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Learn to mix greens in watercolor and enjoy playing with the paint.
There is value in “play” not only for children so go for it.
- We know that time here on earth is limited.
- Don’t waste time or chase approval.
- Go for what you really want.
- Override the fearful, mean voice in your head by taking action…
- Block self-doubt.
- That teacher wasn’t right about you “having no talent”….you just needed a better teacher
- So here are clear instructions
- material list to fit to your personal budget
- And while you learn, make something useable.
MIXING GREENS IN WATERCOLOR: The good news
There isn’t watercolor green that you can buy that comes close to nature’s greens.
Have heart though, because as you learn to mix greens from different blues and yellows, you will dramatically advance your understanding of color temperature and color saturation.
Here’s a quick way to Learn to mix Greens in watercolor
Draw out rectangles to make your own color mixing chart or print my template (link).
Click here for hints about printing templates with home printers.
Across the top row:
Place from left to right: the blues that look most green-containing (aqua) through the blues that are most red-containing (towards purple).
Along the left column:
Now from top to bottom: start with the yellows that have the least “orange” in them (top, then yellows with increasing “orange” in them, then yellows that look orange-yellow. In the lowest column place yellow ochre (a neutralized (greyed-down) yellow).
Mix a yellow box to its corresponding blue box. Make greens with more and less yellows and more and less blues.
Some of your mixes will make YUCKY BROWN
Look at your chart. When you add some red (from either an orange-yellow or red-blue), you dull down the resulting mixed green. (This green is “unsaturated” or “greyed down”).
Red is the complement (complement is color directly opposite on the color wheel) of green. Since complements added together make neutrals (grey, black or a brown), adding a red in your parent yellow or blue color, will result in a neutral green.
Sometimes yellow and blue don’t make green.
Learn to Mix Greens in Watercolor: Why not use a straight tube green?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a tube green that accurately matches nature’s green leaves or grass. Check for yourself.
However, starting with a tube green (that can be modified) can make painting easier.
Is there another way to mix greens in watercolor?
- With so many tube greens available, how do you decide which to own?
- PLUS, how do you keep from buying repeat greens disguised by the different brand names.
One great resource for at detailed information about modern watercolor pigments, based on evaluation of 750 commercial watercolor paints can be found here
- This webpage lists the specific pigments in a watercolor tube.
If you become more curious about watercolors, you may find the valuable information about
- the value of the color mass tone,
- whether a pigment will blossom or diffuse and
- the drying shift (the change in appearance of a color from glistening wet to a completely dry swatch of your color)
Back to greens.
Note: Single pigment colors result in fewer surprises when mixed with other colors.
Single pigment greens
The single pigment greens that I keep on my palette are:
Viridian by M Graham or DaVinci (PG18) .
- Viridian looks in color like Phthalo Green.
- Easily lifted with a damp brush, viridian is a friendly green
- It is a lightly staining, granular dull blue-green.
- Without the power of phthalo green, it will not make deep dark mixes.
- Instead viridian makes lovely purples when mixed with some of the blue reds (like alizarin crimson).
- Viridian is very useful both in shadow mixes (including the shadows of flesh) and for glazing.
Phthalo Green (sometimes designated Blue Shade) by Schmincke (PG7)
- Phthalo Green is a transparent, HIGHLY STAINING, non granulating dull blue green pigment.
- Beautiful deep darks including a transparent almost black, can be madly mixing Phthalo Green with Alizarin Crimson.
Chromium Green Oxide by Old Holland (PG 17)
- Chromium Green Oxide is an opaque, granulating, staining, dark valued, dull yellow green pigment
- It makes beautiful textured mixes.
Perylene Green by Winsor Newton (PBk31)
- Perylene Green is a semi transparent, non granulating, staining pigment
- It mixes well to make interesting deep greens.
Mixed Pigment Greens
My favorite mixed pigment tube greens are:
Sap Green by Holbein (Nickle Azo Yellow (PY150), Phthalo Green (PG7) and Quinacridone Magenta (PR122)
- Semi-transparent, non granulating, non staining green that is a convenient mixture.
Permanent Green No 1 by Holbein (Hansa Yellow (PY1), Nickel Titanium Yellow and Phthalo Green (PG7)
- A bright, transparent, staining, non granulating color that is convenient for mixing.
Undersea Green by Daniel Smith (Ultramarine Blue (PB29) and Quinacridone Gold (PO49)
- A dark green is that is transparent, granulating, non staining and convenient
Mixing actual spring greens for leaves and florals in watercolor
The beautiful spring leaves from left to right include: the deep blue-green of a daffodil leaf, a similar deep blue green of an iris reticulata, slightly more yellow camelia leaf, a Shasta daisy leaf, a leaf lettuce and finally a watercress leaf.
ANOTHER WAY TO LEARN TO MIX WATERCOLOR GREENS: MODIFY TUBE GREENS:
- the swatches of my favorite watercolor tube greens from top down:
- Holbein permanent Green No 1
- Old Holland Chromium Oxide Green
- Holbein Sap Green
- Winsor Newton Perylene Green
Across the Top: Left to Right:
- Schmincke Aureolin,
- Holbein Cadmium Lemon,
- Schminck Indian Yellow,
- Holbein Cadmium Yellow Orange,
- Schmincke Translucent Orange,
- Winsor Newton Burnt Sienna,
- and Phthalo Blue.
- Permanent Green is added to Chromium Oxide Green.
- Perylene Green is added to Permanent Green.
- Sap Green is added to Perylene Green.
- Swatches of tube M Graham Hookers Green and Holbein Olive are added for comparison.
Here is a wonderful exercise:
Hold a fresh leaf in your hand and work on mixtures of these colors to match the greens.
Leaves and stems can be used in a painting to add texture.
In addition, foliage can be used as line work to give movement and an additional design element to a painting.
Ways to Achieve Texture:
- Choose sedimentary or granulating colors and add enough water to settle the pigments into the paper’s valleys.
- Lift some areas of green with a paper towel after placing them in the leaf.
- Use a watercolor pencil and run it over sandpaper while the green wash is wet to add contrasting fine pieces of color dust.
- Left: Drop different color or value onto semi-wet background.
- Right: Scrape into wet paint or dip calligraphy pen or garden stick into wet pigment and draw on semi-wet background.
Tip: Foliage greens will need their saturation (chroma) reduced in most paintings.
Here are master works of floral paintings of Henri Fantin Latour
All of the greens in these master paintings are very neutralized. Because of this, the greens support the rich beautiful flowers in the focal areas of the paintings.
You may want to practice what you have learned about watercolor greens with the watercolor spring floral templates discussed in this post.