How to Draw Stairs

From a spiral staircase to stair ladders, stairs come in various different shapes, designs, and sizes. In the beginning drawing, stairs may be challenging, especially if you have never done it before. However,  armed with the right knowledge, making your own custom stair drawing can be easy.

How to draw stairs? Perspective drawings are the most common ways to draw stairs. The most commonly used perspectives to draw stairs are one-point, two-point, and three-point perspectives.

Perspective drawings can bring 2D images to life and give them 3D depth. By using perspective drawing techniques you can get some very realistic results and take your drawings to the next level. These drawings create an illusion of depth and space as objects that are farther away grow smaller as they get closer to the vanishing points on the horizon.

Decide Which Stairs You Want to Draw

Drawing stairs can be much easier if you know exactly what you want to draw. Before you start your project, first decide on what type of stairs you want to draw. There are many types of different stair types and styles and you should choose the one that best appeals to you and suits your requirements.

Straight Stairs

This is the most common type of stairs and is also the easiest one to draw. Straight stairs can have a variety of different styles and designs. For example, straight stairs can have a central landing and then continue on. The designs for straight stairs can be basic or extremely complex, depending on how creative you get with the design.

Generally speaking, straight stairs are one-directional and are some of the most frequently constructed stairs in most buildings. Because of their simplicity, they are easy to build and only need to be connected at the top and the bottom. Usually, no intermediate supporting structures are needed to support straight stairs.

L Shaped Stairs

L Shaped stairs are very similar to straight stairs except they have a bend at some part of the stairs. Architects usually create this bend by placing a landing point at the transition point of the stairs. Although it is not compulsory for it to be that way, the bend is usually at a 90-degree angle.

Aside from being visually appealing and interesting, L shaped stairs can also provide privacy by creating a visual barrier between the floors of a building. These stairs also have a higher level of safety than straight stairs as the landing may reduce the distance that one could fall between flights. These stairs tend to work well if when located in the corner of a room, but have a more complex construction than straight stairs.

U Shaped Stairs

There are times when buildings require two flights of stairs that go in opposite directions, enabling people to make a 180 degree turn when ascending or descending. The U shaped stairs are the perfect solution as they provide parallel flights of stairs that are connected by a landing, making it creating a 180 turn.

U shaped stairs are also known as a switchback staircase as they switch the direction of the walkline. Although these stairs are more complicated to build, they can be easier to fit into architectural plans. They are ideal for saving space, especially if you are short on square feet.

Spiral Staircase

When used correctly, spiral stairs can be very beautiful and visually appealing. Spiral stairs are a curved staircase that follows a helical arc. The spiral shape is created by the threads radiating around a pole at the center. These stairs are very compact and can save lots of space in a room.

Curved Stairs

Curved stairs are similar to spiral stairs as they also follow a helical arc. The major difference is that curved stairs have a much bigger arc and rarely make a full circle. The curved design of these stairs is aesthetically pleasing and adds a touch of grace and elegance to a room. If the radius of the staircase is large, it is also easy for people to ascend or descend.

Plan Your Drawing

Once you know what kind of staircase you want to draw you should start by planning out your drawing in a 2D sketch first. By doing a sketch in 2D you can gain a better understanding of the construction and shape of the stairs. This will help you to visualize the structure from different vantage points.

Two general methods for drawing 2D stairs include adjacent stair construction and stacked stair construction. You should try both methods and use the one that you are most comfortable using. Drawing out the staircase in 2D first may seem like a lot of extra work, but it will help you to get a much cleaner and realistic result in the end.

The adjacent construction method uses 2D rectangular boxes which are stacked next to each other vertically. You can start with the tallest box and work your way down making each box smaller than the previous one, or visa versa. By doing this you should see a stair-like structure starts to take shape.

Don’t worry about adding railings or other accessories just yet, you just want to get an idea of the basic structure. The stacked construction involves stacking the boxes on top of each other horizontally. Both methods are correct, it mainly depends on which one you prefer using to create your stairs.

A Word on Perspective

The second phase of planning your drawing is deciding on what perspective you want to use. Many architects or designers sketch their drawings out in various perspectives to show the staircase from various vantage points. 3D CAD software like solidface makes this easy as you can simply rotate the view of the 3D model of your staircase from various angles.  

