Aerial Perspective

The illusion of creating depth as objects become more distant is very significant for most figurative artists. Aerial perspective refers to the effect that the atmosphere has upon objects as they become more distant.

Within the tradition of Western Painting the artist will use a variety of techniques to depict aerial perspective.

Distant objects may be painted:

  • with less detail
  • with less contrast
  • paler
  • often less well defined (i.e. with soft or blended edges)
  • with more neutralised colours.

Neutralised colours can be achieved by mixing the object’s natural colour with its complimentary. However, distant objects are often painted ‘bluer’ than closer objects. Blue is a receding colour – and the atmosphere (the sky) appears blue. Of course, in a sunset, distant objects may become more red, orange or brown.

The techniques of aerial perspective are more obvious in landscape painting, but are relevant to any subject – so in a still-life or portrait painting, for example, more distant edges may be softened and ‘blued’ as they turn away from the artist.