# Geometric Shapes: Ellipses

An ellipse is a perfect circle that has been foreshortened. Ellipses are used to construct cylinders and cones.

The following sections will examine the parts of an ellipse and how to draw ellipses in perspective.

### To draw an ellipse:

1.  Determine the size by lightly drawing the major axis.

2. Find the exact center of the major axis line and draw another line perpendicular to the major axis with the distance above the major axis being equal to the distance below the axis. This is your minor axis and this will determine the pitch of the ellipse.

3. Gently draw the curved ends on the major axis. When both curves are symmetrical, lightly draw in the remaining portion of the ellipse above and below the major axis, making sure that the curves touch the top and bottom of the minor axis line.  The division of the axis lines will create four equal-mirrored quadrants.

4. Check and correct for symmetry, and draw finished, darker lines.

### Ellipses contained within squares

• #### Perspective Center vs. Major Axis: Notice that the red major axis line does not pass through the perspective center of the foreshortened circle and does not touch the edge of the foreshortened square. The major axis will always be at the widest point of the ellipse, with the top half equal to the bottom half.

Within an ellipse, the top half and the bottom half are always identical. The major axis is the widest point of the ellipse. It will be located at the exact center of the minor axis.

### Errors with ellipses

When drawing ellipses, the lines should appear to wrap around the object by having rounded ends.

A common drawing problem is to draw ellipses like “footballs,” having pointed corners. Pointed ends give the illusion of a creased circle. Remember, ellipses are perfect circles foreshortened in perspective.

Another common problem is to have unequal distances of the axis above and below the major axis, which results in a different pitch above and below the major axis.