In one-point perspective, the objects of your drawing vanish towards a single vanishing point on the horizon. This drawing method illustrates how things appear to get smaller as they are farther away and this creates a sense of depth. One point perspective is the easiest method of drawing things on paper so that they look 3D.

Two-point perspective also creates a sense of space and depth which gives the illusion of objects being 3D. However, the vantage point of the object changes dramatically as there are now two points on the horizon where objects vanish towards. One-point and two-point perspectives are the most common methods used for drawing 3D objects.

Three-point perspective drawings create a deeper sense of roundness and space in a drawing. With a three-point perspective, the two sides of an object vanish towards separate points on an object while the third one points to a space above or beneath you. The third point is placed above or below the horizon or eye level creating a triangle.

Create a 3D Model of Your Stairs

Straight Stairs in One Point Perspective

Now that you have a good idea of what kind of stairs you want to draw and have chosen a perspective, it’s finally time to create your drawing. For our example, we are going to use something simple like straight stairs, but these principles can be applied to any other style of stairs.

Start your drawing by making a horizontal line across the page. This is the horizon line or eye level and it will act as a guide and a reference for where the objects will be placed in our drawing. Pick any point on the horizon line and mark it with an x or a small dot. This will be our vanishing point.

Now redraw your 2D copy of the adjacent stair construction over your horizon line. You should now have your 2D concept overlaying the vanishing point and horizon line that you sketched out previously. Starting from either the smallest or the tallest rectangular box, find the corners and connect them to the vanishing point.

These are called perspective lines and they act as a guide to help create your 3D drawing. If you are using pencil and paper instead of CAD software to create your drawing, remember to always draw perspective lines lightly so they are easy to erase at a later stage. Perspective lines also act as a guide when positioning objects closer to the vanishing point so they appear smaller.

The final step is to draw in the rest of the diagonal and vertical lines using your perspective lines as a guide. This will complete your 3D stairs and from this point on you can play around with your design by adding accessories. This drawing is a straight staircase from a side view in one-point perspective.

You can use one-point perspective to draw the stairs from many different kinds of views. Try being creative and don’t be afraid to experiment. See if you can draw the same staircase from a frontal view, or rearview using one-point perspective.

Straight Stairs in Two Point Perspective

Two-point perspective is a little harder to draw than a one-point perspective, but once you get the hang of it drawing stairs will be easy. The main difference is that most of your horizontal lines will be vanishing diagonally towards one of two vanishing points. If you draw your perspective lines correctly the task will be much easier as they will act as a guide.

If this is your first time drawing in two-point perspective it will be easier if you start with a 3D cube or rectangular prism. This will give you a rough guide and show you where to place the other lines that will make up your stairs. The rectangular prism will only act as a guide so make sure you sketch these lines in lightly if you are using pencil and paper instead of 3D CAD software. 

Start by drawing your horizon line again and this time add two vanishing points. You can place the vanishing points anywhere on the horizon line but make sure to place them reasonably far apart. Once you have done this draw a very light vertical line across the center of the page where your first step will be, but make it as tall as the line from the longest step.

At this point, you should have two lines on your page, the horizon line with your two vanishing points which is divided into two parts by a vertical line. Now draw in your perspective lines starting from your vertical line and connect them to the vanishing points. At this stage, there should be two triangles on the page.

Once you did this you should add two more vertical lines to complete the walls of your rectangular prism. Now add some more perspective lines to the other two vertical lines in your drawing. You now have a 3D rectangular prism in two-point perspective.

With the basic guidelines set out for you, it should be relatively easy now to mark out where the rectangular boxes of your adjacent stair construction will go. Draw in all of the vertical and diagonal lines and connect them with perspective lines and you will see your 3D stairs start to emerge.

As with one-point perspective, you can draw your stairs from a variety of different views. Try to experiment and be creative by adding a rail to your stairs or drawing the stairs from different views. Try drawing the stairs with the highest step in front so that it looks like they are leading away from you.

Straight Stairs in Three-Point Perspective

Drawing your stairs in three-point perspective is a little more advanced than a two-point perspective drawing. With a three-point perspective, two of the vanishing points are placed on either side of the horizon line with the third one placed above or below it.

This placement of vanishing points on the page creates a triangle. All of the horizontal lines of your drawing will vanish towards the points on the horizon line. However, the vertical lines will now vanish towards the third vanishing point which is placed either above or below the horizon or eye level.

