What is it and when to use it.
Imagine yourself on the top of a small hill looking over a valley to distant rolling hills. The hills in the far distance are most likely faded and have a bluish cast to them.
The phenomenon at work is called atmospheric perspective (or aerial perspective) and it has been familiar to artists from as early as the 15 century.
Paul Henry, Turn of the road
A HANDY PRINTABLE QUICK GUIDE
Download your free printable quick guide to atmospheric perspective.
- Step by step guide
- Colour photos
- Easy to print out and keep
The air is full of molecules and particles (vapour, haze, smoke etc.). The further we look across distance the more air or atmosphere we are looking through and all that stuff in the air causes what’s called a scattering of light.
This veiling luminance reduces contrast. Also this kind of light usually contains more light of short wavelength than other wavelengths (this is why the sky usually appears blue) and why distant objects appear bluish (see Rayleigh scattering for detailed explanation). At other times the colour cast may be yellow or even red (at sunrise/sunset, night time or at certain times of the lunar cycle).
Frans Koppelaar – Landscape near Bologna
In art “Atomospheric perspective is a technique of rendering depth or distance in paintings by modifying the tone or hue and distinctness of objects perceived as receding from the picture plane, especially by reducing distinctive local colors and contrasts of light and dark to a uniform light bluish-gray color.”
Jean Baptiste Camille Corot – Le batelier de Mortefontaine
Without understanding atmospheric perspective and learning how to replicate it in our work, our paintings will lack depth and look unrealistic.
So how to replicate atmospheric perspective in your work.
Here are four elements at work
Values get lighter as they receed.
The background gets lighter as it goes away from you. So you can lighten the value or add some of the sky colour as you move through to the background.
Colours desaturate as they receed.
You can desaturate a colour by adding the opposite colour on the colour wheel. This will take the colour intensity down and make the colour more neutral.
Contrast decreases into the distance.
The difference between dark and light will not be as marked in the distance as it is in the foreground.
The exception to the rule.
(You know there’s always one.)
Areas of intense light in the background will stand out better. For instance the fall of light on the side of a mountain or a field will have more saturation and contrast in that spot.
Remember that value refers to how light or dark the colour or area is
and saturation to how intense the colour is.
Don't miss out on news or new training
Get new blog posts with training’s and topics of interest to artists as they come out – about twice a month. You will also be first to hear of news on new workshops and online course as they are announced.