- Lesson details
Atmospheric Perspective is the effect of things becoming lighter, less saturated, and less detailed as they go back into space. In this painting lesson, you will learn how to render this effect correctly, and add another layer of depth to your paintings.
Landscape painting in a studio compared to painting on-location are completely different experiences, each with their own set of challenges to face. Painting landscapes on-location means you’re faced with constantly changing natural lighting, as well as nature, but the experience itself can really make your inspiration flow.
In this painting course, Artist Ben Fenske teaches you the fundamentals of landscape painting through a series of lessons. These lessons include easy to follow instruction, analysis of famous landscape paintings, and demonstrations shot on-location, to help you better your painting skills.
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Most people now call it atmospheric perspective, it used to be called aerial perspective.
I'm not sure what happened
but if you're reading an old book,
they'll probably call aerial perspective.
What it is is the effect that the atmosphere has on an object as there's more
atmosphere in between a viewer
and the object. So as things go into the distance
there's a change that happens.
There's actually three changes. There's a value change, a color change,
and the change in the amount of detail in the object.
So I want to go through those three things, color, value and detail,
and explain a little bit about them.
And I'm going to imagine a little scene here.
I'm going to imagine a little road going off into the distance.
And I'm going to imagine a row of trees.
Sort of a forest on the edge of this road,
also going off into the distance.
And there's also a forest on this side of the road.
Again going off all the way into the distance.
Imagine this is on a - there's no little change in elevation.
There's just kind of a flat plane of the forest on both sides.
So you can see this forest it goes all the way
back until it kind of disappears back there and the road does as well.
And I’m gonna imagine a light source.
I’m gonna imagine the sun is in front of me and a little bit to the left.
So kind of at this direction.
And I'm also going to divide light and shadow.
So I'm going to divide light and shadow on this side.
This side will be - because of the sun's position will be mostly mostly in shadow with
a few pockets of light and this side will be mostly light with a few pockets
of shadow here and there. And I'll draw a little cast shadow
as well and even I'll suggest a few clouds just for the fun of it.
Okay, so there's our scene. We've got the horizon
here and we've got a road going all the way to the horizon, forest on both
sides. And I wanna I want to explain what will happen
as more veils of atmosphere are in between the viewer.
And the object as it goes into the background.
So the first thing to talk about is values.
So what happens with a value as it goes into the - recedes into the background
is it gets lighter. Things become lighter in general as they go into the background.
A few exceptions being white objects.
For example, a white object will actually get a little bit darker as it goes into
the background. But that's the exception.
Let's talk about these trees.
I'm going to mix up a few values
for the foreground trees. Let’s also imagine that these are all the same tree are all
the same color and this is a a field of grass running alongside the road going
all the way back it’s the same grass, same color.
So what happens generally if I mix up the shadow of the tree here in t he
foreground and I'll mix up the cast shadow as well.
Cast shadow is on a flat plane
so it's going to be probably a little bit lighter.
Then the upright shadow. So we're starting from these values in the foreground.
We're just talking about shadow
now. I got tree shadow,
we got to cast shadow onto the grass.
And we’re starting here and as we can go back into space
the value is going to become lighter and lighter and lighter and lighter
until eventually, if you can see far enough,
it will actually just fade into the horizon.
But in this case the last tree we see might be
here and it might be that value.
So now there's a gradation in the shadows going from this very light
shadow in the distance to this darker shadow in foreground. So,
let's see what that would look like.
So things are just slowly dropping off as they go into the background.
And the same thing is going to happen to the cast shadow.
Slowly getting lighter. At a certain point you probably won't even be able to discern a
difference between the upright shadow and the cast shadow. Okay.
That's what's happening in the shadows.
Make that a little bit lighter.
So shadows generally getting lighter as they go back to space.
Let's see what happens to the values of the lights as they go back in space.
So the values of the lights -
let's start with the field here.
There's also a gradation here
but it's probably very small gradation.
So it'll get a little bit lighter,
this field will get a little bit lighter as it goes back into space.
But it might be almost imperceptible.
Okay, let's look at the lights of the trees.
And the same thing is going to happen with the lights.
They're going to get a little bit lighter
as they go back into space.
Paint the foreground tree lights here.
So here’s a tree in the foreground,
as it goes to the background
it might get a little bit later.
But the thing to notice here
is that the shadows are changing a lot in value.
The lights generally change in color which we’ll look at next.
They will change in value as well,
but not nearly as much as the shadow.
So eventually it will get lighter and the same thing on this side.
