Robie is an artist who loves sharing what she has learned about art and painting in the hope that it might help other creatives.
Mixing Greens Can Be Challenging
Mixing and using green is one of the things that can drive painters crazy.
The frustrations of mixing greens are that they often look fake, they have the wrong temperature or the wrong value, and they look like they somehow clash with the other colors.
In This Article
In this article we’ll look at very specific examples of green mixes, with the following characteristics:
- They all include only one yellow: Cadmium Yellow Medium.
- They all show how cooler and neutral they become by adding white.
Five Green Mixtures Using Cad Yellow Medium
When it’s time to mix green, we tend to instinctively start from a yellow and a blue, but that’s not the only, or best, way to get green.
To explore these mixes, I combined Cadmium Yellow Medium Pure with the following colors:
- Payne’s Gray (a very dark, bluish-gray)
- Raw Umber
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cerulean Blue
- Manganese Blue Hue
In all the examples shown below, I am using acrylic paint.
Looking at image 1 above, you can clearly see how the brightest green is achieved from mixing Cad Yellow Medium with Manganese Blue Hue. This is because of the five colors tested, Manganese Blue Hue is the blue with the strongest green bias.
As we'll see later, the intensity of this green becomes a beautiful aqua color when white is added (see image 2 below).
The mixes with Ultramarine Blue and Payne’s Gray are the most similar on the cool side, Manganese Blue makes the most intense mix, and Raw Umber makes the brownest mix. It’s almost brown but closer to olive green.
Color Bias and Color Mixing
To predict what greens we can expect, it is essential to know the color bias of the paints you are going to use.
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Payne’s gray is a very dark, cool color, with a bluish coloration.
Raw Umber is a very dark and dull red, so it’s a warm color.
Ultramarine Blue is a dark blue with hints of red in it, so relatively speaking, it’s a warm blue.
Cerulean Blue is lighter than Ultramarine Blue and it leans more toward green, so it’s a cool blue.
Manganese Blue Hue is also a cool blue, with a green bias.
Cad Yellow Medium is a mid-value yellow with an orange bias, therefore it’s considered a warm yellow.
"Visit a green place to understand green."
— Susan Easton Burns, American artist
What a Red Bias Does to a Green
Now, you must know that every time you introduce some kind of red in a green mix, you are causing the mix to become duller.
The yellow we are using is already bringing a tiny red hint to the mix, due to its orange bias. That, from the start, tells you that the greens that you will get are never going to be the most vibrant.
A cool yellow, with green bias, such as lemon yellow, would give you much brighter greens.
When you add to cad yellow medium, a color with a red bias, like Raw Sienna or Ultramarine Blue, you will get somehow duller greens than you would when mixing with Cerulean or Blue Manganese Blue Hue.
"They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like, but that particular green, never."
— Pablo Picasso
Adding White Makes a Color Cooler
Every time you add titanium white, which is a very opaque and chalky white, to any color, you are making it lighter, but also cooler.
Titanium white makes the pigments less intense and less bright and changes the temperature of the mix to be cooler than the original color before you added white.
Often painters have to counterbalance the addition of white by introducing a yellow or another warm color. This is to keep the original temperature.
The image below shows how our mixed change by introducing white.
The six columns show the pure mix at the top, and how it changes with the gradual addition of Titanium White.
- Column 1: Cad Yellow Medium + White
- Column 2: Cad Yellow Medium + Payne’s Gray + White
- Column 3: Cad Yellow Medium + Raw Umber + White
- Column 4: Cad Yellow Medium + Ultramarine Blue + White
- Column 5: Cad Yellow Medium + Cerulean Blue + White
- Column 6: Cad Yellow Medium + Manganese Blue Hue + White
"It's not easy being green."
— Kermit the Frog, Muppet
© 2020 Robie Benve
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 21, 2020:
Ah, gotta love the color charts, one of those things that we artists despise making but once we do, they really are a great tool for learning and reference. Thank you for your thoughtful comment Nelvia, happy painting and happy greens! :)
Nelvia on July 21, 2020:
Greens are such a nemesis to my dreams of landscape painting. There are so many and a you said always looks so unearthy. Appreciate the color charts and will try some of these as I never thought to try them before. Thanks Robie!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 21, 2020:
Hi Adrienne, I'm pretty sure "ocra" in English is called yellow ocher. :) It's great to hear that as a teen you where mixing green with ocher to dull it, that's a great move! You were using the red bias of yellow ocher, which is a pale brownish yellow, to alter the blue-yellow mixture and make it less vibrant. Great instinct! Thanks a lot for sharing that info, I really appreciate your comment.
Adrienne Farricelli on May 21, 2020:
This is so interesting! I used to paint as a teen back when I lived in Italy but gave up since then due to lack of time. I remember getting frustrated with greens obtained from blue and yellow. I often ended up mixing green and "ocra." Not sure how ocra is called in English.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 26, 2020:
Thanks Liz. I surely hope that many start painting during this stressful time, I believe in art as mental therapy. I sure works for me, I am in another time/space while I'm painting, and it helps me feel more relaxed and fulfilled. :)
Liz Westwood from UK on April 26, 2020:
In lockdown, many are taking up painting again or for the first time. This is a very helpful article.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 25, 2020:
Hi Bill!! Yes, I'm doing well thanks, and taking advantage of this down time to write a few new pieces. Great to see hat you are still very active. I want to be like you when I grow up. :)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 25, 2020:
Long time no see. I hope this finds you healthy and happy. Welcome back!