The illusion of distance is important in realistic landscape paintings. One of the ways to achieve this is with aerial perspective.
There are 3 parts to Aerial Perspective:
Detail: As things move further into the distance, less detail is visible. I always paint landscapes from back to front, getting more detail as I go.
Tone: I create a value stick using a paint stir stick that you can get for free at any hardware store. I use 5 values:
- light gray (50% white, 50% gray)
- gray (50% black, 50% white)
- dark gray (50% gray, 50% black)
I use only gray values (#3) in the far distance, middle values (#2, #3, #4) in the middle of the painting and all values for items vary close up.
Holding a tube paint color next to a value stick will help you determine its value (for instance ultramarine blue is about a #4 while hansa yellow is about a #2) You can then lighten or darken the tube color to achieve the desired value before you paint.
Color: Colors get more blue and less vibrant as you move into the distance. I achieve this affect by adding blue to the tube paint colors for distant objects and reserving bright reds and oranges for the foreground.
As with anything else in painting – practice is the key and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Eventually aerial perspective will become second nature to you.