Lights the trees here, eventually getting lighter a little bit but not at the same rate
of value drop as the shadow.
And what that means is eventually the light and shadow will converge, the value of the
lights in the value of a shadow will eventually converge into one
value that you won't be able to discern the difference between the light and shadow at
some point. So at some point back here
the light and the shadow seem to merge. Where here in the foreground
it's very clear. The difference between the light and shadow is very clear.
Just put a little bit of shadow here.
Okay, let's look at the road.
Probably not going to see a lot of value change as this road goes back.
So not a lot of change in the lights, lots of change in shadows.
One other thing to look at is is accents or variety.
For example here,
we have a field of grass running back into the distance.
As this comes closer to the viewer,
you will notice more value variety.
So you might notice. within this field, little accents here and there. You might notice little
darker accents in the forest. So now I'm talking about the level of detail.
So more variety in the foreground. So a little bit more sense of -
there's more value variety in the foreground and therefore more detail.
Let's look at how that pertains to the edge of the forest.
It's kind of interesting outside
what happens is if you were to ask somebody,
;et’s say you're looking at a tree.
A tree is 50 feet away from you, big tree,
oak tree, whatever doesn't matter. And you ask them
here’s a piece of paper and a pencil, trace a line around that tree.
That's a very difficult thing to do because there are tens of thousands of leaves or
hundreds of thousands of leaves.
And you can see all those leaves and so the outline becomes difficult to
trace around, it’s almost a fuzzy outline you get because you have all these leaves.
If you ask that same person to trace a line around the distant mountain
it's very easy, even though that mountain might be covered in trees.
There might be billions of leaves.
It's very easy, the level of details dropped off.
So they just simply pick up the pencil, trace along a very defined outline of the
distant mountain. So what I'm saying is this line - let’s look at the the edge
between the sky and the forest, it's very easy
to interpret in the background, it becomes more and more difficult to interpret as that tree,
line of trees, comes towards you.
And what it does is it gives you a different edge as you go back.
So let’s mix up a sky color and take a look at that idea. I'll make
a little sky gradation here.
Okay, so right now this edge is the same all the way back.
All the way back into the distance
it's roughly the same in terms of detail. But actually as it comes forward,
things in the foreground are going to have more variety or more detail in value and
in shape so you might start seeing, for example, in the foreground you might start seeing more
intricate shapes here and there, you might be seeing some sky holes
popping through some of these trees. You might start seeing some branches sticking out a little
bit above the rest of the canopy
and some leaves sticking out above there. And you get - you start getting a different edge
at that point, you start getting a mixing of sky, shadow, light,
a few leaves that are above the rest of the tree. And you get a different edge
then you do back here back here.
It's very easy to find an edge.
Here it becomes more difficult because of the amount of detail.
So sky holes mixing with leaves and little bits of shadow in the light area and
maybe even little bits of light down into the shadow area
and same thing happening with the cast shadow. You might see little spots of
light dappling, coming through the forest and hitting the field, little spots of light.
So and back here you won't see that.
Everything becomes more similar as it goes to the background.
So that's a few ideas
about values as they go into the background and detail or edge. Maybe I'll do a
few more touches on that just to clean it up.
Same thing is happening on the clouds
of course. The cloud in the background you could trace a line around pretty easily.
Cloud in the foreground becomes more difficult
and has a less defined edge.
Where is the edge of that cloud,
I don't know for sure.
It's not so clear. Whereas cloud back here
it's very easy. THere’s the edges right there.
Okay, so there's a couple ideas about value and edges.
Let's look now at color.
The same scene and we'll just talk about color now
as it pertains to atmospheric or aerial perspective.
So this is fairly easy to see, most people can see this right away.
things in the distance get lighter.
When we talk about color it comes a little bit more difficult to see sometimes
what's going on. And there's a few ideas about what happens to color.
Some people talk about colors get bkluer and lighter as they go to the distance.
And other people have a more sophisticated way of looking at it and actually more helpful
way of looking at it for a painter.
They say that the yellow goes out of the color.
So the yellow in a mixture becomes diluted as it goes back into space.
So let's look at that idea.
Actually before I do this, let’s just look in in general at that idea of yellow
going out of a mixture.
I'll just do that right here,
Okay. so here's a little piece of field of grass and I'm going to mix up
a base color for that field.
So I’ll do two of these.
So kind of start with a sort of intense green.
Some sort of grass color. Okay,
so I'm going to put that on something
that's the foreground green. And let's say this is the horizon up here.
