Atmospheric Perspective

Summary

This is an exercise that demonstrates how to apply the technique of atmospheric perspective to landscapes paintings. It teaches how to create the illusion of depth and distance in landscapes, resulting in a strong a visual impact.

What is Atmospheric Perspective? 

Atmospheric Perspective is the effect that the atmosphere has on the colour and tone of a landscape when it is viewed from a distance. Four elements are effected to create the illusion of depth and distance in a landscape:

  • Objects become smaller the further they are from the viewer.
  • The details of objects decrease the further they are from the viewer.
  • The tones of objects weaken the further they are from the viewer.
  • The colours of objects begin to fade the further they are from the viewer.

What you need

  • watercolour pencils or watercolour paints
  • sketch pad
  • pencil
  • reference images
Landscape painted with watercolour paints

Landscape painted with watercolour paints

What you do

  1. Our first painting applying atmospheric perspective will be a hill landscape. Sketch an outline drawing of your landscape with a foreground, middle ground and background.
  2. Determine the background colour of the sky and paint it.
  3. Paint each plane, decreasing the value of them the further it is into the background. Use graduating tones and colours to convey the illusion of depth and distance.
  4. Congratulations! Your landscape painting is complete. Your painting should show the illusion of depth and distance but if it didn't quite turn out the way you intended, we can paint another landscape.  
  5. This time choose your own background theme for your landscape. It can be a city, forest, jungle, desert, fantasy, a sci-fi scene, wildlife, etc.
  6. Repeat steps 1.-4. again with your own theme.