Experienced watercolorists make mixing landscape greens look super easy, don’t they?
The truth is that, if you’re still getting the idea of basic color mixing, then you know it’s not easy. However, learning how to mix greens is super important if you’re painting landscapes. This post is all about different approaches you can take to mixing different shades of green. I also explain the impact using a variety of greens has on the quality of your painting.
Importance of using different lanscape greens
Using different shades of green is crucial in producing a well-composed painting. We know that color plays an important role in your painting. That’s why you need to train yourself to look for specific things when observing nature.
One thing you should observe is just how much landscape greens change depending on where you look.
For example, oceans tend to be sea green, however, if you look more closely you’ll note how the water gets greener in shallow areas and bluer in deep water. Or how green forests can develop a grayish undertone with enough distance.
If you take a look at the work of an experienced watercolorist you may see how they play around with their greens and purposely mute them to draw attention to another element of the painting. They do this to create a sense of depth, atmosphere and perspective.
Take a look at the image below. Note how the forest at the base of the mountains looks grayish-green and how the trees on the mountain look dark gray. While the foliage just in front of the base of the mountain starts to look more saturated.
Using Pre-mixed Greens
Watercolor brands make an assortment of pre-mixed greens ready for your convenience. However, there are pros and cons to using these pre-mixed greens.
Pre-mixed greens tend to be too bright and saturated, which means you’ll have to mute them down by mixing them with red hues. Not to mention, painting a landscape with only one or two shades of green will result in a flat painting. This means that everything green will be painted using one shade of green and the viewer won’t know where to focus.
Although pre-mixed greens are more convenient and help save time when color mixing, it’s still important to have the option of mixing your own greens.
This way you won’t be limited, and you’re paintings are less likely to turn out flat. Mixing different variations of green in your painting will allow you to build a sense of depth and distance. This will make the composition of your painting a lot more interesting.
Warm and Cool Blue’s and Yellow’s
If we go back to the basics of color mixing, then we know that Green is mixed using blue and yellow. However, different blues and yellows have different temperature biases. For example, you can have warm blues and cool blues, warm yellows, and cool yellows.
Cool yellows have more of a greenish undertone, while warm yellows have more of an orangish undertone. Warm blues have more of a purplish undertone while cool blues have more of a greenish undertone.
*If you’re still confused about color temperature, I highly suggest reading this article where I explain everything in depth.
The table below lists a few examples of warm and cool blues and yellows:
|Cool||Lemon Yellow (PY3)|
Cadmium Yellow Light
|Cerulean blue |
Prussian blue (PB 27)
Keep in mind that Cobalt blue is considered a neutral color (in between warm and cool), however, I like to categorize it as warm.
How to mix Bright Intense Greens
Color Intensity, also known as saturation or chroma, refers to how pure and vibrant a color is. If we take a look at the color wheel, it tells us that to produce an intense saturated green you would have to mix a cool yellow with a cool blue.
If you take a look at the image below, you’ll see a color mixing chart of greens mixed with cool and warm blues and yellows.
There’s a difference in how saturated the greens are depending on whether they’ve been mixed with warm or cool blues and yellows. The greens mixed using lemon yellow are more vibrant than compared Gamboge or Yellow Ochre.
Green color mixing chart:
How to reduce the intensity of a green
Essentially, adding a red can help mute/tone down the intensity of your landscape greens. This is because red is a complementary color to green.
The images below show two examples of light greens I then added a touch of Quinacridone rose to reduce the intensity.
Below I used a deeper blue (Pthalo blue) with Lemon yellow. To the right I added a touch of Q. Rose.
The more red you add, the more muted your green will become. You can see this in the picture below. On the left, I mixed cerulean blue with a touch of lemon yellow. The mixture in the middle has a touch of Q.rose and in the final mixture to the right, I added more Q. Rose turning it almost gray.
I find that using cool reds such as Q.Rose or Alizarin crimson works better on most green mixtures. However, you could always try experimenting with the colors on your palette.
This would give you the chance to get to know your color palette and gain more experience. If you take it a step further and create a mixing chart it would be of great help!
Mixing Dark and Light Greens
There are three things to keep in mind when you’re trying to mix dark and light greens.
The first point is all about the ratio of yellow to blue in the mixture. Adding more yellow than blue will make your greens lighter. Meanwhile adding more blue will make your greens darker.
Secondly, using a light blue such as cerulean blue or cobalt blue will be far more effective in mixing light greens. Meanwhile, darker blues like Prussian blue and pthalo blue will create darker greens.
And finally, using warm yellows will create more of a muted green compared to using cool yellows. This is because warm yellows are closer to orange and have more red in them, which aids in muting the green. On the other hand cool yellows lean more towards green and blue so they create more pure saturated greens.
To mix a dark green you can try mixing Prussian blue with cadmium yellow then add a touch of Paynes Gray. In the image below I also added a small touch of Alizarin Crimson to create an ashy dark green.
Mixing Warm Greens
Using warm yellows makes a huge difference when trying to achieve warm greens.
For example, mixing Ultramarine with warm yellows produces warm greens. Yellow Ochre tends to produce a dirty warm muddy green when mixed with ultramarine. However, Cadmium yellow mixed with Ultramarine produces a cleaner but warm green ideal for painting patches of drying grass.
Using Cadmium yellow will allow you to mix a range of warm greens, especially olive greens. The next image shows an example of a light olive warm green mixed using cobalt blue and cadmium yellow.
Mixing Cool Greens
Sea greens are a fundamental part of mixing landscape greens, so it’s important we know how we can mix them on hand!
Using Cool deeper blues is more effective in mixing cool greens, especially sea greens. The example below shows a mixture of Prussian blue and lemon yellow, with more Prussian blue.
The mixture on the left has slightly more blue than the right and is similar to viridian.
Cerulean blue is great when mixing a lighter version of sea green. The diagram below shows this:
Below is another diagram of sea greens with Cerulean blue. This time I added a touch of Q.rose to mute it and make it less intense.
We’ve come to the end of yet another color mixing post! I hope you enjoyed reading and learned something new to take with you to your next painting! I would also love to hear from you in the comments below or send me an email at email@example.com if you have any questions.