My landscapes look flat. What’s the solution?
Rory Niesh, England
Illustrating the effect of atmospheric perspective will add instant depth to your paintings. There are only a few simple rules to keep in mind.
Essentially, when viewing an object from a distance, certain factors will affect how that object appears. The main factor is light scattering or distribution, which is caused by particles in the air such as dust, humidity or smoke.
A few things will happen to an object the further away it is from the viewer. There are always exceptions to every rule, but for most cases these will apply. The object’s contrast and saturation will decrease, and its values will become higher. The details within a shape will soften, but for ‘ hard’ shapes such as rocks or mountains, their silhouette edges will remain nice and sharp. Distant objects will also shift towards a similar tint as the sky. This can, of course, be any colour you choose: from blue, to orange, to green (hey, alien planets need love, too).
My process for painting atmospheric perspective begins with my initial sketch phase. It’s important to lay down your general shapes and colours early on, to ensure that the distance and depth is communicating well. Taking a ‘ light banding’ approach is a great way to emphasise depth in a painting, by consistently layering the lighter areas against darker areas.
I usually avoid zooming in and becoming distracted with detail until much later in the painting process. When I begin to add details, I’ll often use the Lasso and Quick Selection tools to help preserve any hard edges, especially if I happen to be working on a single layer.
The mountains are visually receding into the background as they become lighter and take on more of a blue tint. In contrast, the foreground is quite dark and saturated.
Make sure to always keep your value range close when painting details into rocks and mountains, especially when they’re further away, because there’ll be less contrast.