Green is a useful and beautiful color. You can paint wooded areas, jades, emeralds… the list is huge, but you need to know how to take control of your greens so that you can make them work for you. Today I’m going to teach you to do just that as well as what colors make green. We’ll go over some different types of greens which you can make use of in your paintings and once you’ve learned how they’re mixed, I’ll give you some practical tips on using them.
Let’s talk about the wide and wonderful world of green!
Making green – the basics
One of the nice things about acrylics is that you can purchase a basic palette and mix up just about anything that you need. Green is one of the basics and so I’m going to start from the beginning. So, how do you mix together a basic green with your acrylics?
I’m so glad that you asked.
So, what two colors make green?
Mixing up a lovely green with your acrylics is quite simple. You are going to need to get out your Ultramarine Blue and your Cadmium Yellow and simply mix them together. An equal amount of both is all that it takes and voilà, you have your basic green! This is our starting point and from here are on out we’ll play a little and see all of the fun things that we can do to this basic color.
Pay close attention because you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of this little ol’ green.
50 (or more) Shades of Green
Making different shades of green is easier than you think. Now that you know how to make a basic green using Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue, let’s try doing the same thing again with a little variation. Try mixing a green by putting together Cadmium Yellow and Cobalt Blue.
See the difference?
Creating subtle shade of green is going to be that simple. Break out your different blues and try making a green with Cadmium Yellow and RGH blue and later switch to Pthalo blue. Now you command 4 slightly different shades of green, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Try using Ultramarine Blue and instead of Cadmium Yellow, try using Yellow Ochre. After that, give it a whirl with Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Yellow.
Do you see what is happening here? With your various blues and yellows combined in different ways, you’ve created the same color multiple times, but with slight variations. If you don’t have some of these prerequisite colors, that’s okay, now you know how it is done and you have a way to make the greens in a woodland scene have subtle differences that will catch the eye and delight the viewer.
Muted greens for your paintings
Muted Colors are a lot of fun. When you are painting, not all of your colors have to be bright and loud, you can actually make a serious statement by toning those colors down and making a scene more somber and serious. This is easy to do with green and it just requires that you take advantage of the complimentary colors.
A lighter shade of green
You might want to lighten up your green a little and that is certainly easy to do. Just add a little white! This is the easiest method for lightening your green but you don’t want to rely on this all of the time. There are certainly some alternative methods which you may employ that can help to ensure that all of your light greens have a subtle flavor of your choosing.
Lightening green with yellow
The first little trick that you can store up your sleeve is the addition of yellow into the mix to lighten up your greens. Mix in higher amounts of a yellow that you like, such as Ochre Yellow or Cadmium Yellow and you’ll have some nice lighter greens at your disposal. Try the different yellows that you have available and you can get a nice little scale of shades when it comes to your light green colors.
Experiments in light green
Now that you have command of a few different light green colors, try messing around with them a little. Mixing is one of the delights of art and a drop of your favorite color can really produce some strange and
“Paint the first one just using the standard colors”
pleasing results. As a challenge, try painting the same forest scene twice. Paint the first one just using the standard colors which you have at your disposal. For the second, mix together some of your experimental colors.
Which one do you like the most? We both know the answer!
Making darker greens
Sometimes you wanna go darker for your greens and just as you can lighten green with white, you can certainly darken your greens with a little black. This is kind of boring, though. While it works in some places, you want to have a few more ways to darken up your greens and thankfully, there are plenty!
Making dark green by increasing volume
You can make your dark green into a darker green by simply adding more green! Try mixing in some Pthalo green and see what you get. If it’s a little too vibrant, then simply try muting the colors and you’ve got an excellent flavor of dark green to do with what you will.
Burnt umber dark greens
If you need a dark green that is a bit more earthy, try adding a touch of Burnt Umber into your mix. This will darken up the green nicely and since you are accomplishing this by mixing in a brown then this is a good dark green for trees, ground, and more. Dark mosses? Sure, you can make them! It’s all about mixing up the green that you need!
Other colors that can darken up your greens nicely
Darkening up your greens can simply be a matter of adding in just the right colors. Try adding one of these colors into your green:
- Burnt Umber
- Dioxanine Purple
- Pthalo Green
- Ultramarine Blue
Each of these will produce a certain dark hue of green that will certainly spice up your work. Try each of these colors and see which dark greens are your favorites!
Warming up your greens
A nature scene isn’t always dark, of course, and sometimes you want to take the sun, squeeze it, and dribble a little summer into your green-scenes. Warming up your greens is not hard to do and there are a few tried-and-true combinations that can get you started. Let’s take a look.
Colors that can warm your greens right up
The addition of some of the right colors will brighten up your scene and a good one to start with is Cadmium Red. This will give you a nice, warm green but if you want to turn the temperature down a bit, you can always try another red. Alizarin Crimson is a good one that will brighten things up without raising your artistic power-bill.
Yellow Ochre can give you a much more earthy and warm green and you should really try mixing up your green with a dash of Cadmium Orange. The resulting green is warm and bright and extremely pleasing to the eyes.
Experiment a bit with reds, yellows, and oranges and see what you get. You’ll be warming up your colors like a pro in record time!
Summer isn’t for everyone and sometimes you want your greens to give the viewer a slight chill when they behold them. The easiest way to go about this is to introduce a little purple into the mix. Try out your favorites to see how the resulting greens look to you. I like Dioxanine Purple, personally, but this will darken up your green a little and that might not be what you are going for. You can get some cool results with some lighter purples, too. Just give them a mix and see which ones that you like the best.
