Sky and Sea with light and dark blue mountains depicting Atmospheric Perspective

How to use Atmospheric Perspective in your Art for Depth and Realism?

The concept of atmospheric perspective is an old one. Artists have used it for centuries to create a sense of depth in their artwork. As an artist, you should consider using atmospheric perspective to make your artwork more realistic.

An atmospheric perspective is an artistic technique conveying a composition’s depth and distance. It is achieved by using color, value, contrast, and texture to simulate how objects far away appear less colorful and lighter in value than objects close to the viewer.

It also mimics how the air is less dense near the viewer, so objects further from the viewer have a hazy look.

More recently, this technique has also been applied to photography and film-making. The basic principles are the same regardless of the medium, but you’ll get more out of it if you understand it! However, this post will focus on using atmospheric perspective in painting or other works of art.

We’ll start with the basics.

What is Atmospheric Perspective, and How Does it Work?

Atmospheric perspective refers to creating an illusion of depth by depicting distant objects with reduced contrast, detail, and color saturation. This method helps artists convey a sense of distance and spatial relationships within their compositions.

You can create it by using color, value, contrast, and textures to simulate how objects far away appear less colorful and lighter in value than objects close to the viewer.

Light scattering causes this effect in the atmosphere, diminishing the intensity of colors and light traveling long distances.

This phenomenon is also known as aerial perspective, and you can use it in your landscape paintings. The more distant an object or area is, the bluer it will appear because of scattering and atmospheric absorption (light traveling through the atmosphere is gradually absorbed by gas and dust).

The less distant an object or area is, the more yellow it will appear due to a lack of absorption.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first to use atmospheric perspective. While creating his iconic Mona Lisa, da Vinci used this concept by painting the background landscape in blue tones.

However, the atmospheric perspective is not just limited to landscapes. You can also apply it to other subjects, including animals and humans!

What are the Two Main types of Perspectives?

There are two types of perspective: atmospheric perspective and linear perspective.

Linear perspective is based on mathematical principles and uses vanishing points to create the illusion of depth. Professionals in architecture and engineering drawings mostly use this.

On the other hand, the Atmospheric Perspective is a natural phenomenon when light passes through the atmosphere. It is based on the physical properties of light and the atmospheric elements that scatter and absorb light.

Artists often use it in landscape paintings to create a sense of depth and realism.

What are Atmospheric Perspective’s Components?

An Atmospheric Perspective comprises four elements: color, value, contrast, and texture.

Color – Atmospheric Perspective makes distant objects appear less vibrant or dull.

Value – Atmospheric Perspective causes areas in the distance to appear lighter in tone, especially towards the horizon.

Contrast – Atmospheric Perspective lessens the contrast between colors, so objects of different colors appear to blend.

Texture – the texture of an object also becomes less clear the further away it is.

The three components – atmospheric color, atmospheric value, and atmospheric texture are caused by atmospheric scattering, a function of gas and dust particles.

The component – atmospheric contrast – comes from the absorption that affects shorter wavelengths (violet and blue) than longer ones (red and yellow).

In addition to these three elements, you’ll also want to consider the following factors:

Scale – the size of an object relative to its surroundings will affect how it appears in a painting.

Proximity – objects that are closer to the viewer

How can you apply Atmospheric Perspective to your artwork?

Artists can use atmospheric perspective by changing an object’s size, shape, color, value, and texture to create distance from the viewer.

Use Atmospheric Contrast

The atmospheric contrast refers to the variation in both color and value among the layers present in the atmosphere.

You can find separate layers that are parallel to the horizon.

The top layer would be the sky, and blue will be the most dominant color.

The next layer will have less saturated colors, and it goes down to the horizon, which will be green or brown.

This change in detail causes the object to appear blurred and far away.

In addition, atmospheric perspective can enhance an object’s weight and speed.

For example, a faraway cloud in the sky may appear lighter and wispier than a storm cloud. The closer object will be heavier and dark because of atmospheric contrast, giving it a sense of heaviness and weight.

Study the Paintings or Photographs

The best way to start is by studying photos or paintings that use this technique. If you have the luxury to physically be in a place where you can see it, like a hill station or high-rise building, then nothing like that.

Notice how the background colors and values change as you move further away from the subject. Try to recreate this effect in your image using similar colors and values. You can also experiment with atmospheric effects like fog or haze.

It’s important to remember that atmospheric perspective is all about creating the illusion of depth. As an object moves farther away, its level of detail decreases.So don’t go overboard on atmospheric details.

Use Logically and Do not Overuse

You should also logically use this technique and not overuse it. Atmospheric effects will be more noticeable on farther away objects.

