Transient effects can seem somewhat mysterious. Especially when it comes to figuring out how to paint fog and mist! However, like most things, painting fog and mist is figure out-able. This article will illustrate how to approach the transient effects you encounter in nature. This, along with other helpful tips on how to create a realistic painting, will help bring your painting to life.
Contents of this Article
Subtlety is very important in painting fog and mist
First of all, subtlety is so important when it comes to painting fog and transient effects. The degree of subtlety with which you approach a work can make or break a painting.
When you look out at a landscape on a misty day there is much less distinction between things. A tree will no longer stand out from the rest of the landscape as a veil of fog covers everything.
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For example, look at the painting below by Monet:
One of the first things you will notice in the painting above is its subtlety. For example, The transition between where the ‘parliament building’ ends and the reflection in the water begins is nearly imperceptible. There is a very soft transition. All of the colors in the painting are very similar and are of a similar tonal range. Learn more about tonal range in this introductory guide to tonal values.
This is exactly how to paint fog and mist – by paying close attention to subtlety. Fog and mist inherently make everything less clear and distinctive. In addition, fog and mist creates less distinctive differences in terms of color and value between different parts. It is just as if a veil came over something and made everything closer together in value and unclear.
Creating Atmospheric Space
Atmospheric space is a technique of rendering depth or distance in a painting by modifying the tone, hue and distinctness of objects. So, in other words everything far off in the distance is less clear – and what is closer to the foreground is more clear. This can be manipulated with color, temperature and edges.
In a painting depicting fog, this is all exaggerated. So, what is far off in the distance is even softer than usual. You can see this at play in the painting below by Turner.
How to paint fog as shapes
When looking at fog it is easy to think of it as an ethereal visual phenomenon that cannot be solidified into a geometric form on your painting. However, I believe everything has a geometry and can be measured – even fog.
Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “Wanderer Above the Sea and Fog” is a great example of how to paint fog and mist. Notice the wanderer looking out at a vast expanse of space which is covered in mist and fog. The piece has a sense of mystery because of its use of fog and mist in the painting and is a quintessential romantic artwork.
In the detail of the fog painting above, I marked out the shapes of different fog ‘spots’ to show how each area has a distinct shape.
Just because fog does not have a solid shape in real life does not mean that we can’t ‘quantify’ it and create a specific shape for it in our fog painting.
How to paint edges in fog and mist
So, once you find specific areas that form geometric shapes – such as what I outlined above in Friedrich’s painting then you must think about the edge. What are edges in painting? Here’s an article I wrote which details all about edges in painting and everything you need to know.
You must create soft transitions in and around the fog areas. This means that the color and tonal transitions must be very subtle. The soft edges around the foggy and misty areas in your painting is what will make it feel like fog more than anything else. So, spend a lot of time mixing subtle color transitions. You can see all the many subtle color, temperature and tonal transitions in the detail below of the same painting. There is great care taken in regards to the subtlety present in the painting of fog and mist here.
Look and practice painting mist and fog
The best things you can do to help yourself understand more about how to paint fog, as well as painting mist. Is to simply go out and paint it from life with your plein air easel. There is no better teacher than nature itself. It might be a little frustrating during your first tries. However, after some time you will learn a lot about small shifts in tone and color and will become much more sensitive to the subtleties present in nature.
Also, you can copy portions of fog paintings that you find compelling. Doing this will help you learn how to handle painting fog and mist when you encounter it yourself!
If you’re looking for what’s next, here’s a look into how to paint a landscape to incorporate with your fog and mist painting adventures. As always if you have any questions or thoughts about how to paint fog and mist, would love to hear from you in the comments below!
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15 thoughts on “How to Paint Fog and Mist for Landscape Paintings”
Thank you so much for creating these wonderful lessons. I am a watercolorist who is desperate to improve and finding your videos is a blessing. I am on a very limited budget and cannot afford lessons so your free tutorials are like gold to me. I cannot tell you how you are appreciated.
Hi! I am so happy to hear how helpful my free tutorials and lessons have been for you! That is wonderful. I wish you much success as you work with watercolors!
Have been painting from 60 years n by chance opened ur web site n found it very helpful since I started by trial n error method. Here at Bangalore INDIA it very difficult to get good brushes,paints and medium. My thanks to you.
I am so glad to hear that the information on this website is helpful! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂
I APPRECIATE YOUR LESSONS VERY MUCH. I HAVE LEARNED VERY MUCH SINCE I*VE STARTED AND MY PAINTINGS ARE BRIGHTER. I AM NOT TOO SMART WITH THE COMPUTER AND I*M A LITTLE SLOW. I HOPE YOU HAVE PATIENCE WITH ME, I KNOW I CAN DO IT. tHYANKS FOR YOUR HELP!
Thank you so much for sharing that Daniel. Am happy to hear that my lessons have helped you! I fully believe you can do it – painting is a visual language and is completely learnable! 🙂
This is great I I’m 77 yrs old always wanted to paint, started doing a little bit a few years back, then I lost my husband an younger daughter, got depressed and stopped painting, now my oldest is pushing me to start painting again, so that is what I am going to do.
Dear Margarita – I am so sorry for your loss, I cannot imagine having to go through that. Sending you my deepest condolences. Though I am happy to hear that you are going to start painting again! Glad that your oldest is pushing you toward it. Painting adds so much richness to life – I hope it will do just that for you! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need any painting help or have any painting questions.
So glad your picking up that brush up again 👍🎨🙏I believe it will give you strength and the power to heal and hope it paints happiness into your life. My painting and yoga practice makes me smile and appreciate every special day we live on this earth. 🎨🙏😊❤️
Margarita Garate: So Sorry for your loss, I’m 58 and Have heart trouble, I can’t get out like I used to and I took up painting as well, it helps pass the time and I really enjoy It, my only problem is remembering what I have learnt lol, I think Painting truly helps us express our emotions to the canvas in a small way that’s is beneficial to our soul. Joyce
Margarita, I amso sorry you lost your husband and your daughter, my prayers go out to you😢. I hope you have started painting again. I find its very soothing and calming. I’ve only been painting for a year now but love it, it’s so relaxing!
I really enjoy your articles… the How to Paint Clouds was so well done, actually explaining the color combinations and why you choose them.
I would find the same sort of artilcles detailing greens found in trees and grass in a plein air setting extremely helpful. I know there are many different light and shadow circumstances but it does seem to be a common issue for most of us.
Thank you so much for your kind words about my articles – very happy to hear you enjoy! As well, thank you for the suggestion – have been wanting to do an article about greens found in trees and grass. Plan to get one up on the website in the not too distant future 🙂
Connie. I have picked up my paint brush once again after a long time without painting. After my husband passed I needed something to do that would get me out of bed and go on. Your painting of a cloud with its colors and overlays reminded me of how I use to paint surf! I use to say I was building my splash. You have inspired me to get back to my easel thank you.
I am so very glad to hear that! Thank you for sharing. I can see how painting surf would be a little similar to painting clouds as they are ever changing and spontaneous. I wish you much joy in painting as you get back to your easel.