Using shades of green to make cooler greens
You can add green to make cooler greens and different ones with give you different cool shades that you can play with. Start with Pthalo Green and do a little experimentation from there. The right combination of green on green can make the color cooler while making it more vibrant at the same time. Now you know how it is done but you’ll need to find the right greens on your own.
That’s half the fun, anyways!
Making muted green: Using complementary colors
Complimentary colors are pairs of color which, when you mix them up together, tend to mute each other out. That is to say, that they ‘gray’ each other out. By mixing your green with a complimentary color, it will make your green slightly, or more less-green. This is quite useful. If we were painting some foliage, for instance, you could make vibrant greens on some plant and you could make other look like they were dying.
This works both ways. A little Cadmium Red Mixed into your green will make it a little less green, but if you were starting with a large blotch of Cadmium Red, adding a dash of your green would make it a little less red. Just as we did when mixing together the different shades of green, so can you try different types of your complimentary color. Break out some different reds and see what they do
Spend a weekend playing with your greens
Now that you have some basic theory, hooray, you are ready to get a little practical experience. Knowing how a color is mixed is a far sight from being able to effectively mix it. You want to get some practice under your belt until mixing up the perfect green becomes a matter of thinking about it for a second and then whipping it up.
As a little bit of homework, you should get some cheap canvas to play with and get your colors ready for a weekend of playing with greens. Buy a cheap notebook for this experiment because you want to get in the habit of writing down your favorite color shades as you discover them.
You might think that you are always going to remember them, but that simply isn’t the case, and it can save you a lot of frustration if you get in the habit now of writing your discoveries down. This will not only teach you to save important information, but it will also force you to develop your own mixing standards so that you can be sure that the amounts which you are writing down will reproduce the colors which you expect.
So, on Saturday spend the day mixing up greens and writing down your combinations. Label the greens that you have discovered on a canvas in preparation for part 2 of this exercise.
Part 2 comes on Sunday, when it’s time to check your work. You’ll need to take your notebook and attempt to reproduce the greens that you labeled the previous day, using only the recipes which you have written down.
It sounds simple but this will ingrain a habit in you if you keep it up that will ensure you can keep your future color discoveries in neat little notebooks so that you can share them or simply use them whenever you like.
Time to experiment – Tips and tricks to get the most out of your greens
While you’ve got a few basic recipes now, just like with cooking you’re going to need to experiment with what you’ve got in the kitchen to see what you can come up with. Practice the green recipes that you have learned today and try playing around with muting colors in your scenes, warming and cooling
“try playing around with muting colors in your scenes”
them, and you’ll find that you can take the same scene and communicate it in many completely different ways.
Let’s explore painting with green by the means of a handful of separate projects. Pick one of the recommendations below and go with it to see what your new and powerful green can do.
A green apple
Go and get a nice green apple at the grocery store and paint it to the best of your abilities using some of the new greens that you have learned to mix up on your own. The subtle greens in something as simple as an apple are pleasing to the eye and it’s a great exercise for you to learn to paint them properly. Give it a go and see how your apple comes out with your new collection of greens.
A poker game with a heavy focus on the cash
Paint a scene of a poker table with the focus on the cash itself. Money greens should be cold and you want to make your greens chilly enough to steal a little color from the cards laid out on the table nearby. Make the money stark and real and paint a slightly blurred face looking at the money with whatever emotion you’d like to portray.
Make your cold greens work for you and see how the exercise comes out.
A meadow in the winter
A classic meadow can teach you an awful lot about putting your new greens to their best use. You’ll want to use your muted colors and an assortment of enough greens to make it interesting. Bonus: Throw in a ray of sunlight warming one area in particular which will be the focus of the scene.
You’re going to love the effect!
A jade statuette
Jade is another thing that you can paint that is fun and will teach you how to be delicate with your new greens. Get on Google and do a search for jade statuettes and find an example that you like. See how realistically you can paint it with your standard palette and then get experimental to see which light greens can add a little more flavor to the piece.
It’s harder than you think.
A damaged flower with a healthy, green stalk
Show off your greens by painting a damaged flower with a healthy, green stalk, making the stalk itself the focus of the piece. How the flower got damaged is up to you. Maybe a dog chewed it or perhaps a hand is in the piece, pulling out petals from a still-rooted plant.
A light 4-leafed clover amidst slightly darker 3-leafed clovers
Paint a lucky scene indeed by drawing the viewers’ attention to a rare 4-leafed clover that is only slightly lighter than the surrounding 3-leafed clovers around it. Use 2 of your lightening techniques so that you can set the base colors for the plants and make that lucky clover stand out ever so subtly. Learning to apply an easy-touch to your color is very important, as the brightest and loudest colors aren’t always the answer.
Practice subtlety and you’ll have a very powerful tool at your disposal which you can use for many years to come.
A Peacock feather
Paint a peacock feather, either alone or as part of a larger composition, say coming out of a vase, lying on an ill-used desk, or even still attached to the peacock. The goal is to ensure that the feather itself is in focus so that you can try out your trusty greens against a truly worthy foe.
When it comes to amazing colors, you really can’t beat nature, but artists have certainly spent a lifetime trying. With a peacock feather you have some seriously interesting greens to play with so you can really learn a lot.
Conclusion: Thank you for completing ‘Greens 101’
Today we’ve talked about the amazing versatility that you can get out of a simple color like green. Mixing up different shades and putting them to your own nefarious uses is fun and extremely satisfying. Don’t rely on just adding white or dark to your green if you want to brighten or darken it. Don’t underestimate the impact of muted greens. Warm and chill your greens with abandon. Do whatever you like with green because now you’ve had a taste of just how much you can do.
Your friends will be green with envy!