How to Mix Green Paint Right—Every Time
WHY IS MIXING GREEN PAINT SO CHALLENGING?
If you’re an artist of any subject matter, knowing how to mix green paint is a must! A landscape painting may require many different shades and tones of green for hills, grass, trees, and even water. Green is also important if you’re mixing realistic skin tones!
One thing we hear from artists all the time is, “Why is mixing green paint so hard?!” It’s one of the easiest colors to mess up—mixed green paint can very easily end up looking murky and muddy.
We’ve been through our own trials with green, and we’re here to set the record straight for mixing green in any medium—oil, acrylic, or watercolor. Also included: green paint mixing tips from Mastrius Master Artist Doug Swinton!
YOUR GREEN MIX Depends on Your Blue and Yellow
You know that mixing blue and yellow makes green, but it’s the shade of blue and yellow you mix that makes all the difference. Your shade of blue and yellow all depend on colour bias—meaning, which way on the color wheel your blue and yellow shades lean. A cool blue leans more toward yellow than toward red. A cool yellow leans more toward blue than red. Blue and yellow shades that lean more toward red are considered warm shades. Examples of yellow paint from cool to warm are cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow, naples yellow, and yellow ochre. Examples of blue paint from cool to warm are manganese blue, cobalt blue, and ultramarine blue.
For blue, all you need is a warm blue and a cool blue. If you have an ultramarine blue and manganese blue, you can create any green under the sun. —Master Artist Doug Swinton
Mixing Different Shades of Green
Once you understand color bias, you are ready to mix green and make art! To get the most vivid green, mix the coolest shades of blue and yellow artist-grade paint—cadmium yellow light and manganese blue. For a less-vivid green, choose paints closer to the warm side. Don’t be afraid to mix a cool blue with a warmer yellow and vice versa—you’ll get a shade inbetween.
My favorite green mix is cad yellow light and manganese blue for most of my cool greens. Ultramarine blue and cad yellow light for warmer greens. —Master Artist Doug Swinton
If you love the shade of vivid green you get but want to tone it down, rather than adding black or gray, add a touch of red. Red is opposite to green on the color wheel and will round out your shade without adding unnecessary darkness.
Why Green Ends Up Muddy
Now it’s time to troubleshoot. What is happening when, despite your best efforts, your green turns out muddy? Brown, murky shades of green occur most often when you mix warm shades of blue and yellow. These shades contain small amounts of red, which is what makes them warm. But it also means you’re essentially mixing all three primary colors together—creating a brownish-green. To warm up your green paint without getting mud, try mixing a cool blue with a warm yellow or warm blue with a cool yellow. You’ll still get the warm tones, but without as much red in your paint to muddy the shade.
Don’t be afraid to mix brands of paint! —Master Artist Doug Swinton
Need to pick up your basic blue and yellow artist-grade paints? We recommend shopping from a local or small business like The Paint Spot (Mastrius members get 20% off paint supplies and free delivery on orders over $150!). Artist-centered retailers will be able to answer your questions with insight, and they invest a lot back into the art community!
Mixing Green Paint Can Be Easy!
With this new color information in your mind and a couple shades of warm and cool blue and yellow paint on your palette, you’re ready to mix all the green shades your painting needs! When in doubt, pull out your color wheel and get back to art basics.
Let’s go green!
Need More Guidance?
Master Artists Can Help!
All Master Artist Doug Swinton’s quotes are taken from the Mastrius Master’s Art Wars event December 2022. Watch the whole event—and 70+ past event recordings—in the Mastrius Events Recording Library!
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