If there is a mountain in the background, utilizing an atmospheric perspective can effectively capture the essence of tree-covered hills and far-off forests.

Also, remember that atmospheric perspective will not work on smaller objects or scenes close to the viewer.

One way to improve your paint application is to use the principle of atmospheric perspective when estimating how much pressure you need to apply to each increment of distance when painting larger areas such as skies and landscapes.

Best for Landscape Painting

Finally, atmospheric perspective works best in a landscape painting with a clear horizon line.

However, you can use it on all kinds of subjects and artworks! The atmospheric perspective is perfect for adding atmospheric effects to watercolor paintings, illustrations, and even portraits.

You can also use atmospheric perspective as a stylistic device to create an ethereal or dream-like feeling in your picture.

Tips for using atmospheric perspective in your artwork

  • Use atmospheric perspective to create the illusion of depth and create a sense of depth and realism in your artwork
  • The further away an object is, the less detail it will have.
  • You can use atmospheric perspective on all kinds of subjects, including portraits.
  • However, atmospheric perspective works best in a landscape painting with a clear horizon line.
  • Remember to use atmospheric perspective logically – atmospheric effects will be more noticeable on farther away objects.
  • In every painting, you should experiment with different atmospheric effects, such as fog or haze, enhancing your artistic skills.
  • Use it wherever required but; don’t overdo it!
  • You can use the Atmospheric perspective as a stylistic device for creating surreal or dream-like effects in your picture.
  • The atmospheric perspective is perfect for adding atmospheric effects to watercolor paintings, illustrations, and portraits!
  • You can create an atmospheric perspective for blue skies in the distance and warmer atmospheric colors closer to you.
  • The atmospheric perspective is not only based on how far away an object is but also on its size. The larger the object, the more noticeable the atmospheric perspective.

What is Aerial Perspective?

Atmospheric and Aerial Perspectives are terms often used interchangeably, but you can use atmospheric perspectives more commonly in arts.

Aerial perspective is a scientific term describing how light scatters and is absorbed as it passes through the atmosphere, which affects the colors and values.

Both types of perspectives create a sense of depth in an artwork.

However, the atmospheric perspective is more about how colors and values change as you move further away from the subject.

So atmospheric perspective in drawing includes aerial perspective, but aerial perspective does not have atmospheric perspective.

You can find the aerial perspective used by Leonardo Da Vinci in his paintings, the Monalisa and the Last Supper.


Many artists implement atmospheric perspective into their artwork to create a sense of depth and realism.

To learn more about atmospheric or aerial perspectives or have any questions, feel free to reach out! We would love to hear from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the Three Components of Atmospheric Perspective?

    The three components of the Atmospheric Perspective are Aerial Perspective, Color Perspective, and Value Perspective. When aerial perspective makes something appear further away with less detail or contrast, color perspective gives the impression that hues recede into the distance. Value perspective makes values seem to fade off as they move farther away from view. All these elements working hand-in-hand will give your painting greater dimension for a more dramatic effect.

  2. Why do we use Atmospheric Perspective?

    By employing atmospheric perspective, we can craft the illusion of depth and distance in a painting through our creative use of color variations and value. This technique replicates how light and air interact with objects far away by adding a more realistic touch to any composition. As a result, viewers can experience their paintings as if they are standing right in front of it.

  3. Why is Atmospheric Perspective Important in Art?

    Atmospheric perspective is an essential concept in art, as it helps create a convincing illusion of depth and distance. By using color and tone changes to imitate the effects of air on elements within a scene, artists can make their work appear more realistic for viewers, ensuring that their art is captivating. Through this technique, works take on new life with believable realism that engages those who experience them.

  4. What are the Usual Qualities of Atmospheric Perspective?

    Atmospheric perspective employs various techniques, including the gradation of color, dimming contrast, and blurring details to create an illusion of depth in artwork. This method gives viewers a sense that distant objects are further away than those nearby.

  5. What Distinguishes Atmospheric Perspective from Linear Perspective?

    Capture the essence of depth and distance with atmospheric perspective, an art method that creates a furnishing haze or foggy atmosphere. On the other hand, the linear perspective relies on mathematical principles to create this effect by using converging lines. While both approaches lead to similar results, they are fundamentally different. While linear perspective is based on mathematics, atmospheric perspective captures light and air effects for its skilled representation of space.

  6. How Does Atmospheric Perspective Create Realism?

    The atmospheric perspective adds a touch of realism to your painting by utilizing the atmospheric haze effect. Objects in the background will seem blurry and lack detail, producing an illusion of depth and distance, much like what we witness with our own eyes! This technique enhances your artwork’s vividness to appear as if brought to life.

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