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Thursday Theory: The Importance of Perspective and Depth in Your Designs

Thursday Theory: The Importance of Perspective and Depth in Your Designs

Perspective and depth are important aspects of graphic design, yet are often overlooked within community discussion. This is perhaps because graphic design is regarded as an inherently 2D medium. Consequently discussions of perspective and depth are generally confined to cinematic and photographic circles. This is interesting as photography is often dependent on perspective and depth, yet is arguably as 2D a medium as graphic design.

Despite it’s understated reputation, perspective is a crucial part of accomplished graphic design. In my opinion the two main roles of perspective within graphic design are as follows:

  • 1: It makes images more interesting. – An image with depth and perspective is often more intriguing to the viewer than a flatter image. Perspective can seemingly contort and manipulate the normal, giving more unique results.

This image would be nowhere near as striking had it not utilized depth of field. The unusual depth of field really draws the viewers eye.

  • 2: Perspective triggers movement in the viewers eye, engaging them and drawing them into the work. – Images with depth and perspective make us feel more a part of it than flatter images. They capture how we see the world.

Try not to be drawn into looking at this image – it’s difficult! The perspective and lines within this piece are really engaging. Notice also how the lines of perspective are enhanced by the lighting of the setting. This light really helps add to the depth of the piece.

But What About in Graphic Design?

Yes, I know that the two examples already given are photographic. However, it’s important to remember than principles of photography and cinema can of course be transposed to a graphic design medium.

That being said, we’re going to look at how to integrate perspective into your graphic design work, and make your compositions more interesting!

Utilize Depth of Field

If you want to give your work more depth then you need to get some distance between your subject and background (or at least give the impression of distance). Next time you open up Photoshop, try to experiment with a composition whereby the background feels very distant in comparison to your foreground/subject.

Yes, another photographic example I know, but this photograph demonstrates how by focusing on a close foreground and having a distant background, you can achieve instant depth.

Create Lines of Perspective

One of the most effective ways to create perspective is to establish clear lines of perspective in your work. This can be done using very complex shapes, or as simple as a basic 4 line structure.

This piece shows the basic structure of a great composition, and how perspective is constructed. You can see how planning out your perspective as a first step can lead to a final piece with a lot of depth.

Unusual Compositions

You can really establish the perspective of your composition through unusual designs. These tend to grab your viewers attention more than regular images, and thus the depth/perspective is amplified.

This image shows how unusual composition can make the perspective of an image far more prominent. The surreal nature of this work is really eye catching.

Use of Gaussian Blur

A common trick amongst Photoshoppers is to blur certain elements of your composition to create a false sense of depth. I’ve used this technique several times at PSDFAN in my tutorials, and it can really make your images pop!

These examples of PSDFAN tutorials show the popular gaussian blur effect. Elements (in this case rocks and feathers) are blurred in order to give the impression of depth. Elements should be larger and more blurred to imply close proximity to the viewer.

Using Lighting/Colors/Detail/Angles to Enhance Perspective

This step pretty much involves bringing a lot of the previous steps together. Try to bear in mind where your eye is drawn. Obviously more colorful, well-lit, detailed areas will capture the viewers attention more. You can also use angles to direct the eye.

This piece integrates many of the techniques already discussed. The dove is blurred to create an artificial depth of field. The blue shards use light/color to draw the users eye towards the center of the piece, an effect which is enhanced by the angles/points of the shards pointing inwards. A vignette effect is also used to enhance this central lighting and perspective.

Have Your Say!

This whole point of these Thursday Theory posts is to encourage discussion and let you have your say on pressing design issues.

Please leave a comment below and join the discussion:

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. great post! I’m the community manager for Microsoft Tag and I have two questions. Do you think this can be implemented into a Tag and how do you think lines of perspective can be used to draw attention to a 2dcode while not taking away from the overall design?

  2. Carrie Walls says:

    What an outstanding look at perspective in relation to graphic design. I recently had an informative essay due for English Comp. and this was very inciteful. Thanks for the great info!

  3. Fantastic page and simple to fully understand description. How can I go about getting permission to publish part of the post in my upcoming e-newsletter?

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