3 Ways to Conquer Foreshortening

You know it's not impossible. You've seen it done well before. You know your painting doesn't have to look flat, even though your canvas is flat. But no matter what you do, you can't get that foreshortened arm to look like it's coming toward you. Instead, it just looks too short!

Today, I'd like to share 3 Ways to Conquer Foreshortening. But first, I recommend that you check out The 4 Actions for Accurate Proportions. These 4 Actions are your first step to successful drawing—including drawing foreshortened limbs!

Now for 3 Ways to Conquer Foreshortening:

1. Simplify Into Basic Forms

Anatomy, in all its complexity, can be intimidating. That's why it's very helpful to envision the parts of the body as simple forms. This type of simplification is a huge help with foreshortening.

For example, when the masses of the forearm are simplified into a cylinder and box, it's much easier to envision what that form would look like foreshortened, and such foreshortening becomes easier to draw.


2. Use Lines to Show
Overlapping Forms

In the first drawing below, the forearm doesn't look foreshortened. It just looks too short. But in the second drawing, it's obvious that the forearm is foreshortened.

What made the difference? Just a few overlapping lines at the wrist and elbow were all that was needed to communicate that the hand overlaps the forearm, and the forearm overlaps the upper arm. Now, the forearm looks foreshortened instead of too short.

3. Try This Little Trick

I almost always use this little trick when drawing foreshortened arms and legs:

First, draw the hand or foot in the correct place;
then draw the arm or leg.

The foreshortened shapes of the leg would have been more difficult to draw accurately had the foot not been placed first. By drawing the foot first, it was much easier to see that just a few simple lines were needed to communicate the masses of the leg.

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Whew! We have covered a lot of ground in this series on the figure! I've shared how to achieve accurate proportions, how to create figures that are dynamic and not stiff, how to draw a head in proportion to the body, and more…

But there's a big challenge I haven't discussed yet—Improving Your Speed In Life Sessions.


  1. As clear and concise that a breakdown of complicated foreshortening can be, thanks so much for this helpful post!

  2. Very helpfulAdam. Thank you! Not sure google wants to call me Mom😂. This is Liz Shattuck in KC MO. 😉


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