Many people think that mixing greens (finding the right green) is a very difficult thing. In this post I would like to show you how to mix paints to get the right green. There are many ways to do this and which one we choose depends on what we need at the moment.
Ready-made greens usually don’t look natural, which is why it is advisable not to use them, at least not in their pure form. Let’s take for example Winsor Green Blue Shade PG7, which itself looks artificial. It does not mean, however, that there is no such color. Nature provides us with thousands of green shades. If we go to the forest and take a good look at the plants, I guarantee that even Winsor Green Blue Shade in pure form can be found easily.
The fact is, however, that many beginners use ready-made greens in excess. Paintings then don’t look good, something’s missing, something’s not right, the plants are flat, the colors are not as they suppose to be. One of the reasons is overconfidence in ready-made greens. We can modify them, but before I describe how, I would like to first discuss the ready-made greens which are worth looking at. In fact, there are not too many of them, and this limitation is due to the fact that we do not need a lot of them, because we can get them by mixing other colors. However, a few shades are quite interesting and it is worth considering whether or not to have them on hand.
I still have to put in one sentence. Personally, I am a big fan of using ready-made greens as a base. I think that greens on the basis of ready-made ones are much more intense than those made from a combination of yellow and blue. There is one conditition, however. The ready-made green should be single pigmented (with one exception). I have already written about why this is important in many places, including my e-book, which is available for you in the Bonus Area.
Choosing the good ready-made greens
My choice of green, but also other colors, is always based on similar criteria. First, I pay attention to the number of pigments. Then I put together selected colors and make another selection: I choose those colors that actually differ from each other and those that can not be obtained by mixing other colors.
PG7 – chlorinated copper phthalocyanine. Winsor&Newton calls this color Winsor Green Blue Shade. You can also meet the very popular term Phthalo Green (BS) (Daniel Smith, Schmincke Horadam) from the dye used – phthalocyanine. This green is probably the most popular (maybe is on a par with Sap Green, but if you consider single pigmented colors PG7 wins). This is a very strong, intense green with a dark, cold, bluish shade. Tests of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have confirmed that it has excellent lightastness. It also belongs to the colors that are staining. It is always on my palette, because it is the best color to get any other green. Please note that many other greens are based on this pigment. Let’s take some Schmincke Horadam examples: Sap Green is PG7 + PY153; Permanent Green is PG7 + PY155; May Green is PG7 + PY151; Hooker’s Green is PG7 + PY42 + PB15: 3 etc. Once the basic greene was Viridian PG18. It was used (and still is used) mainly by landscapes artists, due to its properties. Viridian PG18 (Winsor&Newton) is very similar to the Winsor Green Blue Shade PG7. These two pigments differ in two properties. Viridian is granulating (therefore useful in landscapes), and Winsor Green BS is not granulating. The second difference is that Viridian is less saturated. Winsor Green BS is slightly more intense. These properties will also affect mixtures with other colors.
PG36 – chlorobrominated copper phthalocyanine. Known as Winsor Green Yellow Shade (Winsor&Newton), Helio Green (Schmncke Horadam) or Phthalo Green (YS) (Daniel Smith). I think we can say it’s a warmer equivalent of PG7 pigment. It also looks quite artificial by itself, but due to the fact that it is closer to yellow than blue, it creates beautiful, juicy, intense greens in mixtures. Just like PG7 its lightfastness is excellent. There are many greens made with this pigment. This time let’s take examples from Daniel Smith’s paints: Phthalo Yellow Green is PG36 + PY3; Hooker’s Green is PG36 + PY3 + PO48 + PY150 (horror); Phthalo Turquoise is PG36 + PB15:3.
Sap Green – depending on the manufacturer we have different pigments packed, because Sap Green is always a combination of a pure green (PG7 or PG36) with other pigments. Sap Green is never single pigmented, but I included it on my list, because it is also a good green starting point. And sometimes not even a starting point, but the target, because Sap Green itself is a very nice green, which can be successfully used alone. It is a mixture of pure green with the addition of another color-modifier, so it’s one of the methods of achieving good green. Due to the different pigments depending on the manufacturer, Sap Greens usually differ from each other. Let’s take a look at some examples. Permanent Sap Green (Winsor & Newton) is a combination of PG36 + PY110; Sap Green (Daniel Smith) is PG7 + PY150 + PO48; Sap Green (Schmincke Horadam) is PG7 + PY153. Here’s a tidbit: Sap Green by Winsor&Newton and Daniel Smith have the highest rate when it comes to lightfastness, meanwhile Sap Green by Schmincke Horadam has only 3 out of 5 stars. Another interesting fact: currently produced Sap Green by Daniel Smith consists of three pigments. Meanwhile the earlier version of this color consisted of two pigments: PO49 – well known Quinacridone Gold in its pure form and PG7 – the first green mentioned in this list.
