by Fiona Valentine
If you have trouble mixing greens, you are not alone. Green seems to be a colour mixing dilemma for many of us. If you want to learn how to paint, conquering green will be very helpful.
So here are five simple ways to mix beautiful greens to get you started.
Mix Beautiful Greens Tip #1
Mix a bright green with a cool yellow and a cool blue.
Understanding the difference between cool colours and warm colours can take some time. I dive deep into this in my Colour Course if you’d like some help figuring it out.
For now, let’s start by using a cool yellow like lemon yellow. This yellow is "cool" because it has a green bias caused by a little blue pigment combined with the yellow.
Now choose a cool blue. I like pthalo blue. It’s a transparent, staining pigment. Just try getting some on your finger, or your shirt or the carpet and you’ll see what I mean! Pthalo blue is cool because it has a green bias caused by a little yellow pigment combined with the blue.
This combination makes very bright greens. The blue is much stronger than the yellow here, so take a tiny bit of blue and mix with the yellow in increasing amounts and see how many different greens you can make from this combination.
Mix Beautiful Greens Tip #2
Mix a dull green with a warm yellow and a warm blue.
Cadmium yellow deep and Ultramarine Blue would be good choices here as they both have an orange bias because a little red pigment is combined with yellow pigment.
Mixing these two colours together creates a mix with all three primaries present. Mixing yellow, red and blue will make mud – browns and greys. Dull colours.
So, having a little of all three primaries present in this green mix will make a dull green.
See how many dull greens you can create with this combination.
Mix Beautiful Greens Tip #3
This combination is easy! Mix a cool yellow with a little bit of ivory black. Keep adding more ivory black and see how many greens you can make.
Mix Beautiful Greens Tip #4
This time, let's make tints. Make a tint by adding white to a colour.
Take each of the greens that you mixed in the first three steps and add a little white to each one.
Now add more white and paint these out, then more white again. Lastly, take pure white and add just a tiny bit of the green tint for a colour that is almost white.
You’ve now created 4 new greens from each original green!
Mix Beautiful Greens Tip #5
Mix yellow ochre with white and add a little cool green viridian. Viridian or Pthalo green is an intense emerald colour straight from the tube.
Adding yellow ochre and a little white to viridian creates beautiful soft greens that are some of my favourites.
By now, you should have an impressive array of green colours. It’s helpful to record the colour mixes you’ve created on a sheet of canvas or even index cards. I like to put the initials of the tube colours I’ve used for future reference.
For some fun green practice, grab a leaf from the garden and see if you can mix the colour you see. Picking leaves from different plants can help you observe more closely the huge variety of greens in nature. You’ll notice many of these natural greens are dull while a few are very bright.
Becoming confident with colour mixing will help you reproduce this variety in all it’s glory. Painting with colour straight from a tube will never feel as believable as carefully mixed colour. Tube colours feel unnatural without some toning down with white, black or the opposite colour on the colour wheel.
Should you find a green is a little brighter than you intended, add a small amount of red to dull it down. Different reds will give slightly different results, but because red sits opposite green on the colour wheel, this is a subtle and effective way to control the chroma or brightness of the green. Complements or opposites include the third primary colour, so they create a duller mix.
Interestingly, when painted side by side, complements make one another look even brighter! Isn't colour amazing?
There is so much more to say about using green and how principles of atmospheric perspective can help you create the illusion of distance in a painting, but that, dear artist, will have to wait for another blog post.
Happy colour mixing! You might find my colour terms pdf freebie is helpful. You can download it here:
Hi, I'm Fiona. I'm an artist and art coach. I help aspiring artists build a creative habit and conquer the basics of painting so they can make beautiful art.
You have more than enough creativity and talent. You need knowledge, practice and a creative process that really works.
I'm here to help!