And I’ll put a little bit of sky color on the horizon. Here’s the sky
up here and I want to figure out what's going to happen to this color as
it goes back into space and we might be looking at a field that goes on
for miles. And I've already said that in terms of value, the value doesn't change that
much, it changes a little bit. If you could if you really could see for miles
and miles and miles eventually
the value would become almost the same as the sky. Let’s just say we
can see a couple couple of miles.
What's going to happen to this color?
So one way of thinking about it is colors get lighter and bluer as
they go back in space.
So let’s look what happens
when we just add a sort of grayish blue to this
mixture. So I'll mix up a sort of grayish blue.
Something that's lighter than my original mixture.
And get something like that and we can make a gradation
from the original color going back into space, getting lighter and bluer
just by adding a sort of grayish blue.
So that's one way to think about color in
atmospheric perspective. So the other more sophisticated way of thinking about it is the idea of
the yellow dropping out and let's look at how that might work.
So here's our original mixture for ground color.
I want to - I want to dilute a little bit of the yellow in this mixture.
So if I want to dilute
the yellow I can add literally any other color
that's not yellow and it will dilute the amount of yellow in that color.
Now let’s say I want to just move to the one step back into the middle ground.
I could add maybe a little bit of orange,
which will start to dilute the yellow in that mixture.
I might have to add a little bit of white as well because I want to
keep the value roughly the same.
So now I'm creating a slightly less yellow version
of this base green that we started with.
And maybe I'll just do this in bands and then blend them together at the end
so you can see what this looks like.
So here we’ve got almost imperceptible
change in color from foreground to maybe maybe middle ground.
And almost no value change, almost zero value change.
Let’s take that color and push it further into the background
and I'll add this time a little bit of red to dilute the yellow.
And a little bit of white, a little bit of white to keep it the same
value. And again, this is not a formula for mixing colors,
but it's a way of thinking about atmospheric or aerial perspective and the effect that they have
on colors. So maybe I'll have just a tiny bit more around here.
Just trying to take the yellow out of the mixture.
And trying not to change the value.
Okay, there is our next
level of distance. Okay. I hope you can see that.
It's almost imperceptible. Maybe I'll put a little bit down next to the the original
mixture so you can see the difference.
Okay almost imperceptible. But it's getting greyed out.
It's getting - there's less yellow in the mixture.
Slowly, okay. Let's go all the way back now.
I'm going to add a little bit of alizarin this time.
A little bit of white, little bit of alizarin, will try to keep roughly the same
value but getting a little bit lighter
as it go back. So I just trying to dilute the yellow.
Take the yellow out of the mixture.
Getting lighter and less yellow.
And finally, I might start adding
blue, trying to keep the value of roughly the same.
Okay, so there is our field going back into space.
Going from a very yellowy green,
a mixture full of yellow and warmth, back to one
that's almost no yellow in it.
So that’s a sort of sophisticated way of thinking about color as it pertains to
atmospheric perspective, going back into space, draining - sort of draining the yellow out of colors.
So this works on just about - it would work on any color really,
not just greens. So, let me just start a blend that together and see.
When I do that, it's almost impossible to see the gradation at that point. So two different
versions, sort of the easy version and the more sophisticated version here.
So let's see what that would look like over here on our scene.
Missing the cast shadow, I’m just kind of drawing that cast shadow. And I’ll draw in the shadow.
Okay, so same scene, all the the value things that we talked about up here are going
to apply to this scene.
But now we're going to add color
and a little bit of this type of thinking.
And since I've got those colors mixed up,
I'll just start with the field here.
So again, I'm just - now I'm stepping forward.
I started with the background.
I'll just step this forward, these mixtures.
So this field comes forward. So the color, the yellow in the mixture is increasing as
as it comes forward now. Okay. So it's a slight fall off of value and a fall off
of color as it goes into the distance.
Let's look at what will happen in the shadow areas that change a lot in the
So on a very atmospheric day,
you can have - you could observe a quicker fall off of
values and color, imagining something like that.
So in the distance we might be seeing this forest, might be just almost a blue
violet. So and the maybe at that point the shadow and light have merged together.
So that might be something for the distance.
Let's mix up something for the foreground.
Foreground we're going to have
more of a local color, what's called the local color,
so it'll be more of a green. I’m imagining these as green trees. So I'll mix up something the
value of this with a color that has more intensity or more yellow in it.
Then the color back there.
So I'm looking for something roughly that value.
