Atmospheric Perspective

Atmospheric perspective in art creates the illusion of space in a 2D artwork.

38 min. video

Atmospheric perspective emphasizes spatial intervals, the distance between objects where as objects recede into the distance, they become less detailed, lower in contrast, and more blurry.

Cat Huang, Fantasy Landscape, banner

Objects in the foreground by contrast are articulated with crisp details and high contrast in order to anchor them in the composition.

Using paintings and drawings from contemporary art and art history, concrete examples illustrate how atmospheric perspective is used by artists to achieve the effect of space.

Clara Lieu
Watercolor in Utah: Goblin Valley & Mushrooms

Video Walkthrough

  • Backgrounds are important, they create a context for figures and objects to exist within.
  • Space is literally everywhere!
  • Space is challenging because it’s intangible & invisible.
  • In 2D artwork, atmospheric perspective is the illusion of depth moving back into space.
  • Objects closer to the viewer appear more articulate, detailed, and higher in contrast.
  • Objects further back in space are blurrier, lower in contrast and have little detail.
  • Atmospheric perspective can function on a large, epic space, or even just a few objects sitting on a table in a still life.
  • You can see atmospheric perspective in abstract art as well, depending on what parts of the painting pop out due to having more detailed areas in the foreground.
  • Be willing to stray from your reference photo and apply concepts of atmospheric perspective to increase the illustration of space.
  • Often being too faithful to your reference photo can make the sense of space more flat and confusing.
  • Search for “spatial intervals,” the space between objects.
  • Define the space by the spatial intervals you observe.
  • Aim to push parts of the image backwards, and other parts forwards in space.
  • Changing the scale of the same object can effectively show space.
  • Overlapping objects is helpful to convey where objects sit within the space in relation to each other.
  • Atmospheric perspective can also be effective with a flat, graphic style.
  • Atmospheric perspective is not determined by the value or a specific color, (how dark an object is) rather it is about how crisply something is articulated, or how blurry it is depending on it’s location in space.
  • Color is a part of how atmospheric perspective functions; more intense, saturated colors will pop forward more than muted ones in the distance.
  • Atmospheric perspective allows you as the artist to be a director; you can pointing to your audience parts of the artwork that you want them to pay attention to more.
Clara Lieu
Brush Pen Drawing in Taiwan

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