“Street scene” by Theo Prins
(Reminder: aerial perspective and atmospheric perspective are the same thing and are used interchangeably.)
1. Painters can save time
Check out how Theo Prins painted the crowds of people as silhouettes in the beautiful painting “Street scene” above. Aerial perspective decreases contrast and saturation with distance and therefore detail too is reduced with distance. Painters can take advantage of this and paint distant background objects in less detail which is much faster than having to paint everything in full. This technique applies to anything that is reasonably far away or in the background, like trees, forests, mountains, buildings, cities, and so on.
In the distance, silhouettes and indications of detail are often sufficient to get across the message, story and drama of your piece. Focus detail where it’s needed and simplify where it isn’t. Less is more.
2. Mood control
“Waterfall city” by Theo Prins
Atmospheric perspective is called ‘atmospheric’ for a reason. It can create and enhance mood, be it a creepy swamp, mysterious mountaintop castle, or epic vistas. As an artist controlling the effect, you can manipulate the mood of your image which can help you tell a story.
3. Make images more visually interesting and exciting.
“To the mothership” by Theo Prins
4. Viewer participation
When some things aren’t fully visible and clear, especially in the distance where contrast is low, this invites viewers to actively engage with the image by trying to fill in the missing information in their imagination.
5. Added sense and perception of depth
Rafts by w00kie
Aerial perspective tends to make closer objects darker in value (tone) than things farther away. This makes images easier to read.
6. Dramatic layering effect
“Organic valley” by Andrée Wallin
Aerial perspective creates separation between foreground and background elements in a scene, producing a dramatic layering effect.
7. Visual communication tool
“Morning Sun” by Theo Prins
The extent and color of the atmospheric perspective effect gives viewers clues about the environmental conditions and time of day in the image. For example, you don’t need to read the title of Theo’s “Morning Sun” painting to know that it’s a very humid dawn environment – the low sun and yellows and greens of the aerial perspective tell the story. Another example is a snow-filled vista that is obviously cold, but when you add some freezing fog hugging the ground it feels super-cold. Other examples: pollution vs clean air, rainy vs clear.
8. Compositional tool
“Exploring” by Andrée Wallin
Use aerial perspective as a compositional tool to focus the viewer’s attention on the image’s focal point. Non-focal regions can be pushed farther back into the distance by reducing their contrast and saturation. In Andrée Wallin’s painting “Exploring” (above), the buildings of the background are in haze, giving them less prominence compositionally while leading the viewer’s gaze to the robot at the focal point.