For this reason, you will have to decide on a vantage point for your stairs before you can start your drawing. If your stairs are being viewed from above looking down, then the vanishing point should be placed below the horizon. Otherwise, you should place the third vanishing point above the horizon.

Once again, if you are new to a three-point perspective then it may be easier to start by drawing a 3D rectangular prism first and then adding your boxes for the adjacent stair construction later. Once you have drawn in the horizon line and added all three vanishing points, pick a spot on the page and draw your first vertical line.

Draw the line very lightly and connect it to the vanishing point below the horizon. This will be your first perspective line and will act as a guide for the rest of your drawing. Connect the top and the bottom of this vertical line with diagonal lines leading towards both vanishing points on the eye level. At this stage of the drawing, you should once again have two triangles on the page.

The next step is to add two more vertical lines, but instead of drawing them straight down, pull them diagonally towards the vanishing point below the eye level. Now the two walls of your rectangular prism should be completed. Add more diagonal perspective lines and connect them to the vertical lines that you sketched in previously.

At this stage of the drawing, a 3D rectangular prism in three-point perspective should start to emerge. The important thing to remember with three-point perspective is that all of your vertical lines should lead diagonally towards the Zenith or the Nadir. As long as you stick to this rule your drawing should work out just fine.

Once you have your rectangular prism adding the rest of the boxes for your adjacent stair construction should be straightforward. From here on it is basically the same process as with a two-point perspective drawing. You can apply this method to virtually any type of staircase that you want to draw, regardless of whether straight or spiral stairs.

Straight Stairs in Four Point Perspective

Once you start adding more than three vanishing points your drawing starts taking on a rounded appearance. With a four-point perspective your there are two vanishing points on the horizon or eye level with the other two positioned above and below it. The vertical lines that are above eye level will vanish diagonally towards the zenith and the ones below will vanish towards the Nadir.

The important thing to remember about these drawings is that all the horizontal lines should vanish diagonally towards their respective vanishing points placed on the eye level. The same can be said for the vertical lines. If you stick to those guidelines you shouldn’t have any problems with your drawing.

As with the previous two drawings, you will find it much easier to draw the stairs if you sketch out a 3D rectangular prism. Start by drawing your horizon line and place all of the vanishing points in their respective positions. Now starting from the eye level up, draw a vertical perspective line that vanishes diagonally towards the Zenith.

The line should also vanish towards the opposite vanishing point towards the Nadir. Once you did this add some light diagonal perspective lines so that you end up with two triangles again.Now comes the tricky part, pay attention when you add next vertical lines to complete the walls of your prism.

Make sure that the part of the line that is above the horizon vanishes diagonally towards the Zenith and the bottom part vanishes towards the Nadir. This will leave you with two vertical lines that are slightly curved. From this point on if you add the rest of the horizontal lines you will end up with a 3D rectangle that has a slightly rounded appearance as if you were looking at it through a lens.

Follow the rest of the steps and add your adjacent stair construction boxes to complete your staircase. As long as you make sure that all of the lines vanish towards the correct vanishing points your drawing will be very realistic and accurate. As the designer, it is up to you to choose which method of perspective drawing will best suit your needs.

Related Questions

What is the three-point perspective used for?

In architecture, a three-point perspective is generally used to show buildings from a bird’s eye view.  This is perfect for if you want to sketch out the rooftop of a building or view and object from above. Alternatively, the same method can be used to depict 3D objects from underneath.

What is a five-point perspective drawing?

As soon as you start adding more than five vanishing points your drawing becomes quite circular and round as if seen through a lens. This method is often used to show 180 degrees of three-dimensional space in drawings.

What is a vanishing point?

A vanishing point is the furthest point on the horizon at which an object vanishes. In a 3D drawing, objects that are closer will appear bigger and objects that are placed further away appear smaller. If an object is placed on the vanishing point directly it will vanish completely because it is too far away to see.

Can I place my vanishing point anywhere on the horizon?

Yes, you can place your vanishing point anywhere on the horizon or eye level of your drawing. The outcome of your 3D sketch will be different every time depending on where the vanishing point is placed. Your eye level can also be diagonal and does not have to be strictly horizontal.

Who was the first architect to use perspective drawings?

The first perspective drawings were made by an architect by the name of Fillipo Brunelleshi. He successfully observed that parallel lines appeared to converge at a single point in the distance, from a single point of view that was fixed.