really began to appear, and to become a central concept and quality, in the Renaissance, especially the early Renaissance in Italy at the beginning of the 15th century. As a result, painting and drawing improved immeasurably, with a sense of actual and believable space, greater realism, life and energy. Indeed, the development of realism at that time is one of the main reasons Renaissance art reached such astonishing levels of beauty and mastery.

Is Perspective Still Important in Art Today?

Perspective is as important in creating effective, realistic and beautiful art today as it was six hundred years ago, and in some ways it might be more important than ever.

We live in a world where so much of what we see, work on and interact with, is basically nothing more than a flat, two dimensional plane. The computer screen, in particular, is such a continuously present and important part of so many people’s lives today, and unfortunately so much of what they see on that screen is pretty flat and lifeless.

An artist who really understands the basics of perspective, and can achieve those effects in their art, has an enormous advantage, and can create things that really stand out, that engage, excite and please people on a whole new level. This can really set you apart as an artist, give you a huge advantage in the job market, and can make all of your projects more attractive and effective – especially in the digital realm, though this is also true in traditional media.

Even when working in three dimensional digital art, where more and more the computer calculates and renders perspective in objects and scenes, and the proper relationship between the objects in those scenes, being able to clearly and accurately see perspective in three dimensional work or two dimensional renderings is an enormous asset, and can help you correct, edit and improve the often quite sterile and unengaging “perfectly accurate” perspective the computer has created.

And of course the understanding and proper use of perspective in physical media – painting, drawing, sketching, inking on paper, canvas or the like – still totally transforms and awakens art as much as it ever has, and will also make you, and your art, really stand out.

How Can You Learn Perspective?

Too many years ago I once heard a much older artist, whose work I really liked, proclaim in a very dramatic voice, as if he were sharing the most serious and profound of knowledge, that if an artist wanted to understand and master perspective, they need only to open their eyes and see the world around them.

Well, I tell you, this really shook me! The words entered me and made my whole young, dramatic artistic self shake with their depth and importance. For such a long time I opened my eyes as wide as they would go, cleared my mind and just looked out into the world as it appeared in space – how objects seemed to get smaller the farther away they were, how lines converged, how light, shadows and solidity interacted. A deep and earnest study of space and perspective.

And you know what? It didn’t really help. Sure, I did see some stuff I didn’t really notice before, but I wasn’t that much closer to realizing space and perspective in my own work.

So I ended up reading a couple of really good books and took a class in basic perspective, and having things clearly explained to me, as well as learning in specific detail the tricks, techniques and processes artists have been using for centuries to represent space, relationship and perspective in art, made all the difference.

So yeah, really look at the world around you – especially when you’re crossing the street – but even if you are a completely self taught artist, and fiercely proud of it, at least consider getting a book or two on basic and advanced perspective and/or take a good online course.

How Can You Find the Best Books to Learn Perspective Drawing?

Luckily there are a lot of fantastic books on learning and mastering perspective, and they are all quite affordable and readily available. There are so many, in fact, that selecting the best perspective book can be pretty difficult.

But I have read lots of them, and have gotten feedback and recommendations from lots of my friends and colleagues in art, as well as my own students, and have put together a list of the best books on perspective you can get.

I will list these wonderful books below, simply in alphabetical order, and I will write a few words about each of them to help you decide, but for now let me offer a few of my favorite titles:

Overview: Best Perspective Books for Artists and Designers

If you feel that your art education in general is a little lacking, and that you could benefit from learning or even just refreshing your knowledge of not just perspective but all of the elements, techniques and methods of art, this is your book. This is one of the best and most highly regarded general art education textbooks ever written, and the sections focusing on perspective are outstanding – a very effective and valuable resource.

Too often we limit our study of perspective to scenes – landscapes, cityscapes, rooms and even still lifes, but fail to consider the representation of perspective in drawing people, which lack can make portraits and figure drawing flat and lifeless. While not offering specific instruction, Cody’s critically acclaimed classic atlas offers an exhaustive look at the human body in various depths of perspective – an essential reference for the serious portrait or character artist.

Mostly focusing on architectural drawing and interior designers, John Montague’s book is a great place for beginners to start, with a fresh approach to understanding perspective, precise and understandable instructions and clear step by step illustrations supporting each lesson.  

