Overview of Measuring:

Sight-Size (from two dimensions)

Sight-size is executing a drawing the same size as the subject appears, as observed from a set point in space. Utilizing a 2-dimensional reference fixed next to the drawing alleviates many of the "set observational point" requirements, and can generally be accomplished from any distance. The advantage to this technique is that, due to a direct size translation without any enlargements or shrinking, the artist is able to identify inaccuracies early and often. This is similar to the newspaper game "spot the 10 differences between these two pictures". Artists are also able to take a direct measurement of length from the subject and translate it precisely to the drawing.

An Important Note about Measuring:

Throughout this program, students will utilize 4 distinct methods of measurement, and should become fluent in utilizing them all. It is important to note that while all of these methods are introduced with strict physical requirements for execution, it is imperative that the student develops the eye. This means that, while the student may not hold up the arm to precisely translate a particular angle, an observational capacity to recognize and translate that angle is cultivated. A more casual phrase often used is "eyeballing it". This can and should be applied to all measuring methods presented. 

In the simplest idea, sight-size is drawing something the exact size it appears as observed from a fixed point. Levels can be transcribed directly, and the length of each shape is transcribed to the paper. Aside from being used to determine points, drawing the same size as the reference allows the artist to objectively observe both from a distance to determine discrepancies. 

How to Sight-Size:

The use of sight-size from a two-dimensional reference (a photo, painting, or printed material), is a relatively uncomplicated process, as it eliminates perspective issues associated with a three-dimensional reference.

To garnish the most success with sight-size from a flat reference, follow these steps:


  1. Fix your reference, if possible, on the same board as your drawing. If this is not possible, strive to arrange your drawing to be close to the same plane in space.
  2. With a measuring stick close to or on the surface of the reference, take the measurement of a desired shape. See Step 3 on how to take a measurement.
  3. Align the end of the measuring stick with the beginning of the desired shape. Close one eye and view it from straight on. If it is viewed from an angle (above looking down, down looking up, or sides looking slightly over), there is great risk that tiny inaccuracies will accumulate, affecting the correctness of the drawing. Utilizing a stick with a flat end (like the back of a charcoal pencil as opposed to a skewer) can help to alleviate this concern. If, with one eye closed, you can see the flat side, you are not viewing appropriately straight.
  4. Use the nail of your thumb or finger, or (less precisely) the end of the finger itself, to mark the end of the shape on your stick. Close one eye and view this position from straight on, as well.
  5. Translate this length to the appropriate position on the drawing, and using the opposite hand, mark the two points. A sharpened willow works best for precision point marking. Be sure that, as you mark both spots, you assume a viewing position of directly straight on, with one eye closed. 
  6. When you have completed this process, check your work by repeating it. Never assume the transposition occurred without error. 

Did You Know?

Aside from slowly plotting points, one can quickly sight-size from point to point (transcribing the angle of the two points), or from a plumb or level to obtain and verify correct placement of points. It’s one of the fastest and quickest ways to check accuracy. 

The reference and drawing paper are hung on the same board, level with each other (directly side-by-side).

Utilizing the end of the dowel and the fingernail, determine the length of a shape or line. This is a measurement of the nose. 

The measurement is slid over to the drawing, and the dowel is observed from the same (transposed) viewpoint. The mark is made to indicate a measurement the exact size of the original. The nose (already drawn) appears correct. 

If the shape is an incorrect length (or if transposing for the first time), the point is marked with the willow (at the edge of the dowel and at the fingernail).