Aerial Perspective

Cheap Joe's Artist Tip: Aerial Perspective

Adapted from The Palette Magazine
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If you're fairly new to painting, you may not know what the term aerial perspective means, but we'll guarantee you've seen it. It's what makes things look far away. It's the effect used by realistic painters to create the illusion of great depth in their paintings.

Here's how aerial perspective works: Because the atmosphere contains water vapor, it obscures the appearance of objects when viewed at a distance. This veil of atmosphere affects the value range, hue, intensity, and visible surface detail of distant objects.

VALUE: as objects recede in space, light and dark values move toward a middle-light gray.

HUE: as objects recede in space, the full spectrum of colors becomes cooler, moving toward blue or violet.

INTENSITY: as objects recede in space, the intensity of their color is reduced, moving toward a neutral gray.

TEXTURE: as objects recede in space, visible detail and surface texture disappear.


Aerial perspective is a phenomenon of our visual world, but replicating it on paper is not a rule in painting. It is necessary only to show the effects of aerial perspective if you are a landscape painter intent on depicting deep space.

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