Drawing an Ellipse
Your First Lesson in Drawing Depth
by Jesse Seal

Did you know a simple contour shape, although flat, can add depth to your drawing? Drawing an ellipse is an effective way for beginners to start drawing in three dimensions.

One of the most difficult tasks for someone who is new to drawing is learning how to create three dimensional images on a two dimensional media (i.e. paper).

The first step to learning how to draw is learning about simple contour shapes. These include circles, rectangles, triangles, etc. To make these three dimensional you need to know about a few basic drawing techniques including shading (to turn the circle into a sphere) and geometric perspective (to turn the rectangle into a cube, and the triangle into a pyramid. Don't worry yourself if you don't know what these are or how to do them, they will be covered in detail on their respective pages).

Another simple contour shape is a cylinder. While shading is often used to add depth to this shape as well, a much more simple method can be used to achieve the same effect; an ellipse.

An ellipse is basically an oval placed at the top of cylinders to give them a "top" and add dimension.

Cylinders are found almost EVERYWHERE you look; pencils, cups, jars, pipes, etc. The ellipse is a powerful, yet simple method to add dimension before you have the time or knowledge to move on to more "advanced" basic drawing techniques like shading and perspective.

Take a look at some of the images below.

Real Examples of Ellipses

Now, let's draw one of these together. To do this exercise, you will need:

  • A pencil
  • Paper
  • Eraser 

Step One

The first step you're going to take is drawing the ellipse.

Draw an Ellipse

Step Two

Next, you will connect two parallel lines to each "end" of the ellipse that extend down however far you want.

Draw the sides of the cylinder

Step Three

Finally, you will connect the bottom of the two same-length, parallel lines with a simple curve that mirrors the bottom curve of the top ellipse. You can either draw a simple curve, or draw a complete ellipse and erase the top half.

Draw a second ellipse at the bottom
Eraser the top half of the bottom elipse

Play around with drawing an ellipse and see what sort of things you can draw. Pick some things around the house and apply the principles you've learned here to draw them as accurate as you can. Here's a few ideas to get you started:

  • Jar of peanut better
  • Steel pipes
  • AA Battery
  • Standard Pencil (eraser end)

What other objects can you draw using an ellipse to add depth? Share your ideas with others in the comments below.

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About The Sketchbook Artist, Jesse Seal

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