PBk31 – perylene black – the PBk symbol indicates that it is a black pigment (P – pigment, Bk – Black), but in fact it is a very dark, natural, earthy green. PBk31 green is Perylene Green, and it is offered by Winsor&Newton and Daniel Smith. Contrary to appearances, it is a very versatile color. I like it especially because of two reasons. First of all, it is an ideal candidate for a darkener. When you add Perylene Green to other greens, you will get a darker, more intense shades that can be a good shadow colors. Secondly, blacks based on Perylene Green are very intense, much better than ready-made blacks. It’s worth to experiment. My favorite combination is Perylene Green PBk31 + Winsor Red Deep PR264. It gives a deep black, which I used for example to paint caterpillars of swallowtail or the melitaea didyma butterfly.
PG50 – cobalt titanium oxide. Known as Cobalt Turquoise Light (Winsor&Newton); Cobalt Teal Blue (Daniel Smith); Cobalt Turquoise (Schmincke Horadam). As you can see, each manufacturer has a different name, but it is the same color based on the PG50 pigment. I am adding this color to the list, because this is a one of a kind color and still it is a green pigment (PG – Pigment Green). Whoever has seen this color live knows that it is very characteristic and impossible to obtain from a mixture of other colors. It is very artificial itself. It is intense, bright turquoise, but I have it just in case and it has been useful many times. I have used it in some irises, butterflies or in backgrounds. This color itself can also give an interesting color accent in the painting. In mixtures, it creates interesting, unique shades of greens. All manufacturers state that it has excellent lightfastness.
PY129 – azomethine copper complex. Known as: Green Gold (Winsor&Newton); Rich Green Gold (Daniel Smith). I added this color to the list, although I do not use it often, but maybe someone will like it. I’ve read the reviews that when mixed with Quinacridone Magenta it is suitable for creating skin color. It’s a very characteristic, very bright, almost yellow green, when I look at it I have an impression that the sunsetting summer sun shines through the leaves. It’s a very strong, single pigment color . Interestingly, Senallier also has it on its offer, but it is called Brown Green, meaning brownish green. And in fact, it is green between brown, green and yellow.
Hooker’s Green – just like Sap Green, Hooker’s Green has always at least two pigments. Interestingly, Permanent Sap Green and Hooker’s Green Winsor Newton have exactly the same pigments: PG36, Winsor Green Yellow Shade and PY110 – Permanent Yellow Deep (Daniel Smith). They look a bit different, Sap Green is a bit warmer, Hooker’s Green colder. This is probably due to the different proportions of pigments. I add this color to the list, because it looks natural and it’s very useful.
Yellow and blue
If we don’t have ready-made greens, we can create green by mixing yellow with blue. I’ve read opinions that mixing yellow and blue makes best greens, because they are more natural. Maybe, but from my point of view, if we have ready-made green and we modify it appropriately, we will get similar results, so I do not see the advantage of one method over the other. They are just two different ways to get the same result.
On my palette I always have at least three yellows (cool, neutral and warm) and a few blues. Hundreds of green shades can be obtained by mixing them. A good way to check what specific shades we can get is to experiment with color swatches, especially with a color grid and a tonal grid. However, they will not give a full picture of the possibilities. And this is because they will only show a combination of blue and yellow, and imagine that tese green can still be modified by adding other colors.
Selection of yellow and blue pigments
There are many single pigment yellows and blues on the market. However, you have to test them by yourself, because the differences between the different colors may not be significant, but you can see the difference when you mix them with other colors. In addition, there is also lightfastness that may surprise you. A good example is Aureolin PY40 – a yellow color that was very popular some time ago and many people bought it. Unfortunately, lightfastness tests have shown that Aureolin looses its color and becomes gray very quickly, which is why it is no longer recommended.
I listed the colors I use and which work for me. I made the choice based on similar criteria as before. I added two more, which I have not mentioned before: lightfastness (the higher, the better) and saturation (I always choose the most saturated colors, because they can be easily neutralized, it’s much more difficult to saturate a pale color).
PY175 – benzimidazolone yellow H6G. Winsor Lemon (Winsor&Newton); Chrome Yellow Lemon (Schmincke Horadam). It’s a cool lemon yellow with excellent lightfastness.
PY154 – benzimidazolone yellow H3G. Winsor Yellow (Winsor&Newton); Pure Yellow (Schmincke Horadam). Neutral yellow. Neutral, so its shade is neither clearly warm (approaching red) nor cool (approaching blue through green). This means that it creates pure oranges and greens. Excellent lightfasness.
PY65 – arylide yellow 3RN. Winsor Yellow Deep (Winsor&Newton); Hansa Yellow Deep (Daniel Smith); Chrome Yellow Deep (Schmincke Horadam). Warm yellow. The former New Gamboge with PY153 pigment was my favorite warm yellow, but unfortunately it was discontinued. New New Gamboge consists oftwo pigments. It’s still beautiful, but if I can use a single-pigment color I go for it, so my warm yellow is now PY65.
PO49 – quinacridone gold. Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith). I included it to the list of yellow pigments, because it is very versatile and useful. I use Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Gold because this manufacturer offers pure PO49 pigment (update: PO49 is no longer available). Winsor&Newton has 3 pigments PR206 + PV19 + PY150. Quinacridone Gold creates amazing greens. Mixed with Winsor Blue Green Shade PB15 creates beautiful Sap Green. Added to blues creates a wide range of greens. With pinks creates beautiful peachy color. It is also suitable for creating skin color.
