Perspective Rendering

This lesson is for either a multi level or advanced technical theater class. It could also be used as a program of study for an independent study student. The inspiration for this unit derives from a class at San Diego State University with Beeb Salzer, who I had the privilege of learning from 24 years ago. It was in his class that I was first introduced to the concept of perspective rendering. It was in that class that I made my first perspective grid. I recently emailed him and asked if he still used the grid and he told me that he only used it with students who were more interested in accurate renderings. He said the majority of students prefer making models. Has rendering by hand with the use of a grid lost its relevance? Perhaps and yes it's possible that this lesson is too advanced for most high school tech students, but maybe, if properly presented, it can be a lesson in not just scene design, but as a concentration exercise. In a world of quick edits and instant gratification, maybe a lesson that requires a slower approach is still useful.

 Theater Standard

(ArizonaState Standards)


2AT-P1. Research and use cultural, historical, and symbolic clues to develop an interpretation of, and to make visual and sound production choices for, an improvisation or scripted scene; justify these choices

PO 1. Research historical context of a script as a basis for interpretation and design
PO 2. Research pertinent cultural, social and political conditions as a basis for interpretation and design
PO 4. Design/choose appropriate visual and sound elements for an improvisation/scripted scene


Creating a perspective rendering involves several steps.

1: Read the script.

2: Research past productions.

3: Meet with the director.

4. Create a floor plan

5: Create elevations

6: Locate or create a grid

7. Copy the floor plan on to the grid.

8: Carefully plot the points out.

9. Transfer the drawing on to a more permanent medium

10. Color the rendering.

For classroom purposes, I find it best to focus on using actual upcoming shows that we will be producing. This year we produced "Little Shop of Horrors" as our musical. During pre-production we watched the movie. We also looked for New York City stoops for color choices and exterior textures. I decided to place the band on stage, so I also had the students look for jazz club exteriors.

The Grid

It's getting harder to find texts that show a step by step approach to making a perspective grid. When I first took the class at SDSU with Mr. Salzer, he talked us through the process in class and gave us a hand out, which being a typical 19 year old did not think I would ever need it after i had taken the class. I did find a textbook when i started teaching and mad a copy of the chapter on creating a perspective grid, but since I was only using it for myself I did not copy down the title of the book or the author and can only identify it by it's chapter title, "The perspective drawing." pgs. 253-267. It was probably written years ago, but it's still the best example I've found that shows how to create a grid in a simple straightforward manner.

There are three possible approaches to this step. 1: Assign it as a homework project. 2: Have the class create their grids during class time with you talking them through the process. 3: Create the grid yourself and make architectural copies to give to your students to use for the year. At this point, I would probably opt for the third choice. It's pretty tedious creating the grid and the students are not always that neat or accurate which skews any renderings created ith their grid. In the demonstration below, I've used a students grid and the final result is adequate, but it is much harder to use because the lines are not always drawn in a straight manner.


Using the Grid

Before rendering there should already be a fully thought out floorplan. It takes too much time to re render, so it's best to take a little more time in the preliminary steps. The process of transferring the floorplan to the grid is really simple. It just takes time and attention to detail. I do not consider myself an artist, but I am able to use the grid to show concrete examples of what i want the set to look like. It makes a huge difference to the students.


If you would like to see a visual example of the process. Go to the Stage design link at my site.

If anyone knows the title of the above mentioned book, or has any cool design software programs that are more user friendly than auto cad, I'd love to hear about them.


Using rubrics

One way of helping students understand expectations is to provide a rubric at the start of the process. A rubric for perspective rendering can be found at