Written by one of the most important and influential artists, art educators and administrators of our time, Creative Perspective offers one of the best and most complete treatments of perspective in all its aspects, and then goes on to show and tell us how to creatively break the rules we just learned. Lovingly written and illustrated with examples from many interesting modern artists, this is a delightful book and I highly recommend it!

Drawing Perspective & Space: Basic Principles of Drawing in Perspective B/W

Markus Sebastian Agerer, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016

Buy Now on Amazon

An excellent basic text on drawing with perspective and a sense of space, Agerer’s book covers landscape perspective, light and shadow, object drawing and proportion, as well as offering a clear and understandable explanation of perspective as a concept and a part of art and artistic rendering. 

Especially valuable for two things – how to see the world in a clear three-dimensional way, and how to apply this new way of seeing to your art – Brehm’s very basic and easy to follow book is fast becoming a classic, and not just among artists.

Mateu-Mestre’s award winning two volume work is extraordinarily popular among visual storytellers – comic book artists and graphic novel artists, concept artists and animators – but is valuable to anybody who wants to not only understand perspective, but especially to use perspective to add energy and to focus the narrative in stories, and to maintain space, order and flow in even highly complex scenes.

Originally published almost exactly 100 years ago,Miriam Dora Norton’s great classic remains as valid and applicable today as ever, and the language seems not just contemporary but fresh and clear. With less emphasis on technical drills and data and more on seeing and spontaneously rendering, this is a book that captures not just the essence of perspective as an element of art, but the spirit of artistic creation itself.

Probably the most overlooked and least covered aspect of perspective is light and shadow. For beginners the most fundamental concepts and techniques are quite thoroughly explained in the excellent Light, Shade and Shadow (just below), but the advanced artist – in traditional or digital media – needs a master course and reference, and there is absolutely no finer book on the subject than Yot’s brilliant, provocative and delightful work. Highly recommended!

Just as Yot’s masterpiece in advanced light, shadow, space and dimensionality is a required work for the master artist, this beloved classic, first published over a century ago, is the perfect introduction for the beginner or art student. A clear, entertaining and exceptionally helpful explanation of light, shadow and physical shape, this book will greatly enhance your ability to draw and paint with realistic space and perspective.

This brand new book offers one of the most clear and effective explanations of what perspective is – especially as it applies to landscape / cityscape scenes – and how to achieve it effectively and consistently in your art. If you just don’t get perspective, even after reading other books, I’m willing to bet that you will after reading this simple and accessible book.

For painters, who can’t always rely on all of the tricks and techniques available to people who are drawing, this is a wonderful book, helping you understand how to achieve a real and believable sense of space and depth in your paintings using not only some of the conventional methods, but also color, texture, light, flow and related ideas around placement and composition. Maybe the best way for many painters to take their work to the next level!

Almost every book on this list of best art books to learn perspective concentrate of working in two dimensional media – either physical or digital – but Gambrel’s recent classic is a fascinating and masterful example of perspective in interior design – not by providing explanations of technique or concept, but simply by showing examples of his incredible work and short snippets of his thoughts and process. Every single photo shows real ingenuity and effectiveness in the use of colors, texture, light, placement and juxtaposition in creating energetically three dimensional space. A beautiful and illuminating book!

It seems that for every hundred books on perspective in drawing there’s maybe one book on perspective in painting. It doesn’t matter, though, as long as there is even a single book as masterful and helpful as Yarnell’s project-based book, which teaches the use of light and shadow, color theory, texture, line and motion as they relate to perspective, and in ways that are particularly applicable to painting and especially valuable to the painter.

An industry standard and maybe the most effective and excellent book of its type, Beduhn’s comprehensive work details specific techniques, and the reasons and ideas behind them, for every single part of interior and space design. Equally old school and high tech, this valuable (and, admittedly, fairly pricey) book relies heavily on on-line video lessons, which come free with purchase, and also touches on digital media – though mostly focusing on pen or pencil and paper. Brilliant, and absolutely essential for any designer!

Originally published some 90 years ago, Doust’s short and simple book for the beginning artist teaches perspective in a refreshingly light-hearted (and often quite funny) way, and yet with a clarity and completeness many larger, and much more serious, volumes can’t match. A great beginner’s book, and also a fine choice for an experienced or advanced artist who wants a quick and fun refresher.

