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How to Mix Greens
Watercolor Painting Lesson

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Painting Video

Many artists think green is a color to be avoided, but green is very easy to mix when you know how!

How to Mix Greens Watercolor Painting Lesson

Mixing greens is easy if you know the techniques!

Painting Lesson Level

Beginner

Skill Building

Vivid Colors
Mixing Greens

I think that artists thinking mixing green is difficult is a holdover from when green was an unlucky color because it would attract fairies. (Not the nice Disney ones.)

More seriously, many artists and galleries believe paintings with lots of green won't sell. As a professional artist for over 20 years, I can tell you categorically that's not true. Some of my best selling prints were mostly green, so that means they didn't appeal to just one person, but many.

In painting sales, green and blue do vary, since color choices in home decor are dictated by carpet manufacturers and Pantone. If you're using a blue palette, an interior designer wouldn't choose green, and vice versa. However, all sorts of elements vary that. One year city scenes will be in style. A few years later everyone wants barn scenes. The art market varies according to a lot of factors.

Mixing with Single Pigment Greens

The simplest way to paint greens is to use a single pigment color, then vary it with additional colors.

The key here is a SINGLE PIGMENT paint, NOT a premixed combination of pigments, like Sap Green or Hooker's Green.

Sap Green or Hooker's Green look lovely when you first paint them, but you're already starting with 3 different pigments in each tube. Three pigments is the maximum amount of pigments a beginning artist should use in one wash before it turns to mud. So you're limiting your paint mixing to ZERO more pigments before your painting is muddy. Talk about limiting your painting potential!

A very advanced artist can mix more than 3 pigments at once and get beautiful colors. But it's much harder to do than simply limiting your palette to single pigment colors. Why start by crippling yourself?

I use either Pthalocyanine Green or Viridian Green when I want a quick green. I'll only use one of them, so I keep them in the same well on my palette. (I paint almost every day.) They're both a little bright to use without mixing them. Green is the only color I mix on my palette, so sometimes that's where I start mixing. I usually finish mixing on the paper either way.

Pthalocyanine Green

Pthalo Green is very staining, very transparent and very bright. There are no half measures with any of the Pthalocyanines! If you want bright summer greens, Pthalo Green is your best choice!

Viridian Green

Viridian Green is not as staining, slightly grainy and a little duller than Pthalo Green. If you want granulation, Viridian Green is your best choice.

Artist's Tips
Try not to use more than 3 colors at once. (I know I am here, but that's for the demo!)

Venice Palazzo Watercolor Painting Tutorials

Venice Palazzo Watercolor Painting Tutorial







Mixing Without Premixed Greens

I prefer to use the single pigment greens as additions to a green mix, rather than the starting point. I'm more inclined to use pthalo or viridian when I'm sketching rather than in my studio.

Usually I start with a basic yellow + blue = green combination, then build from there.

First, think about the mood you want in your painting. Is it soft diffused light or harsh summer sun? Is the color grayed or bright?
Here are 2 examples of green mixes, one spring flowers and one summer shadowed woods.







Similar Palette, but Different Greens

How you balance a simple palette has an enormous effect on the mood of your painting, as well as the actual color of the green paint.

Simple Steps to Pigment Choice:

1. Values

Are your values light or dark?

LightDark
Good BluesCobalt Teal
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Pthalo Blue
Good YellowsAzo YellowNickel Azo Yellow
Burnt Sienna
Muting or Dulling PigmentsNickel Azo Yellow
Cobalt Violet
Maroon Perylene
Cadmium Red



Are these all the colors you can use? Of course not!

This is just a handy cheatsheet!


2. Cool / Warm

Where is your painting cool colors? Where is it warm colors? Change your green mix to match the tone of the painting!



CoolWarm
Good BluesUltramarine Blue
Cobalt Blue
Cobalt Teal
Pthalo Blue
Good YellowsAzo Yellow
Raw Sienna
Nickel Azo Yellow
Cadmium Yellow
Muting or Dulling PigmentsNickel Azo Yellow
Cobalt Violet
Maroon Perylene
Cadmium Red
So many Colors Watercolor Painting

3. Transparent or Opaque?

Are you painting a smooth, glassy sea or the rocky shore?




TransparentOpaque
Good BluesPthalo Blue
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Good YellowsAzo Yellow
Nickel Azo Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Yellow
Muting or Dulling PigmentsMaroon Perylene
Cobalt Violet
Burnt Sienna
Cadmium Red

Remember, it's all relative! One artist's cool, granulating pigment may be another artist's warm, smooth pigment!

4. Granulating or Smooth?

Do you want interesting textures or a smooth, even wash?



SmoothGranulating
Good BluesPthalo Blue
Cobalt Blue
Cobalt Teal
Ultramarine Blue
Good YellowsAzo Yellow
Nickel Azo Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Cadmium Yellow
Muting or Dulling PigmentsQuinacridone Red
Cobalt Violet
Burnt Sienna
Cadmium Red



Here are 3 examples using almost the same pigments but resulting in completely different sketches.





I know there are a lot of green pigments to choose from. The choice is almost overwhelming. If you stick to single pigment tubes of color, you'll go a long way towards mixing beautiful greens. Remember the premixed greens are a paint manufacturer deciding warm or cool, granulating or smooth, not you, the artist.

Mix your own beautiful greens and make your paintings glow with life!

Homework!

Using the colors you already own, sort out the single pigment colors.

Make some paint swatches, not just simple dots of color, but big washes - 4" x 4" minimum, mixing 2 other pigments with each "master" color.

See how the pigments work together!


Now put your greens to work!
Paint the same group of trees - just a few blobs will work - no details - at 3 different times of day.

You'll be surprised at how the colors change!

Related Art Lessons

Happy Painting! Jennifer Branch

How to Mix Greens painting lesson by Jennifer Branch
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