Fore Shortening


It is the process to reduce parts of an object that are not parallel to the plane of the picture to give the illusion of three-dimensional space to the human eye. The rules of perspective which are used are to abridge and reduce. This concept was first studied by painters in Florence in the fifteenth century and later by Francesco Squarcione in Padua who then taught tit to the renowned Mantua-based Gonzaga court artist Andrea Mantegna.

This illusion in foreshortening is achieved by making the object shorter than reality using compression. To give you an example of foreshortening bend our elbow and place your arm in front of your body. Take care to see that the forearm is aligned with your chest. Then observe the length of your arm from the elbow to the fingertips. This effect is called limited foreshortening. Now place your arm in front of your body and align it with your chest. Then observe the length of the fingertips and elbow, this is an example of limited foreshortening. To give you an example of extreme foreshortening , extend your arm straight in front of you. The distance between the top finger and your elbow does not tell you the actual length of your arm. An example of this can be Michaelangelo’s painting The Separation of Light from Darkness in the Sistine Chapel which gives the illusion of God rising above the viewer. This is achieved by shortening the body.

Foreshortening in a drawing is the use of depth to create an optical illusion where the object seems to be compressed. The concept of foreshortening is also used in engineering to create an illusion of projection in space. The complexity of foreshortening depends on the artist. You take the help of mathematics in determining the effects of foreshortening with certainty. Foreshortening is mainly used in portrait and still-life painting as the results are noticeable. They can also be used in landscape painting to create an illusion of depth.

Foreshortening is basically a type of perspective used to project a form or object as an illusion. The term can be applied to a single object, part of it but it cannot be applied to a group of objects.

Foreshortening Exercises

The best way to learn and understand foreshortening is to try practising it, To achieve this objective you need to teach your hand and eyes to see objects in perspective.

Some basic exercises recommended are given below,

a) Using extreme foreshortening create simple shapes.
b) Create shapes of multiple overlapping using extreme foreshortening.
c) Create the same shape using different degrees of foreshortening.
d) Create shape at relative scales using perspective lines and one point-perspective.

Effects of Foreshortening

Some effects of foreshortening are given below:

a) As the objects recede they seem to get smaller
b) The objects give the impression of being shorter or compressed than what they actually are.
c) The objects in the front will overlap objects behind it.


a) The effect of foreshortening depends on how extreme the effects are rather than their existence.

b) The effect of foreshortening will make an object getting smaller as it recedes and it will also l appear compressed and overlap.

c) Mathematics can be used to determine the effects of foreshortening with a great amount of certainty.

d) Sketching is one of the methods to learn foreshortening. You can practise this concept by arranging simple shapes at varying degrees of foreshortening.