Okay. I've got a color mixture
with lots of yellow in it or the idea of yellow in it.
So I've got it now get from this to this
and again in this situation,
it's a gradation from here to here.
It is a value gradation from dark to light. Here
it's going to be both a value and color gradation so
I'm going to go dark to light,
but I'm also going to go
intense color with yellow in the mixture to a background color that is devoid of yellow.
Then again, I could use this type of - the type of thinking that I used too
here or a combination of these two types of thinking and again,
it's not a formula. It's just it's a way of thinking about the landscape
when you're outside making observations.
When you're in the field
you will see these things happening.
But the colors that you can observe in nature are always going to be more exciting
and more interesting than the colors
you could come up with in the formula.
So this is what I kind of
have as an idea when I go outside and then I start observing from there.
So I'm going to get a little bit lighter as I go back.
Start going more towards the blue.
And back, back, and back. So it's a value and color gradation going back into space.
Okay, maybe I'll even make the background a little bit lighter just to exaggerate the
fall off. I’d say it’s a really atmospheric day.
So that's how is the question,
how do you get from here to here?
And here it's a very obvious example, if you got the same tree,
almost like a wall of trees going into the distance.
It's easy to see.
Okay, let's look at the cast shadow.
Same idea, looking for something roughly that value.
And this is going to go through a value change and a color change as well.
The same idea is going to get bluer and bluer and less yellow and less yellow
and lighter as it goes into the distance.
Maybe I'll just exaggerate the color change let’s put even more yellow here.
Okay, let's look at what happens to the lights of the trees.
Some shadow in there, couple bits of shadow. So let's mix up the lights.
So I'll start with the foreground this time.
I'm thinking about the lights of the trees.
Something kind of intense and yellowy, start getting some of that edge variety as well.
Or the level of detail.
Okay, these two things, the light and the shadows are eventually going to converge.
So not only do I have to have a color drop off as I go back
into space, but actually this color now has to become this color eventually.
So I'm going from this to this so the shadow and the light then meet at
some point if you can see
far enough and if it's if there's enough atmosphere.
So I've got to go from this green,
something that looks like a green,
to something that looks like a blue.
So I guess I'm just going to step it off little by little
and make that color and value gradation.
And again, I can start diluting the yellow by using the bits of red
orange, bit of grey. I generally don't do it so systemically outside.
It's more of a way of thinking about it.
So getting close at still.
The light on a tree has to still be lighter than the shadow and even other
very close in value. It's nice to have them separate and clean
but eventually they become so close together that they merge.
Okay, I'll put the road in there.
And I'll think about maybe trying to get more yellow into the road or more bits
of colors that have more yellow in them as the road comes forward.
And let's look at the sky.
Let's just put that in quickly so I can look at this edge,
actually, that's what I want to do.
So I’m gonna mix up a sky color, sky gradation.
I've got a little bit of a gradation going and want to start talking about
the edge. A few nice clouds in there. So in the background back here
there's almost a - almost a hard line,
almost a hard edge.
Again, if I ask somebody to trace around that edge, if I held up a piece
of glass to nature and were looking at that forest
and I said put a line around that distant tree, that would be really easy to do.
It's already simplified for you at that distance.
When you get closer and closer
It becomes more and more difficult to do that
because you can start to see individual trees and individual branches and more.
variation and the edge becomes a little bit more complicated
and harder to interpret. You still have to interpret it
but it becomes more difficult.
And so you start seeing little bit of sky holes through the trees and you have
to interpret that information and see how many of those sky holes do I want
to paint in, how many of those leaves do I want to pay in,
how can I simplify that?
And you start getting into that
very tricky area of painting which is how to simplify something
and specifically how to simplify trees in the foreground, set up more - less defined edge
in the foreground going to almost almost a sharp line you can get away with
having a completely sharp line sometimes back there because the value - it's more about the contrast.
If the contrast is correct between the sky and the distant tree,
it's going to read just fine.
It's not going to jump out.
So you can get away with a hard outer edge.
there in the background, am ore defined edge.
In the foreground things become a little bit less defined and one last thing I didn't
add variety here, value variety is also color variety in the foreground.
So here we’ve added value variety. Here there’s color variety.
So in this middle ground or middle distance, there’s gonna be less
color variety. I could leave that how it is.
However in the foreground, you start to notice little differences.
You start to notice not only greens but you start to notice little bits of orange
and violets everywhere. So I’ll mix up a few of those.
And they might be the same value as well or they could be slightly different.
