What are the steps to mixing a color that seems to be just out of reach? An ardent follower of my blog asked me to explain how to go about mixing sage green. Sagebrush is frequently seen in the American southwest and west. She sent me this photo that sports a variety of sage greens. Other parts of the US and world also feature these sage greens. It’s a color that can appear to be difficult to mix. When challenged with matching a color you want to mix, there are four steps. In this example, I am wanting to match the sage green in the back of the photo indicated by the black arrow.
Before starting the four mixing steps, first identify the base color or hue of the subject you want to mix. In this case, the base color is green.
What Are the Four Steps to Mixing Sage Green?
- Choose the closest color on your palette
- Assess and adjust its value
- Evaluate and adjust its saturation or intensity
- Compare and make final adjustments
Step 1. Choose the closest color on your palette.
After you have identified the hue family–green–you now need to choose the green you want to use. In this next image, you can see that I have two greens. Green A is a bright green mixed from lemon yellow and Prussian blue. Green B is a duller green mixed from cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue. (By the way, if you haven’t done so already, download my free e-book Mix Greens with Ease, to learn more about mixing green.)
Which green would you start mixing with to create your sage green? For fun, I thought I would show you the results of working with both of these greens.
Step 2. Assess and adjust the value of the sage green you want.
Notice that I stated its VALUE, not its saturation or intensity. Most painters immediately start mixing a gray-green. The value of the green we want is a middle value. With both of my original greens, I altered its value with white as seen in the second column here. I know, it feels kind of odd because the hues seem quite different from the targeted sage green. Hold on and we will get there. 🙂
Step 3. Evaluate and adjust its saturation or intensity.
This is the step when you add color to desaturate or gray your green down. I usually start this desaturation by adding some of the color complement. In this case, the complement of green is red. Question: Which red do you use to do this? Your orange-red or your violet-red?
Once again, I will show you the resulting mixtures from mixing with both reds. In the top row with the bright green (Green A), I added just a little of my orange-red (cadmium red light). WARNING: Just add the smallest amount of red possible a little bit at a time, because you want to maintain the integrity of your green mixture. Any red can quickly over power the green. This may take practice.
In the second row, I added a little bit of my violet-red (magenta rose) to Green A. Notice the slight difference in the gray greens. Do you have a preference?
In this next image, you can see that I desaturated my Green B mixture. In this case, I added a bit of my violet-rose as evident in the third row. Interesting difference in hues isn’t it?
Which of these three greens do you think will create the sagebrush green you are looking for? Perhaps all three?
Step 4. Compare and make final adjustments
In the last step, I added a tiny bit of my original green-blue (Prussian blue) to make it more blue, as well as more white in mixing sage green. The top right is still a tad too intense in hue, so it needs some more adjusting.
Since I was enjoying the exercise so much, I decided to show you another variation of mixing sage green. In this next row, I started with a different green, yet followed the steps above. This green is a mixture of cerulean blue and lemon yellow. Then I mixed it with my violet-red to desaturate it, followed by more adjusting for the final sage green.
The greens in the last column or Step 4, are not the end result you are looking for, keep making adjustments accordingly.
How do you like all of these different sagebrush greens? In a painting, you could actually use all of them as a way to create color interest. Are my sage green mixtures perfect? Perhaps not, but they are satisfactory enough for me. YOU decide which green mixtures you create meet what you see in your mind’s eye as well as the visual message you want to communicate. Some painters will want a grayer sage green, whereas other will want a more saturated sage hue.
Isn’t this fun to explore? When you have a challenging color to mix, I want to encourage you to stop and make a chart of it, all the while making notes on what you have done. These are rewarding exercises and will advance your color mixing proficiency and confidence. Also, the more your follow the sequence of these four steps, the easier it will be to execute.
Color Mixing Tip: Remember to mix the VALUE first, then make hue adjustments from there.
I want to thank Sharon for asking this question. I also want to give her additional kudos because she was one of my cherished beta readers for my forthcoming book I Just Want to Paint: Mixing the Colors You Want!
What color question do you have?
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Colorfully and gratefully yours,