How To Draw an Elliptical Arch

Elliptical arches are more frequently used as an architectural end product when constructing buildings. This particular type of arch carries the shape of one half of an oval or an ellipse shape, and is normally estimated by three adjacent arcs in circular shapes. Arches first became visible during the 2nd millennium BC in architectures constructed with brick in Mesopotamia. Ancient Rome’s architects were pioneers in the application of this method for several of their structures. Flattening semi-circular arches can create elliptical arches. Basically, drawing an elliptical arch is made easy if you make use of a drawing compass and a ruler. The first thing to figure out is how to draw an ellipse to be the backbone of your arch. From there, you can begin to create your elliptical arch. Here’s how to do it:

  • For this project, you will need other materials aside from your ruler and compass. You will also need to have a bit of string, paper, cardboard, and 2 pieces of tacks. The size of your cardboard, the length of your string, and the paper you will use will be based according to the size of the elliptical shape you will want to draw. To draw your ellipse properly, you will need to place your piece of paper at the center of your cardboard.
  • Draw a horizontal line using your ruler, which will represent the length your ellipse. Draw in a perpendicular line at the middle of the line that was drawn horizontally to serve as the ellipse’s width. Keep the lines at right angles with one another.
  • Place your compass at the area of your two intersecting lines. Adjust the area where your pencil is located on your compass to make it reach the end point of the line that you drew in horizontally. Set the end point of your compass above the line drawn in vertically without making any changes to the original measurement of your compass. Allow it to run circularly, marking points where it meets with the line drawn horizontally.
  • Attach your tacks at each end of the parallel line, tying in your string tightly. With your taut string as a guide, circularly move your pencil to draw in the elliptical shape.
  • Set the pointer end of your compass at the middle of your arch’s opening. Place the pencil on the needle’s left side. With your needle set in its position, move your pencil towards the needle’s right side in a curving motion.
  • Draw lines on both sides of your elliptical arch with a ruler. To create a three dimensional arch, draw in a smaller version within the original arch. Join both arches together using two straight lines drawn at the bottom with the ruler. You have now completed a three-dimensional elliptical arch.

Spanning so many decades, elliptical arches have been used in the construction of bridges, buildings, gateways, windows, and other structures to create a unique effect and design. Older homes still carry vestiges of arches. Lately, more modern homes have taken on the technique as well. When drawing certain architectural themes, elliptical arches can enhance images on paper as they do in actual structures. Practicing how to draw a basic ellipse shape can give you the proper technique when it comes to creating elliptical arches.


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