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What is an Isometric Drawing? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 What Is an Isometric Drawing?
  • 0:56 A Third Dimension
  • 1:17 It's All About the Angles
  • 1:35 Examples
  • 1:48 Isometric Drawing Paper
  • 2:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Mia Primas

Mia has taught math and science and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Teaching.

Expert Contributor
Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

This lesson will explain how isometric drawings address the challenges of depicting 3D objects. You'll see some examples and may become inspired to create your own! After the lesson, you can take a brief quiz to see what you've learned.

What Is an Isometric Drawing?

Have you ever tried to draw a 3-dimensional shape, such as a cube? It can be a bit of a challenge. Every artist faces the challenge of creating 3-dimensional images on 2-dimensional paper. A painter or sketch artist may use techniques such as shadowing to make the image appear as lifelike as possible. For a technical or engineering drawing, however, different strategies have to be used. This is where an isometric drawing becomes useful.

An isometric drawing allows the designer to draw an object in three dimensions. Isometric drawings are also called isometric projections. This type of drawing is often used by engineers and illustrators that specialize in technical drawings. For example, when an engineer has an idea for a new product, he or she will probably create a sketch to show a client or investor. And chances are, the sketch will be an isometric drawing.

A Third Dimension

It is simple to draw a 2-dimensional object on paper because paper has two dimensions, height and width. But objects in real life have a third dimension, depth, which needs to be represented in the drawing. In isometric drawings, all three dimensions are represented on paper.

The three dimensions are represented as three axes: one vertical axis and two horizontal axes.

isometric cube

It's All About the Angles

So what makes an isometric drawing different from other 3-dimensional drawings? The axes are drawn so that the two horizontal axes are drawn at 30 degree angles. It's as if the vertical axis is in its true position, but the horizontal axes are bent 30 degrees from their true position.

isometric structure

Examples

Here are some examples of isometric drawings. Notice that each image shows three axes to represent each dimension of the object: the vertical axis is blue and two horizontal axes are drawn in orange and green.

shapes

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Additional Activities

Isometric Flip-Book

In this activity, students will use what they have learned about isometric drawing to create an action filled flip-book.

Materials

  • Isometric graph paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil (consider multiple pencils with different degrees of lead softness for shading)
  • Scissors
  • Stapler

Instructions

  • Cut each piece of graph paper into quarters until you have about 12 small pieces of graph paper (more will give you a harder challenge).
  • Staple the short sides of the paper together to make a 12 page book of graph paper.
  • Starting on the first page, draw a 3D shape using the information you have learned in the lesson.
  • Now, on the next page, draw the same shape with just a slight change. Some ideas for the second page are:
    • Draw the shape as if it is beginning to rotate.
    • Start to draw a second shape.
    • Draw the shape in a slightly different position (e.g., shifted to the left 2 squares).
  • Continue drawing slight changes from the previous page on each additional page of your graph book until you have finished the book.
  • Now, you can flip through the book by holding the pages firmly in your hand and allowing the corner of each page to release in quick succession. You should see an illusion of movement in your images.

Challenges

  • See if you can draw a flip-book movie of an isometric shape coming into being.
  • Try to draw two shapes which move around each other through the flip-book movie.

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