I love showing painters how to mix greens. Many of us live in a world of green and I wonder if that is one of the reasons why it can be difficult to mix green. We are surrounded by it, particularly in the seasons of spring, summer and fall.
It can be difficult to SEE all of the different greens in our environment. Discriminating the variety and subtleties takes concentration and training. I believe one of the reasons we have difficulty translating the greens we see onto canvas/paper is because our brain plays tricks on us. The brain wants to visually mix what we see, which causes us to see a blend of color and that can hinder our ability to mix greens.
I will elaborate on this phenomenon in another blog post. First, let’s learn how easy it is to mix a full range of greens with only four tubes of paint. There is no need to dread mixing greens!
In my recent post “Why Are Tertiary Colors Always Defined Incorrectly?” I discussed the magic of understanding what happens when we mix secondary colors. Now, I want to expand on one of these mixtures, that of green and orange. When green and orange are mixed the result is a yummy olive green.
Here you can see a couple of examples using different greens and oranges.
One of the mixing green tricks or strategies I have learned over the years, no matter the medium I am working in, starts with identifying the yellow and blue that I want to use for my bright, clean green. I choose a green-yellow and a green-blue to mix a spring green. (To learn more about this, please visit my post, “How to Mix a Bright Green.”).
Below you can see what I like to call a green scale. It shows the mixtures of greens I created using different ratios of my yellow and blue.With my knowledge of mixing secondaries, I then create a variety of tertiary colors by mixing each bright green mixture with an orange. Below you can see what I mean:
To expand on this concept, now take those first mixtures of bright green and add burnt sienna. Burnt sienna mixes as an orange.
With just four tubes of paint – yellow, blue, orange, burnt sienna – you can mix a wide range of greens. Knowing this approach has simplified my life and expedited my painting. Working on my palette is also easier because I am using fewer tubes of paint crowding my mixing area.
Another benefit to using just these tubes of paint, and not including tubes of green paint, is the color unity created throughout the painting. As in music, there is more harmony when the song is kept in the same key and the artist is not a a jumping from one key to another.
As painters we sometimes want the real easy route when mixing colors. We think it is easier to squirt out paint from a tube. I beg to differ.
In my online video color course, I love to teach how to mix greens. Why? Because students unlock a mental and technical block to mixing green. It is also fun for me to see light bulbs turn on with smiles as the green ‘problem’ disappears.
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