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Online Mini Lesson 25
Atmospheric Perspective

Atmospheric Perspective (also called Aerial Perspective) for Artists & How to Create the Illusion of Atmosphere in a Painting:

Before we get to theory and definitions of Perspective what many students ask is “how do I create the illusion of perspective in my paintings”? What colors do I mix with what colors? See the example of this below #2

One of my techniques for transmitting the “how to” of Aerial or atmospheric perspective is creating images of my pallet with colors mixed to create an atmospheric illusion. See an example of an oil sketch and a photo of its pallet below "#2. Atmospheric Perspective".

Aerial Perspective (also called Atmospheric Perspective) and Linear Perspective (Two different concepts that work together to create the illusion of depth in a painting):

1. Linear Perspective:

Things appear smaller the further they are from the viewer. Think of a railroad track ... the railroad ties near us are big and the next a little smaller and so on progressively to where they appear to be so small, they disappear. We are not addressing Linear Perspective here. For enrolled students, you have your Lesson 3 perspective art book with thorough information about Linear Perspective.  For others, here are some WEB addresses that will give you a jump start on Linear Perspective:
and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfBkj8QfcTM&feature=related

2. Atmospheric Perspective:

The interference with visual perception caused by moistures, dust and other particle in the air between us and objects. Atmospheric Perspective causes loss of contrast, detail and sharp focus. Leonardo DaVinci called it "the perspective of disappearance". Depending on the day, the light (sunlight on a New Zealand beach is different than a foggy London day). Elements seem to take on a blue-gray middle value as they increase in distance on a clear day.

What About Those Pallets?
The two following images below are an oil sketch I did and a shot of the pallet I used to create the soccer player and his fans atmospheric perspective in the 20 or 30 feet between the player and the fans in the stadium behind him:

Further: A demo
of how Atmospheric
works in a medium space between the close up of a still life and the huge distances of a miles deep landscape.

This is maybe 20 feet deep ... the soccer player in the foreground has, stronger contrasts, richer color, more detail than  the fans who are further back ...and they they get lighter, have less rich colors, less contrast and get lighter and grayer/bluer:

Pallet I used to paint this and achieve depth shown below:

A key word in Atmospheric Perspective is RELATIVE.
TEXTURE, FOCUS, SOFTER EDGES, BRIGHTNESS, COLOR INTENSITY, etc. change relative to the distance of objects into the picture and to each other.

A list of the effects on objects as they get further from the viewer:

  • TEXTURE density decreases as an object gets further away.

  • FOCUS objects lose detail as they get further from us.

  • BRIGHTNESS: objects are brighter, more contrasting when closer to the viewer

  • COLOR- Chroma or color intensity is greater closer to the viewer and less rich in more distant objects. Put another way, Objects lose color saturation as they recede.

  • EDGES appear progressively softer in distant elements

  • PAINTERS emphasize the nearness of elements by using thicker paint and more detail the closer elements are and less so as elements recede in space.

Here is
an example
of how
in a

Near mountains are strongly textured, detailed, contrast is strong, then as the other mountains get further back, they get lighter, have less rich colors, less contrast, texture and get lighter and bluer:

What happens in a shallow image like a still life which is only a few inches to a foot or so in depth?

Atmospheric Perspective effects: Far apples above have less focus (softer edges and details). Colors less rich, lower contrast, softer texture the further back into the space of the picture.

Linear Perspective effects:
Apples get smaller, overlap shows linear perspective depth.

The reverse effects of both Linear and Atmospheric Perspective occurs the nearer objects are to the viewer.

End of  Atmospheric Perspective Mini Online Lesson #25.

Your paintings should be atmospheric ! More information about Atmospheric Perspective on the WEB at these addresses (just click on links below:





An index page of all 25 Online Mini Art Lessons are at:


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