So some color variety, some you could call it detail.
or variation in the foreground. Same thing for the trees, more variation
and more variety in color and value.
Okay so that’s basic, some basic ideas about aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective.
Value, color, and level of detail or edges.
and try to bring everything together and maybe sometimes you'll see a little bit of
exceptions and things that aren't so obvious.
Here we have a very obvious case of almost a wall of trees going back.
I want to do another scene where things jump around a little bit.
So we're going to jumping all of a sudden back to the middle ground tree,
add a mountain and so on and so taking some of this information, applying it to
a slightly more complicated scene.
And so I'm just going to imagine a scene here
and think about composition, diagonal foreground, one way of getting into a composition. I wanna have a
big tree in the foreground.
I'm thinking about opposing angles and lines and I'll have a little forest back
here. I'll have maybe even a little creek down here.
Middle ground tree. Distant fields, maybe distant forest, and a mountain in the background. Add some clouds.
The cast shadow on the tree or the tree casting a shadow I should say.
So I’m gonna imagine a light source
similar to this. I’ll think about breaking this tree up into light and shadow. And this group
of trees will also be casting a shadow.
And a middle-ground forest and maybe there's even one tree just kind of sticking out here by
itself. And a whole group of trees or forest back here
also with the shadow. Add a distant forest and a distant mountain.
And some clouds. Okay, so we've got a lot of things going on, we've got foreground
tree, the foreground field, then jumping back to middle ground and then jumping way back to
this distant middle ground. So I'm going to still use this kind of idea of color
and value gradation going back but instead of being evenly gradated as it goes back,
we're going to start here and maybe jump to here and then jump all the way
back to here. And I'm imagining also that not all these trees are the same
so we might have a little bit of variety going on.
So it might not go evenly gradated from dark to light.
For example, it might go dark then a little bit lighter, then a little bit darker but
so I'm going to start.
Okay I’m going to start with a shadow
of this foreground tree. I want to mix up something again with an intense color or
a color that has a lot of yellow in it.
It's going to be a shadow value.
So something similar to what I have here.
There's roughly the shadow - shadow color that I want. I can do the same for
the cast shadow. Okay so I've got a cash shadow,
an upright shadow. And they're pretty colorful.
Now I want to mix up - I want to mix up my distant mountain and just see
how far things have to
go. I have to go from here to the distant mountain in a gradation.
Let’s change the shape of the this a tiny bit.
Okay to mix up the distant mountain.
So I'm looking for something very light, even maybe even lighter than this.
I'm imagining again a day with a lot of atmosphere.
So in the distant mountain the light and the shadow have converged
and they're no longer distinguishable from one another.
And there might even be - just to really go for the effect, there might be one
mountain even behind that one.
Let’st another peak back there somewhere.
That's can even go a step lighter.
This one is maybe going to start fading into the sky. Okay,
so step - I'm going to try to step off or go into the distance
all of these shadows now from does foreground shadow into the background mountain. And I want to do
the same with everything, with the field, with the hills going back,
and I’m gonna change the color a little bit.
So I'm gonna - in this case,
we had just one field of grass going all the way back.
In this case I want to vary it a little bit.
I want to have maybe
this field is full of long dead grass and maybe there's some
crops back here, and maybe this one is slightly different as well.
So there's going to be different local colors.
Just want to see how that looks going back.
So let's go to this middle ground tree right here.
Like a cast shadow. So this one's pretty easy.
I'm just going from here to here.
Not a lot of distance.
I'll make a slightly different color
They're slightly different types of trees
but somehow I want to make this just slightly lighter than this.
And just slightly less yellow.
Okay, let's jump now back to the middle.
Middle ground, middle distance. And now we're going to have -
there's a big jump. There's a big jump from - we went from basically here now
we're going to roughly there.
Or maybe even further. So it's off of value and color both,
but actually mostly color right now because I'm imagining this has as a group, as
a forest, lots of dense trees forested.
This tree is out on its own out here,
it's got a lot of reflected light coming back into it.
So there might just be a color difference here, a slight value difference but more of
a color difference. I will make it slightly more obvious
value difference. Okay now I’m gonna jump back - well maybe I'll do this little tree here.
And maybe I'll do a little bit of a cast shadow. Okay now I want to
jump back another step, going from roughly this to this. So lighter, bluer, less yellow.
And the lights and shadows haven't yet converge to back here. Almost.
But there's an enormous color difference.
And I might put a few accents in the foreground because - foreground tree - because we
can have more variety in the foreground, more detail.
