How to Paint Mist

The colour of mist can be many colours depending upon the weather conditions. But when rendered effectively, mist help to create atmosphere in landscape painting.

Injecting Atmosphere into Landscape Painting
Even on a clear day, dust particles and moisture exists in the atmosphere. The lighting conditions and the time of day have a fundamental effect upon the colours of the background. Emphasis upon background and foreground, as in this setting near Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, adds dimension and drama to the painting. The following pointers might be worth bearing in mind when recreating distance and recession.
  • A landscape setting of similar colour and lighting conditions, such as a field of corn or rapeseed, will appear paler and slightly bluer with distance. If the weather is particularly muggy, this effect will be emphasised.
  • Objects of different colours within the landscape, such as pale and dark trees or a patchwork of fields will recede tonally according to their individual colours, particularly in mist.
  • The most unexpected colours can be seen in misty weather, such as crimsons, violets, browns and greens. Sensitive observation is the key to recreating an authentic feel to the distant landscape.
  • Detail as well as the colours will appear more muted with distance. A crop of trees, for instance, could be reduced to a blob of grey.
  • Mists will often reflect the colours of the sky. Beneath a clear sky, the mist will exhibit a bluish hue not seen during during cloudy weather.

Art Materials Required

  1. A suitable photograph of a misty landscape
  2. A 10” x 12” (25.5 x 30.5cm) piece of hardboard which has been primed
  3. A size 3 and a size 6 round sable brushes
  4. A small pot of artist’s white spirits.
  5. Oil colours: titanium white, pthalo blue, ultramarine, lemon yellow, permanent rose, burnt umber and viridian.
  6. A palette consisting of a china plate or similar
  7. Rags
  8. Soft pencil

Tips on Painting Mist


Don’t discard used colours on the palette. When mixed together, they could provide lovely neutrals and greys that, with a little adjustment, would come in useful for the colours of distant landscapes.
Demonstration on Painting Mist

The painting surface had been overlaid with a thin wash of diluted burnt sienna acrylic paint. This helps set the tone of the painting. Once dry the composition was then sketched out with a soft pencil. With a thin sable, a mixture of viridian and burnt umber was applied to the shadowed areas of the foreground.

With a clean sable, a mixture of lemon yellow, white and varying amounts of pthalo blue were pasted onto the sunlit areas. The vividness of colour and tone would be in sharp contrast to the background.
Mixing Colours for Mist

To recreate distance, colours generally need muting and mixing with a little white. In this case, the misty landscape consisted of a patchwork of permanent rose with white; viridian, ultramarine with white, and pthalo blue with white. 

Beware of over-mixing the colours for backgrounds. This could kill the life out of the painting and make the colour appear a solid dirty mass. Allowing a few streaks of colour to remain will suggest detail in the background and inject a little expression into the painting.


Painting a Misty Sky


Titanium with a dab of burnt sienna were mixed together and dabbed onto the highlighted ripples of the clouds. This was followed with an introduction of ultramarine and a little pthalo blue. Notice how some of the colour of the sky has been reflected upon the colour of the mist.
Finally, the different areas of colour and tone were knitted together by using a soft brush. This helps give the painting some coherence.

This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon. © Rachel Shirley 2010.