Aerial Perspective

The illusion of distance is important in realistic landscape paintings. One of the ways to achieve this is with aerial perspective.

Cool Water

Cool Water

There are 3 parts to Aerial Perspective:

  • Detail
  • Tone
  • Color

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:

  1. white
  2. light gray (50% white, 50% gray)
  3. gray (50% black, 50% white)
  4. dark gray (50% gray, 50% black)
  5. 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.

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