So I might start to suggest some branches or trunk that are slightly
different color than the leaves. And here I'm imagining a little bit of -
little bit of a bank, riverbank, little creek down here.
So a plane change from this top plane to this side plane.
Okay, so I've got all the shadows put in, stepping back.
They're going through sometimes just a color change like from here to here and sometimes both
color and value. So slightly less obvious than this example.
And more realistic to how something's going to look outside.
Okay, now I'll start laying in some of the lights, all these fields.
I'll try to make different colored fields, imagine different types of grasses or different
crops and see how that would look stepping back.
in the foreground, somewhere the foreground.
And I'm saying intense, but I just made the color that has the most - that's least
affected by the aerial perspective, has the most yellow in it as an idea.
Put a little reflection in this water. So I'm imagining maybe some,
maybe a pasture, some grass.
And I want to try to start stepping off the color as I go back.
and it might not be a smooth transition, like this example,
but in general stepping the color off so when I get back here to this field
it's going to look not nearly as yellow as this field.
So I'm also thinking a little bit about the form, the direction of these fields,
give a slightly different value to them. And I'll think of maybe I'm thinking of a riverbank
here, let me change the color of it.
But still an intense color.
Even if it wasn't - even if I was painting something that was gray, the gray in
the foreground is going to have more yellow, it’s going to be more yellowy than the gray
in the background. So it's not always - the idea is not always to have
a very almost tubed yellow or orange,
it's just the idea that all things equal you’ll lose yellow.
Just like the road here.
This is not a pure color
but it gets a little bit more -
it's more of a blue gray back here.
It's more of a yellow gray in the foreground.
And I was trying to get a little bit of variety
in the foreground and drop that variety off as we go into the background.
So I'm looking for a slight difference from this foreground to the middle ground hill
or the middle ground field.
So I want a difference from here to here.
And then here gradating back.
And then eventually coming back to the back field.
And I’m also thinking about the form a little bit.
I have some dappled light.
I'm going to start to alter this a bit.
I’m going to add a little bit of red,,
try to step this off. Maybe a bit of veridian.
Which is a really cool green. It's got more of a blue
feeling to it. And I’m gonna imagine maybe a different type of field back here
but maybe the distant distant field will be the same
sort of grass. I just want to mix up a version of this that's in
the distance. I'm going to go
looking for that alizarin, a little bit of blue.
Maybe a little bit lighter.
And now maybe a different
type of field, maybe it's a mud field.
Slightly different local color. Okay,
but still going back back and back and back.
So less color, less yellow, more blue going back. Let’s look at the lights of the tree.
So lots of contrast in the foreground, lots of value contrast between the light
and shadow. Very yellow and green.
Okay, and then I'll just again that's the same idea of stepping this off
into the distance and then jumping way back here.
An important thing to note is that the value of this middle ground tree in the
light is almost the same value as the foreground tree.
And there’s just a color difference.
And another - let’s put this tree in - going back even further, maybe a little bit of idea of light and
shadow still discernible. And eventually none.
Okay, I'll just get the sky in there quickly.
And see how the edge of the back mountain might look very sharp and the
edge of this tree I can start playing with a little bit sky into tree, tree into
sky. I'll just get this sky blocked in and then deal with the edges for
a second. And I'll just scrub it in.
Okay. Now the interesting part, let’s start looking at the edges quickly here.
And the distant mountain, I want that to read very sharp.
Very very sharp edge, but very little contrast between the sky and the mountain.
In fact, I might decrease the contrast even more.
I’ll start throwing some sky color into that mountain in the back.
So almost no contrast now,
lots of atmosphere. Very distant mountain. Let’s look quick at what happens here in the more
complicated foreground, how that interacts with sky.
And we're going to start to see
some sky holes they're called, and some
variation basically. And let’s look at the sky reflection into the creek.
And one more touch for variation in the foreground or a few more touches to
get that level of detail coming forward.
So maybe a few branches getting some sunlight, some variation in the fields here.
Okay, there is a basic idea of stepping back into space. Aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective.
Three main things values, colors, and level of detail.
let's take a look at a few paintings and look at the use of aerial perspective.
Here we got a painting by William Went and let's take a look at the
foreground shadow and see how this color changes and the value gets lighter and the yellow
goes out of the color as it goes into the the middle ground and then all
all the way through to the background until it becomes very light very blue.
When you get back here,
there's almost nothing left of that yellow in the mixture.
