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Aerial Perspective

Understanding and application for artists


What is it?
• Aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective refers to the effect the
atmosphere has on the appearance of an object as it is viewed from a
distance.

• A technique of rendering depth or distance in painting by modifying the tone


or hue and clarity of objects perceived as receding from the picture plane,
especially by reducing distinctive local colors and contrasts of light and dark
to a uniform light bluish-gray color.
Features of Aerial Perspective

• Lower saturation / Increased “blueness”


• Receding Clarity
• Lessened Contrast
Lower Saturation /
Increased “Blueness”
As objects recede from the picture plane, their color saturation
decreases and their apparent “blueness” increases.
Background is desaturated and appears
blue.

Foreground is more saturated and


appears green.
• Some painters,
notably Cézanne,
employ/ed "warm"
pigments (red,
yellow and orange)
to bring features
forward towards
the viewer, and
"cool" ones (blue,
violet, and blue-
green) to indicate
the part of a form
that curves away
from the picture
plane.
Why blue?
Because the color of the sky effects aerial perspective, and the more
distance there is between the viewer and the object, the more
“atmosphere” is also apparent.
Side note: Why is the sky blue?
But the sky isn’t always blue…
At dawn and dusk, when the sky can appear “reddish”,
atmospheric perspective can still be applied by taking the
sky color into account.
Pollution, dust, and fog can exaggerate
traits of aerial perspective…
Pollution, dust, and fog can exaggerate
traits of aerial perspective…
Pollution, dust, and fog can exaggerate
traits of aerial perspective…
Pollution, dust, and fog can exaggerate
traits of aerial perspective…
Reduced clarity
As objects recede from the picture plane, they become less detailed.
Objects closer to the viewer are
typically sharper, or less
blurry, than objects in the
distance.
Less contrast
As objects recede from the picture plane, their values become less
distinct from one another.
How the eye sees less distinction between distant values

High spatial frequency Low spatial frequency


Examples
Artist implementation