How to Mix Green

Hi friends, today’s post is a continuation of last week’s post about mixing common paint colours.  In that post I said I wanted to write a series of blog posts showing how to mix paint colours (to compliment the video series I’m currently doing).  So starting with this post I’ll be explaining various ways to mix your paint together to get the colours you want.  Today’s colour is green!

Vivid Greens

Green can be a tricky colour for beginners.  Purchased tubes of green paint are all quite vibrant, and without knowing how to tone it down, green can easily start to overpower a painting.  Mixing green can lead to the same predicament:  the most common thought to mixing green is to simply mix yellow and blue together, but this leads to super saturated greens as well.

greenNow if bright, vivid green is what you’re going for, then by all means mix your cool yellow with your greeny blues and have fun!  Vibrant greens look great in the foreground of landscape paintings, or mixed in with the gorgeous vibrant blues of a tropical beach scene.  Maybe even the bright, glowy green of a cat’s eye?  To brighten up a green from a tube, or one you’ve mixed and want it MORE vibrant, add a bit more lemony yellow (like cadmium yellow light) to it.  Adding white to a green will not make it vibrant, but will start to dull the colour out and start to form a chalky, pastel-like green.  Stick to yellows to brighten up greens.

Vivid greens are actually quite easy to mix.  The problem comes when you need a more muted green for the background of a forest painting, or the leaves on a floral still life (you don’t want your green leaves to be more bright and vivid than the colourful flower itself!).  You can mix a green from yellow and blue, and then tone it down with red (it’s complimentary colour).

A better way to avoid this situation, however, is to not mix your green with yellow and blue at all.  (What??)  Well, at least not the blues and yellows that usually first come to mind….

Mixing a More Useful Green

Mixing a muted, earthy green comes from mixing muted, earthy colors.  Remember that the primary colors yellow and blue exist in more than just a saturated, vibrant form.  Instead of reaching for that tube of Hansa Yellow and Pthalo Blue (Green), opt instead for Yellow Ochre and Ultramarine Blue or Payne’s Grey.  They’re both still yellow and blue, so they’ll give you a green, but it will be a much darker, unsaturated green than the blinding green you’ll get from hansa and pthalo.

Another way to mix a muted green is with Pthalo Blue(Green) and Cadmium yellow.  Now you may be thinking this will end up with the

Notice how the greens in the foreground of this landscape are bright and vivid, but the greens in the background are very muted?
Notice how the greens in the foreground of this landscape are bright and vivid, but the greens in the background are very muted?

same green that Hansa yellow will give, but remember that Cadmium yellow is warm.  It doesn’t want to make green, it wants to mix with red and make vibrant orange.  Therefore it won’t be capable of mixing a clean, crisp, vibrant green with Pthalo Blue,and will instead give you a really nice, mossy, unsaturated, earth-toned green colour that is awesome in landscapes and lush forestry images.

Finally, (and one way you might not be thinking of…) you can mix your black (I use Mars Black) with Cadmium Yellow to produce a very dark green.  Now this may seem illogical, but mars black is actually quite a cool-toned black (it’s a tad blue-ish).  Mixing just a touch with Cadmium Yellow will give you a very very dark, unsaturated green.  At first it may not look like green at all to you…you may think it’s just a gross mud colour, but if you put it into a painting where it’s surrounded by yellows and browns (like a landscape), you’ll soon see that it is in fact, green, and serves a great purpose for background color without drawing attention to itself.

Well, that’s it for now guys!  Just remember that vibrant greens have their place, but if you need a green that doesn’t pull you eye directly to it, you need to either mute it down with some red, or try to mix a green from a bit more less intuitive sources. As long as there’s a yellow and a blue somewhere in there, it’ll make some sort of green!

Have fun experimenting with your paints, and never stop creating!

-Ashley <3

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