Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: on Instagram at @stephanieabower & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

TIP 3/10: Heads Align at YOUR Eye Level and more...

Welcome to a series of 10 blog posts with tips for better sketching!

#3 : Heads Align at YOUR Eye Level...and more...

Now that you know how to find your eye level, lets look at using that line to place people into your sketches. The eye level line is something we see all the time but don't really notice how it works in sketching on location. It's a true "ah-ha" moment for lots of people in my classes.

Let's say you are about to start a sketch...

     --you are standing 
     --the ground is more or less flat
     --there are lots of other people in your view who are approximately your height, give or take a foot.

See the view below of a charity run in Florence this summer. This is a super common kind of view for lots of sketchers, and it's called an "eye level view". You are looking straight ahead, not up or down.

An interesting phenomenon happens with an eye level view, and it's something that can help you understand both where your eye level line is in the view and also how to draw all the people.

In an eye level view, all the heads align on the same horizontal line, which is also.... at YOUR EYE LEVEL! So "Horizon Line" + your "Eye Level Line" and all those heads in the view are all the same!
This means that in this photo, I was standing, the ground was more or less flat, and everyone was close to my height, between 5'-6' tall. No matter where their feet fall in the view, or if they are close to you or far away from you, the heads align...take a look!

Knowing this makes it sooooo much easier to populate your sketches with people, which is so important for understanding the size and scale of the things we see and sketch. It's part of why I ALWAYS draw my eye level line across the page in my sketches.

And here is the sketch...the heads all more or less align whether they are close to me or far away.

LOOKING UP -- When your eye level is BELOW everyone else's:
Let's also take a quick look at what happens when you are sitting and your eye level is lower than all those people standing. My eye level when sitting is about the height of a door handle, or maybe around someone's belly button. This view, when looking UP a bit, is often referred to as a "worm's eye view".

You can see in this view that relative to my eye level (in turquoise) the people who are closest to me have heads that appear the farthest above my eye level, and the people in the distance have heads that are closer to my eye level line.

Not a lot of people in this sketch, but you can see the people closest to me on the left are higher
than the people in the distance (tiny, I know...)

LOOKING DOWN -- When your eye level is ABOVE everyone else's:
Back to Venice... let's look at what is called an "aerial view" in which your eye level (in turquoise) is way above everyone else's eye level. (At the horizon!)

In this view, you can see that people follow the general rules of perspective, that things closest to us are bigger, and things farther away are smaller. BUT, we also see that the people closest to us appear lower in our sketch/photo, with their heads farthest away from your eye level line.
The people in the distance are not only smaller, but they appear closer to your eye level line, or higher in your sketch/photo.

Knowing these simple tips will make it MUCH easier for you to place people in your sketches!!

Also, sign ups for my workshop in Seattle, Good Bones, open July 5! Email me at  thanks!


  1. You were right, Stephanie - this was a huge revelation for me in your course! I use this all the time now and it’s become second nature. Sometimes this is actually the easiest way to FIND my eye line!

    1. Hi Lisa, THANKS so much for writing this! I'm so glad you use this, and yes, it's a great way to also find your eye level line! Wonderful it has become second nature to you, that is the goal...

      Thanks again, happy sketching!

  2. Just found your blog Stephanie and am reading back through old posts. I had purchased your "Drawing Perspectives" USK book months ago, but hadn't read it until recently after a mini workshop with a local artist, Kay Bea Jones. Loved the book - so well explained and I can see that I'll need to refer to it often. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all!