A lot of times painters are so good at this that you can't really even see
the subtle changes. You can't perceive the subtle changes as it goes into the background,
so I just want to cut a few pieces out and compare them.
So let's just take a piece of the foreground shadow
and see if we can move it around a bit.
Let’s just move it to the left, move it to the middle ground, and just see
what that looks like. So already you can see a
huge difference between the middle ground values and the foreground and it's a completely different color.
It’s gone from a yellowy green to almost a light blue.
So the yellow is starting to fade out of the mixture.
Let's just move it again to the background
and see as the same moves let’s just compare it to the just some trees.
All right now I can really see
this color, how far it's gone.
Getting lighter and getting less yellow.
And you can really see now the difference between the very very light blues here
and a swatch of the foreground shadow.
So these are both shadows and
they're both the same type of tree and the difference is there's just lots of atmosphere
in between them. Okay, let's look at another image.
Okay, this is a probably middle of the day picture that some
very high keyed picture. And it's not as obvious here,
but let's look again at the shadows.
Let's look at these shadows.
So in the foreground,
there are tiny little bits of shadow
that are fairly dark amongst all the yellow and green.
But let’s really just compare this mid
ground shadow right here.
Let’s just compare that and see how it steps off,
going to slightly lighter as it goes back into space and then finally going to this
value, which is almost the same value as the sky.
And again, I just want to cut out this middle ground shadow just to compare it
to the other shadows as we go back into space.
Okay, let's just move it a little bit and compare these two.
So you can see I think now just a subtle subtle difference between the treatment of
this shadow and the one just behind it.
The one behind it dropping off just a little bit getting in value and getting -
they're less reds and greens and yellows in this, the shadow behind it.
So this shadow has more feeling of yellows and reds
as it’s dropping off a tiny bit behind.
And we get - so when we take that middle
ground shadow and then move it to the background shadow.
I can really see the difference.
So the background shadow is a lot lighter
and it doesn't have nearly the amount of oranges and reds in it.
Actually, it just has a lot less variety in general.
So a lot lighter, a lot less yellow, and it's becoming almost the same value as
the sky and eventually if we could see far enough, if we could see another shadow back
here somewhere, it would - actually we wouldn’t be able to see it.
It would just merge with the sky.
So again we’ve got these dark accents in the foreground getting slightly lighter, slightly
lighter, lighter and then finally disappearing into the background.
Another very similar scene here.
Same thing here. We've got very dark
foreground shadows, look at the middle ground shadows moving always
lighter, always bluer.
When we get to this back
hill we see that it's almost impossible to distinguish shadow from light anymore.
And the hill starts to take on it -
it's just a variation of the sky color at this point.
It's so similar to the sky and by the time we get back here,
it's just, it's merged into the sky.
Let's take a look at the lights for a minute and how they move back.
So the lights generally they don't change so much in the value.
So let’s look at the top planes in light.
Move from here, jump to the middle ground.
So here we see the same thing.
Same plane, same sunlight. And it's really just a color difference from here to here and
let's just compare those two.
So let's just compare now
these two things. So we've got the - I took a piece of the foreground,
I moved it up here so I can compare it with the middle ground.
They're both the same plane.
They're both the same grass.
The only difference is that there’s a lot of atmosphere in between the two and
we can see that the middle ground in sunlight is just a lot more purple or
violet than the foreground in sunlight.
And it’s a subtle thing, it's not as apparent as the the way the
shadows drop off. But it’s a big color change from here
to here and from here going back further and eventually back to where the lights
and shadows converge. Let's take one more example.
Okay, this is an Edgar Payne painting.
It's extremely clear example of aerial perspective.
We’ve got all of these big upright planes that are mostly in shadow.
So we're looking into the sun. Got all these huge upright planes everywhere.
And let's just take a look at what happens to the values
starting in the foreground let’s take a look here.
There we got something really dark for the shadow.
Then we move to a little bit, step back into space a little bit, step further
back into space, getting lighter, bluer, less yellow, lighter bluer, less yellow.
Going back and on the distant mountain
you can just distinguish a little bit of light from shadow.
And let’s do another comparison really quick.
Let’s take the foreground, a piece of the foreground tree, and just move that back slowly and
compare it against each level of depth.
So even now from the very foreground to just behind it,
we can already see a huge color change from the reds and yellows of the very
foreground to the blues and lighter value of the tree
that's just beyond the foreground.
Okay let’s move it back another step.
Move it here. So here we can see again the difference.
It's starting to become really really obvious.
