Have you ever wondered why your environment art can sometimes appear a little flat? You might be forgetting to utilize atmospheric perspective in your works!
Atmospheric perspective refers to creating the illusion of depth through value, color, and detail to simulate the way in which the atmosphere impacts how things are seen at a distance. As seen in the image above, a stunning painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Brett, this technique, when used effectively, can add realism to an environment as well as provide a somewhat softened look.
So what are the elements you need to consider when employing atmospheric perspective in your own works?
Due to dust, humidity, and air pollution, objects seen at a distance will appear lighter in color. To create the illusion of depth in your art, it is important to first make sure your foreground uses darker values than the background.
Did you know that in our popular learn-to-draw book, Illustrator’s Guidebook, Lorenzo discusses in more detail how to create interesting backgrounds and fun details, explaining important concepts such as perspective and thinking in 3D. You can find the book on our website in either digital or hardcover format.
In addition to this, your environment’s background should have less contrast in its values in comparison to closer objects. As you can see in the example below, objects seen from a distance will often have a light haze at their base.
Another visual effect caused by particles in the atmosphere is the phenomenon known as “Rayleigh scattering.” These particles cause light rays to scatter, making objects at a distance appear cool-toned to the human eye. This means that to realistically portray perspective in colored works, it is important to make sure you are using warm tones in the foreground and cool tones in the background.
Since the atmospheric perspective is about capturing the way in which our eyes are able to comprehend an environment, it is important to consider how detailed you need to be in making each area of your work. So use the most detail in your foregrounds while you limit distant objects to more smoothed-out shapes with just enough detail for them to still be easily understood by the viewer.
Now that you know these three principles of atmospheric perspective, why not give them a go in your own environment art? To gain the best grasp of this concept, I recommend doing some quick photography studies to practice getting the values and colors correct, as well as looking at the work of our talented artists for inspiration who have done Environment Design courses on 21 Draw.
Rhea is an Australian concept artist who is currently studying at Griffith University. She is passionate about spreading her love of art to others.