Can you help me paint fog in a scene that features a character?
Jang Carson, Canada
Answer Mark replies
The key for painting a foggy scene lies in your focal areas and their transitions into the environment. Fog reduces visibility and this will affect everything from the colours and light, to the edges and contrast of any objects in the area.
Using a limited colour scheme is the first step towards a successful composition, because the fog unifies the colours by toning down the amount of light scattering taking place in the scene. This also explains why you can’t see cast or hard shadows in fog, so it’s important to use a limited value scheme at the same time. The edges of objects become much softer in fog because of the reduced level of scattered light, and you can replicate this on the canvas by using various levels of Gaussian Blur. Keep your focal area (in this case the soldier’s head) as clean as possible, and strengthen the contrast by using the darkest and the lightest tones around these parts.
Because fog is a collection of liquid water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air near ground level, it amplifies the effect of aerial perspective in your scene. Imagine all the objects, including your character, as huge mountains and then introduce various levels of aerial perspective to them. This will ensure your objects remain grounded. Use smooth gradients on sub-layers with the same colours as the background to lighten up the areas further away from the viewer. This will stop the scene from feeling enclosed and claustrophobic.
Fog always reduces the contrast and visibility of objects further away from the viewer. Reflect this by lowering the detail and contrast in the background – this will keep the focus on your character and the main story. Imagine the fog as a stronger version of aerial perspective. If you add slight gradients of haze between the body parts of your character, you can strengthen the foggy feeling, but also can keep the depth of the figure.