UPDATE: One more yellow worth looking at is Transparent Yellow PY150. It is the only really transparent yellow I know. It mixes well with other colors. This is the pigment that gives the glow to Quinacridone Gold.
PB15:3 – beta copper phthalocyanine. Winsor Blue Green Shade (Winsor&Newton); Phthalo Blue (GS) (Daniel Smith); Helio Cerulean (Schmincke Horadam); Phthalo Blue PB15:1 (alpha copper phthalocyanine, Schmincke Horadam). Basic blue, most similar to cyan. Strongly staining, very intense, creates strong mixtures with other colors. With Quinacridone Gold forms the equivalent of Sap Green.
PB29 – sodium aluminum sulfosilicate. Ultramarine (Green Shade) (Winsor&Newton); French Ultramarine (Winsor & Newton); Ultramarine Blue (Daniel Smith); French Ultramarine (Daniel Smith); Ultramarine Finest (Schmincke Horadam). Very useful blue, not only for creating neutral greens, but also for creating gray. It’s worth mentioning the subtle difference between Ultramarine Blue and French Ultramarine. The first one is less granulating and slightly cooler. The French Ultramarine is slightly more granulating and warmer, closer to purple. In practice, this difference is barely visible.
PB60 – indantrone (aminoanthraquinone + potassium hydroxide). Indanthrene Blue (Winsor & Newton); Indanthrone Blue (Daniel Smith); Delft Blue (Schmincke Horadam, 4 stars for lightfasness); Dark Blue Indigo (Schmincke Horadam, 3 stars for lightfastness). It is a subdued, dark blue, alternative to less lightfast (2 stars by Schmincke) and a slightly cooler Indigo. I also sometimes use this color to darken the greens.
PB28 – cobalt aluminium oxide. Cobalt Blue (Winsor& Newton); Cobalt Blue (Daniel Smith); Cobalt Blue Light (Schmincke Horadam). A light shade of blue, can be used, for example, for painting the sky, although it is granulating. The mixtures are quite weak, but itself is a very pleasing to the eye. I rarely mix greens with it, but sometimes it happens.
So we have a set of ready-made greens and a set of yellows and blues which can give additional greens. Now it’s worth experimenting with all these colors. We can use modifiers that will help us adjust the shade to our needs. What can be a modifier and what can we get?
Let’s try to consider different methods of modifying greens:
- Changing the saturation – the modifier will be water. Adding more water will lighten the shade of green. Adding less water and more paint will make the green more saturated. It is worth remembering that when painting wet on wet colors are always less intense after drying. This is because the water on the paper already dilutes the color and changes its saturation. When painting wet on dry, we apply a more intense color that is not additionally diluted by the water on the paper. Of course, when painting wet on dry, we can also apply less saturated, more diluted colors.
- Cooling – the modifier will be all shades of blues. The more blue in the green, the cooler its shade. Cooling by adding blue can simultaneously change the saturation and shade of green. If we add too much blue, we can correct the shade by adding, for example, some yellow.
- Warming – the modifier will be any color from the color wheel in the range from warm yellow to red. The addition of yellow causes the green becomes both more vivid and more intense. Oranges and reds (but also browns) make the greens more olive and more subdued.
- Neutralizing – modifiers will be reds and violets. Red and violet added to green can neutralize the green to the extent that we get gray and black, but also purples. Try to mix Winsor Green Blue Shade PG7 with Quinacridone Magenta PR122 – you will get a neutral shade of violet, thanks to the blue shade of Winsor Green PG7. Winsor Green Blue Shade PG7 with Winsor Red Deep PR264 will turn into deep black.
- Creating shadows – modifiers will be colors ranging from red, through purples, to blue and darker greens. Green shadow can be done in many ways. The first way is by adding the color on the opposite side on the color wheel. In this case adding red. You always have to remember about the relativism of colors and about the fact that sometimes even a small amount of another color added to the basic color changes its shade. Just add a very small amount of red to the green to get the shadow color. Which red? It depends on the specific painting and you just have to try. The second way is to darken the green with the help of violet, which by its nature lays between reds and blues, so it has some red in it. Thirdly, we can darken the green with blues, for example Indanthrone Blue PG60. Then, however, it should be remembered that the shade of green may change slightly, so we must correct it with, for example, yellow. And finally, green can be darkened with other darker green, for example Perylene Green PBk31. It is also worth remembering that each modification also changes the temperature of the color. If you want to keep the green cool and you add, for example, warm red to create a shadow, you will need to cool the resulting color with some blue or adding more cool green.
- Changing the shade – all colors will be the modifiers. Depending on the result we want to achieve, and therefore the shade of green that we need, we can modify the green with any other color, which gives us hundreds of possibilities.
If we imagine we have 4 shades of yellows, blues and greens plus other colors on our palettes, it turns out that we can get really hundreds of different shades of green. You just have to experiment, play with colors to know what are the possibilities.