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I have several mountain models drawing in the background. See actual screenshot here:

enter image description here

At the very back, you see those grey mountains. Although they are so much in background, it still doesn't seem "in the background".

How can I add a feel of depth to those mountains? I would like see them as far far away.

This is how it looks now, thanks to DarenW enter image description here

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Honestly? I think the first picture looks better. Daren suggested lightening the mountains, yet they got darker. In fact, those grey mountains were already quite light and desaturated, so creating a haze would work the best from Daren's answer. The larger size in the second picture also makes them seem quite imposing, and less (rather than more) distant. –  Attackfarm Apr 28 '13 at 7:22
    
@IMX I rolled back your edit deleting the screenshots. Please don't remove parts of the question after asking it. –  Nathan Reed May 26 '13 at 5:10
    
@Attackfarm Where are your glasses? :) –  bobobobo Jun 10 '13 at 14:39
    
@bobobobo You think those mountains in the second picture are lighter and smaller? Maybe I do need new glasses! =P –  Attackfarm Jun 11 '13 at 5:19
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5 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The spikey intense orange objects are pushing in front of everything. In visual arts, distance is indicated by:

  • Paler colors. Just changing your intense orange/rust color to be less saturated will help loads.
  • Lighter colors. blending object's natural color with sky color or with a bland light color such as light gray or a pale sky blue. Related to this: if any objects are black or very dark, they'll pop up nicely in front of a light background. Light objects may need some help such as strong shading, a few dark features, or outlining.
  • Out of focus (slightly), assuming the viewer is meant to focus on nearby objects. For a realistic scene, only slightly out of focus. But consider artistic style - you could use severe blurring. I've seen games like that, and it's kinda fun visually, but it'll work only if you also use paler/lighter colors.
  • Loss of detail. Even if the background features are in focus, less contrast of and even elimination of fine-scale details such as cracks, bumps, texture.
  • The opposite of loss of detail for distance objects: sharpen edges, fine-scale detail texture of nearby objects. You could even add outlining using an edge detector. In animations from old-time saturday morning cartoons to the newest anime, it is often the case that foreground characters have strong well-modulated linework while background art is colored regions only, no special treatment of boundaries. Of course, this involves choice of artistic style.
  • Perspective clues such as long or meandering objects that progress from far to near, such as a river or pipeline or a row of buildings or towers heading away, shrinking with distance. But without the other cues, such a thing may not "sit" right in the apparent 3D space.

For far away objects which will always be shown far away, production effort may be minimized by making the original image assets pale, light, and blurred appropriately. Then no extra run-time compositing effort will be needed.

Although you're working in digital arts, there's a ton of accumulated wisdom in the traditional media world of fine art. I visit wetcanvas.com for that, and also http://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/ because I like the SE way of doing Q&A.

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I applied a lot of these points and the result is a lot better. Thanks! –  IMX Apr 27 '13 at 13:24
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@IMX Could you share the resulting image so that others can also see how it helps? –  msell Apr 27 '13 at 15:35
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Sure, I edited my question. –  IMX Apr 27 '13 at 17:38
    
The paler colors are basically "fog" (which is available in glFog!) –  bobobobo Jun 11 '13 at 22:00
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  • Make them less sharp
  • Implement parallax when moving the camera
  • Add some haze
  • Add other objects near them to give perspective on their size (like cloud caps).
  • Add objects of known size (like trees) spreading into the distance and still in front of the mountains
  • Add foothills around their base
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Less sharp is a good point. But making models blur is not supported in XNA from the get go. I might add that feature later on when I post process the game in Monogame. –  IMX Apr 26 '13 at 19:13
    
if they're mountains, where are their clouds? parallax scrolling, and use clouds to make the mountains hazy. –  zzzzBov Apr 26 '13 at 21:05
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See also –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 26 '13 at 21:51
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It's just as supported in XNA as it is in Monogame... And I also recommend parallax scrolling. –  Phil Apr 28 '13 at 10:37
    
+1 And to go one step further, add stereoscopic 3D, and head-tracked perspective projection. –  Laurent Couvidou May 2 '13 at 21:13
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The most important aspect of making mountains appear distant is to make them closer to the color of the sky. If you take a picture of snowcapped mountains that look distant, and use a color picker on the white snow, you will usually find it is actually a pretty strong blue. Mountains that are orange covered with a blue overlay will still look orange by contrast with the blue sky.

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  1. The further away things get, the more out of focus or blurry they get.
  2. The further away things are, the "lighter" they become.
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Haze is your best friend. You have three levels of DoF in your image: The path, first row of mountains, second row of mountains.

Magic happens on the second row of mountains where they should get some edge blur, less detail, some highlight coming off the bottom and get in color value with the sky. If you could get some Z fog in there that would be good.

Google some "landscape haze" and deconstruct it carefully.

Also take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgogMP-kbA0

There is a PSD plugin that can generate Depth map out of single photo so that can help you as well http://www.kolor.com/neutralhazer-haze-remover-photo-photoshop-plugin.html

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