The illusion of space and depth in representational paintings is very important. Without this element paintings are flat, boring and lifeless. How to get that third dimension is difficult. Many beginners struggle to pull off the illusion and are not sure what to do. In this article I am going to show you nine strong techniques you can use in your next painting.
Space and Depth in Paintings:
How do you get that sense of space and how do you direct the viewers eye into your painting?
Let us look at different paintings and see what techniques were used. I encourage you to save the video or download the cheat sheet below and put it next to your easel. The next time you're painting this will remind you of things you can use. You don't have to use them all, of course, but some will certainly be relevant for your next painting.
All right, let's have a quick look.
1. Shapes get smaller with distance, so use diminishing sizes for these shapes to create the illusion of space.
Power line poles, trees and similar objects repeating themselves and getting smaller over distance are ideal for this purpose.
2. Receding lines.
As lines converge into the distance they emphasise the illusion of space. Paths, roads and rows of crops are examples of how these lines recede and converge into the distance.
3. Overlapping Shapes
One shape overlapping another gives the illusion of receding shapes into the distance. Trees, bushes and buildings are ypical shapes to use.
4. A rising baseline.
As shapes move upwards or the planes of the landscape move upwards in the picture frame. That gives the illusion of space. We interpret this as the scene moving away into the distance. Farm lands and roads illustrate this effect.
5. A change of values.
Colors will be darker in the foreground and get lighter in the distance. Other factors also take place like cooling of the colors. See the video on color temperature here.
6. Dark accents
By using dark accent shapes in the foreground you attract attract the eye into the foreground. Then the eye moves into the distance where shapes are similar in value and no strong contrasts. As a result there's more sense of space and light.
7. Colour saturation:
Saturation is important. In the foreground you can have warm, saturated color and then the colors get cooler and desaturated into the distance. Distant colors will appear pastel and cool compared to bright, vibrant color in the foreground.
8. Softer edges.
Once again, the same example where you can see the strong edges in the foreground and the soft edges in the distance. Hard edges should be limited to the focal area as they attract the viewer's eye. Too many hard edges and the viewer may be confused about what is important. Also this may reduce the sense of space. So keep hardest edges for focal areas and use them to direct the eye.
Soft edges are automatically associated with objects far away as we naturally understand this to be an effect of nature.
These tips are not the only techniques that you can use, but they are the most common and effective ones. Easy to apply when you are aware of them. Consider these tips when planning your painting so that you can get the desired effect straight away. For more on these techniques consider my foundation course Learn to Paint with Impact. You can find a nice discount when you enroll from my site here.
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Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa