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LEGO building technique: forced-perspective

(Written by HP)

When you build LEGO creations sometimes it’s just difficult to build a huge backdrop to finish your layout. Either you’ll start to get bored creating building after building, or you just don’t have enough LEGO pieces. The LEGO building technique I’m going to share with you today is called forced-perspective, that can remedy this problem.

Forced-perspective achieved on a flat surface by crises_crc

Wikipedia explains that forced-perspective is: “A technique that employs optical illusion to make an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is. It is used primarily in photography, filmmaking and architecture. It manipulates human visual perception through the use of scaled objects and the correlation between them and the vantage point of the spectator or camera.”

This fun video by Studiocanoe shows how with a little bit of imagination forced-perspective could be used easily in any setting! 🙂

For LEGO fans using the forced-perspective technique in their LEGO creations makes it easier to create backdrops where you want a large layout, but you don’t want to build a whole bunch of large buildings. Using forced-perspective, all you need is strategically placed micro-scale LEGO builds to achieve a beautiful backdrop that looks realistic and gives the illusion of a much larger setting. You just need to set it up right. 😉

Here is a simple, yet profound example of how forced-perspective manipulates the perception of distance and size from Master Shifu Leo:

Here is an example of forced-perpective by Master Shifu Leo

Don’t see anything extraordinary? Then check out this behind-the-scene image to show you how forced-perspective just tricked your eyes!

Here is how the set-up actually looks like!

This next LEGO creation is by infomaniac. It depicts the last scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy when Gandalf, Frodo, Galadriel and Elrond depart Middle Earth. Notice how using the forced-perspective technique the LEGO artist was able to achieve a greatly expanded view reaching all the way into the distant horizon. (Click images for larger view.) 

The last Lord of the Rings scene using forced-perspective by infomaniac

This LEGO vignette by True Dimensions shows how forced-perspective works. The background is actually just micro-scale LEGO builds but with a little forced-perspective effect it looks a lot like normal-scale ships, planes and defense-turrets.

A beautiful scene using forced-perspective by True Dimensions

This LEGO castle scene by The Globetrotters is awesome. Forced-perspective in LEGO building is like mixing micro-scale with normal-scale, at the same time making it match and look good! 😀

Forced-perspective LEGO castle scene by The Globetrotters

The LEGO Star Wars setup here by Blockaderunner is magnificent! He used the mini X-wings from the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar to look in scale with the normal-scale LEGO Star Wars X-wing set.

Using forced-perspective in a Star Wars space setting by Blockaderunner

I hope this article gave you an idea of what is forced-perspective and how to use it in LEGO creations to achieve magical effects. I have attempted to give you a good mix of examples, but there is a lot more. You might want to check out the LEGO Forced Perspective Flickr Group for more examples and ideas.

So what do you think? Have you used the forced-perspective technique in your own LEGO creations? Did you have success? Let me know in the comment section below! Also, this is my first post here, and I’m a KFOL (Kid-Fan-of-LEGO). Hope you liked it. Feedback is appreciated! Thanks! 😉  

You might also like to browse the LEGO Building Techniques section:

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • its to AWESOME! 😆

  • those are sweet

  • Jacob June 12, 2012, 11:43 AM

    These are nice. My favorite right now has to be the top one, as it was one I had not seen before, and it feels in the same style as some of the older castle paintings (where things in the background are not necessarily smaller, due to their symbolic/ or stylistic reasons.) For me though, since I know what most parts look like from all angles, the forced perspective doesn’t work as well for me.

    • admin June 12, 2012, 12:14 PM

      Jacob, yes, the first picture is really sweet and reminds of medieval paintings. As HP mentioned the forced-perspective technique can be used for many purposes; compensating for lack of parts, creating expanded scenes with the least amount of pieces, creating mind and eye tricks (I will cover this subject later myself as I have some interesting things to share with you guys), or just being creative. It works both on photographed scenes as well as LEGO displays at shows and conventions. It is just another tool in a well-rounded LEGO artist’s tool-kit, and when used by expert hands can create a real nice effect. 😉

    • gid617 June 12, 2012, 7:04 PM

      Yeah, sometimes it doesn’t work quite as well. But I was really fooled by the clear brick tub! 😉 I haven’t really used forced-perspecitive, but I often do something like omit peices from the back of the building, or use peices that are too long – unless I’m building it to be used for any length of time, of course. 😉

  • nace10 June 12, 2012, 1:24 PM

    I like those!!! The first one was cool, and the LOTR one was cool too!!!
    (For ubvisous reasons, look at my comments and my blog post to know why. 😎

  • NRGkai June 12, 2012, 1:56 PM

    so cool i love the castle scene awesome

  • The Yellow Ninja June 12, 2012, 2:15 PM

    AWESOME technique 😀 I will have to use it some time.

  • NRG Jay June 12, 2012, 3:07 PM

    Have run into this problem before. Still dont get what forced perspective is… I think i know, but not sure….

    • admin June 12, 2012, 3:57 PM

      Jay, maybe read the Wikipedia description at the beginning of HP’s post? Perhaps that helps? Basically forced perspective means that you trick the eyes into seeing something bigger, or smaller or further or closer than it really is. You are forcing the viewer to see a perspective that is not really there. 8)

      Have you seen those awesome sidewalk chalk-drawing where it looks like the street is opening up and swallowing all the cars, or a monster is coming out? It is just chalk on the sidewalk, but it looks three dimensional. Actually, in one sense almost all paintings use forced perspective techniques to make it look like the painted image is 3 dimensional when in fact it is just a flat canvas painting. Again; it is a trick on the eyes, but can be very effective.

      Here HP shows some techniques how you can also use forced-perspective techniques with LEGO. Making a LEGO set look bigger, wider, or deeper than what it really is. For example look at the X-wings. It looks like there is one X-wing closer to us, and a couple of them are much further in space behind. But they are in fact very close to each other, and the effect of wide space and great distance is achieved by using a regular size X-wing and putting a couple of small Advent Calendar mini X-wings above it.

      Does that help? 😉

      • NRG Jay June 13, 2012, 2:55 AM

        Ohhhh, now i get it! Great explanation, Admin! Definitely using this method in my lego models!

        In retrospect, looking at the mini x wings, you can tell they are mini ones…..

        • admin June 13, 2012, 8:31 AM

          Jay, if you are a LEGO fan with trained eyes, yes, you will notice the tricks sooner or later because you are familiar with the elements used. 🙂

  • aubseywaubsey June 12, 2012, 7:39 PM

    That’s really cool…… 🙂

  • nace10 June 12, 2012, 9:47 PM

    Admin, can you please change my Gravitar on my other posts to it’s normal one. My sister made a Gravitar and it screwed up mine.

  • Quad June 28, 2012, 11:57 PM

    Great post. I love forced perspective!

  • Strider April 11, 2013, 11:01 AM

    Just used forced perspective foe the first time in a stop motion movie. Feel like a pro now 🙂

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