A classic and widely used handbook for artists of all types, D’Amelio’s clear and concise little book can be thought of as a reference for use when working, but in fact it can also be used as a textbook, with very short explanations and very clear illustrations that can, in their way, teach you the whole picture of perspective in art.

An inexpensive and exhaustive primer for all aspects of perspective, in concept and in practice, originally published in 1921, Cole’s textbook certainly takes an old-fashioned (and, for some, maddeningly slow and detailed) approach to teaching, but you will definitely leave with a complete understanding and mastery of perspective in art.

This three book set has become something of a cult classic – not just for its hipness or its innovative approach to teaching, but for its extremely effective and applicable lessons. An important resource for comic artists who make comic books, graphic novels, animations, storyboards and the like, and a valuable and entertaining read for any artist, Chelsea’s three volume treatment of perspective and how it can enhance storytelling, drama and action is highly recommended.

From the authors of the acclaimed and enormously popular Drawing for the Absolute Beginner, this new book continues in that style, with fresh and attractive prose, clear and helpful explanations and really effective examples and exercises. Covering interior space, exterior scapes and objects, this is a surprisingly complete work, perfect for the absolute drabeginner but going into advanced techniques and basic concepts as well. By itself a brilliant and indispensable text on learning and using perspective, and in combination with their first book one of the best and most complete ways to learn how to draw.

A fresh and delightful approach to teaching perspective, this extremely popular and critically acclaimed book offers fairly complete coverage of the basics of perspective drawing. I have to say that the comic strip type approach and simplistic language may not be to everybody’s taste, and seem a bit out of place when more advanced concepts are being discussed, but Perspective Made Easy book is really popular among artists!

Remarkable for their natural approach to teaching and learning perspective drawing – no complex equations or deep concepts, just seeing and doing – Metzger’s books are also great because of how they cover not just lines and shapes, but light, color and texture as well, and because they are applicable to not just drawing, but painting and really any other medium, including digital art. Great starter books, and an equally great resource for advanced artists, covering both the basics and the most complicated techniques and practices with equal clarity and effectiveness.

Just as the name claims, this is the most complete and comprehensive book on perspective in art I have ever found, including history, concept and execution. Not the easiest book to read, and not a quick reference, Attebery’s work is also perhaps not the best choice for new artists who want to learn the basics in a more quick and simple way. But for the advanced artist who is willing to invest some time and effort in order to take their art to amazing new levels, this is a must-have, and is a great classic in the art community.

All of the books in the Urban Sketching Handbook series are great, but I am happy to close this buyer’s guide to the best books for learning perspective by giving a little love to Stephanie Bower’s two amazing volumes – the first specifically about perspective, and a fantastic book, and the second sharing some of her best drawing and sketching techniques and artistic insights, a surprising number of which seem to directly or indirectly touch on realistic perspective and space. These are both fantastic books that I recommend enthusiastically!

Bonus: Best Online Courses for Learning Perspective in Art

As far as online courses go, well, there are also an almost overwhelming amount and variety of them, and finding the best courses on perspective can be equally challenging.

As many of you know, I am, in addition to being a commercial artist and blogger, a pretty successful and active online art teacher. I like to think that my teaching style cover subjects in a really complete, effective and enjoyable way, covering everything you need to learn and especially concentrating on not just the information, but how to practically apply that information to your art.

I also hope that my courses really convey my enthusiasm and love of the subject, of art and of teaching, and that this enthusiasm carries over to my students and makes the whole learning experience more fun and effective. 

I have put together a nice basic course on perspective – not just understanding perspective, but also specifically achieving the best sense of perspective using the Procreate drawing program. This course is of course especially helpful for people who make art on their iPads using Procreate, but the tips and techniques, as well as the basic information and understanding, apply nicely to other programs and devices, as well as to traditional media as well. 

If you want to check out this class you can find it here – Basics of Perspective in Procreate. I also recommend checking out the perspective courses on great online learning platforms like Skillshare, the Evolve Artist Program. There are, again, lots of choices, but these online schools are really great, with wonderful teachers, intelligent and well designed course content and real relevance, and are highly recommended – by me and lots of others!

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Learning and Mastering Perspective in Art: The Best Books and Online Courses – and please check out my website – Art Side of Life – for more buyer’s guides, articles, tutorials, artist interviews and tons of other resources for commercial artists, fine artists, art students and beginners, crafters and anybody else exploring their own creative side!

Other articles in the Art Books series and resources:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.