acrylic landscape tutorial

Linear and Atmospheric Perspective For Beginners: Add Depth To Landscape Paintings

In this linear and atmospheric perspective for beginners tutorial, you will learn how to plan and paint your next landscape masterpiece. We will start by defining the two types of perspective, and sharing examples for how artist’s use them to create depth in landscape paintings.

Then, you will see it in action in a step-by-step guide using a simple landscape example. With these simple steps, you will be able to create beautiful landscapes that evoke the feeling of being outdoors!

In this tutorial we will cover the following topics;

  • The two types of perspective
  • Example of linear perspective
  • Sample of atmospheric perspective, AKA aerial perspective
  • Add linear perspective to a landscape
  • Tips for painting atmospheric perspective
  • How to apply both perspectives to a sky
  • How to apply the two perspectives to ground plane and structures
  • Refine hues and add finishing details
  • Tips for learning more

The Two Types Of Perspective Are Atmospheric and Linear

Let’s have a quick look at what these are and how they may impact landscape painting.

1. Atmospheric Perspective

Colors are slightly darker and more saturated in the foreground. They become lighter and more desaturated as they move back. This is due to the atmosphere scattering light.

2. Linear Perspective

This is another way of looking at things. It’s all about creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. This is done by using a series of lines that converge in the distance.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the two types of perspective, we will dive in to how to create an amazing acrylic landscape using them. Keep in mind this is an educational tutorial, meant to demonstrate how to apply perspective to a landscape. And not an attempt to create a museum quality piece of art!

Linear and Atmospheric Perspective For Beginners

An example of linear and atmospheric perspective

The image above uses one point linear perspective along with atmospheric perspective to create depth in the scene. As you will learn, all elements in the design, including the clouds, barn, road and distant mountains, are drawn and painted using both perspectives. Let’s break it down starting with the drawing.

Use linear perspective drawing techniques

How to add linear perspective to a landscape painting

I start by drawing the horizon line. Then I pick a point along that line to draw diagonal lines that branch out in all directions. These lines will become guides for laying in the objects.

For example, by diagonal lines in the sky will help you layout clouds, while the lines on the ground plane with help with the road, barn and other elements.

Sky gradation chart acrylic landscape painting

Tips for how to paint atmospheric perspective

The best way to do this is by first creating a sky gradation chart. In the image above you will see on the left-hand side there is a value scale. The values are as follows:

  1. Second lightest value is placed at the bottom, or horizon
  2. The lightest value is placed just above the horizon value
  3. Third lightest value is placed in the middle
  4. Fourth value is the darkest of them all and placed at the top

Once you have created a grayscale value chart, it’s time to do a color chart beside it that matches the grayscale values. Skies tend to be violet at the horizon line. Then it’s becomes lighter in values and perhaps more yellow. As it moves closer to you, the middle is blue-green and light blue and slightly darker at the top of the picture frame.

Obviously, there are infinite possibilities for every sky, and no two are the same. Mother nature is complex. However, we can use this as a general model. Use this as a starting point. This is much better than starting with nothing.

Paint sky gradation

Apply both perspectives to a sky

The sky will include cumulous and cirrus clouds. The boxy shapes clouds are cumulous and they are much lower than the cirrus. The floating boxes are perfect examples of one point linear perspective.

Colors are gradated from a light blue to blue-green in the distance. There’s even a touch of yellow ochre near the horizon to add warmth to an otherwise cool color sky. The sky takes up a large portion of the painting, so it is important to get the values and colors right.

Paint mountain and sky gradations

How to apply the two perspectives to ground plane and structures

Next, we will paint the ground plane using linear and atmospheric perspective. Note the barn, road, and other elements are drawing in using the same vanishing point as the clouds. That’s one-point perspective.

Atmospheric perspective will cause hues to become lighter and less saturated as they fade into the distance. Conversely, colors are more saturated and darker as they move towards you in the foreground. Colors are mixed accordingly. Keep this in mind as you mix the paint.

Titanium white is a good hue to lighten a value, and complimentary hues do a great job of making them darker. There are many other mixing techniques which you will find on the site.

Paint cast shadows and trees

Refine hues and ddd the finishing touches

It’s likely that the block-in will need adjusting. You will have a good idea how the whole painting is working once all the hues and values are painted. Go back in and make the necessary changes.

How to learn more

If you want to expand your landscape painting fundamentals, I would highly suggest the courses below. It’s an in-depth class that takes you from the very beginning, and ends with advanced ideas such as color vibrations and composition techniques. If you are new to acrylic painting, and enjoy landscapes, you will love these courses..

Landscape painting fundamentals part one
Landscape painting fundamentals part two

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