The oranges and yellows in this mixture are just completely different now from the
blues and the lighter value of this midground tree.
And that's just going to continue to drop off as we go back into space.
So let’s compare even to the distant mountain. And we can see now there's just -
there's a stark contrast between these two.
So it's not always that easy to see, especially if the painter is really
good. When you look at a painting,
sometimes it just seems like a seamless
progression in space but there's really a big difference between this,
falling off slowly and till you finally get back here. At times
it's a lot more subtle than that.
Same thing is happening with the lights and this artist Edgar Payne you'll notice
that for example he's got these patches of red everywhere in the foreground.
And then you see less and less of that and we’re just looking in the sunlight areas
now. You see less and less red influence.
And these oranges, you'll see less of those as you go back. By the time we're
back here, itt’s really just a gray
that's just one - that's just a tiny bit lighter than the shadow area. By the time
we're back here it really is a gray and maybe I just want to isolate
this color just to see - just to show you how great it really is.
So let's take a gray.
Let's take this. And just move that to some of the greens in the
foreground. So even let’s compared it to this.
I can see now how gray this looks compared to this area and if we move
it to all the way to the foreground here
it's not going to look green anymore.
It's going to look blue. So in the contrast back here
or I guess I took it from here - in this context next to the shadow,
distant shadow - this distant light still looks like a green tree.
But we'll move it up to the foreground and see what happens.
So now in this new context It just looks gray.
So this just looks like - it just looks like a gray next to a green at
this point. So that's how much the color drops off as you go back into
space. Let’s take one more example.
Again here the same thing,
we've got the same thing here.
Moving from colors that have more yellow in them
and we're just watching the yellow slowly fade out as it moves into the background.
And so it's getting lighter and less yellow or lighter and bluer as it goes into
the background. It’s just a perfect example of that and there's a continuous forest that comes
into the foreground here. Another thing is happening here.
Let’s take a look at the amount of variety or detail.
Let's just take a look at this area,
how much variety there is. There is little sky holes.
There's accents for trunks and leaves, different colors for leaves.
And notice that the edge here is kind of soft.
So let's just look as you move back into the distance
there becomes less and less variety. Here
you can still discern a tiny bit of variety by the time we reach this distance
there's no variety anymore. And let's just look at how the edge -
look at how the edge varies
as you go back, so let’s just kind of follow this edge back.
So from - so this whole area it's kind of fuzzy.
There's a lot of variety in the edge.
There's a lot of sky holes in the trees.
It's not very sharp, there’s a lot of variation.
Now from from here to here,
it takes kind of a jump into the middle ground.
It's still not sharp, but there's a lot less variety.
By the time you get here
it's almost a completely sharp edge.
It even becomes a little bit angular. And here it's a completely sharp edge.
We can see the same thing happening in the foreground, all of the variety here.
We’ve got grass, leaves, dark accents, light accents.
As you move back there's just less and less variety, when you're back here it's basically
one color So it goes from lots of variety to a little bit less to almost
none as you get back there.
Okay, another great example of aerial perspective.
This time it's pretty easy to compare the foreground to the background because it's - we’ve got
this big tree that's right next to every level of background.
So you can just see it pretty easily.
Compare these two areas, they’re right next to each other so already the color of the
lights has just dropped off almost to a blue.
And let’s look at the value of the darkest accents in the foreground tree
and compare them to some of these darker accents in the middle ground,
and it's already dropped off a lot to here.
From here again. it just continues to drop off
in value and color until you get back here.
The same thing going on here with variety.
So look at all the variety in the leaves here,
there's accents, there's different colors,
there's oranges, greens, yellows. Just right here in the middle ground these -
the sunlight on these trees has almost - there’s almost
no variety there. Same things happening on the ground, lots and lots of variety.
Still some variety but a lot less.
And then you just get to patches where there's no variety.
Yeah, that was just a few examples of aerial perspective and how different artists have used
that could be a row of trees going off into the distance along a roadside or
could be even in the city a row of buildings or a street going off into
the distance. And try to paint that, noticing the drop-off in value and color as it
goes back into the distance.
What you'll need is a small panel and a full color palette.
Free to try
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
22m 1s2. How to Paint Value Changes in Space
14m 41s3. How to Paint Color Changes in Space
22m 47s4. How to Paint Color Changes in Space pt 2
21m 15s5. How to Paint Shadows in Space
20m 36s6. How to Paint Light Planes in Space
19m 54s7. Analysis of Atmospheric Perspective in Classic Paintings
38s8. Assignment Instructions