Color Mixing for Acrylic: How to Master Shades of Green

Color mixing greens | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

I’m always happy to talk about color, and this past year has taken me on a few colorful adventures. Since I always travel with my camera, I make a point to record things that inspire me.

I spent seven months last year in Northeast Ohio and enjoyed greens I haven’t seen since my many years of living in California. With the West’s dusty, drought-tolerant greens or its deep forest shades, I had forgotten the lively array of colors the warmer Ohio seasons bring.

With spring’s perky, acid-toned bright greens and the soft pale colors of the first leaves to the luscious and full greens during the summer. Each variety brings its own special formula into the picture. And, speaking of formulas, let’s learn about mixing greens in acrylic.

Avoid Being Green with Envy with Other Artists’ Color Mixing

In my book, Acrylic Color Explorations, there’s a lesson on how to get a range of greens using a single color of blue pigment and just changing the yellow pigments. It’s good to start your mixing lessons with transparent pigments so you can see the clarity of the greens created.

Get to know your paints. Scribble on a piece of paper with a pencil. Paint over your scribble. This will tell you how cloudy or clear your color is.

When you look at areas of green in nature, notice how they are not all exactly the same. For a natural look, you want a variation of green to imply where something might be hit by sunlight or hidden in shadow.

When you start mixing greens, take note of the ratio of yellow to blue for the brighter, sharper greens or the ratio of blue to yellow for the deeper ones. Once you have developed a solid range you’re satisfied with, introduce Titanium White to your mixes and see how the paints lighten up.

Your ratio of white to the mixture is also important. Too much white can overwhelm the green mixture and wash it out. Try the same exercise with a little Bone Black added to your green mixtures. This will bring a deepness and richness to your formula.

Color mixing greens | Chris Cozen, ArtistsNetwork.com

The Roads We Traveled (mixed media on canvas, 18×18) by Chris Cozen. This analogous composition builds on the range of colors of yellow-green through blue-green on the color wheel. With the addition of Titan Buff paint and paper elements, this active composition balances the bright and soft tones of these compatible colors and takes advantage of the full range of values possible.The collage elements also add movement and focus to the composition.

Get Your Glaze On

What happens when we go too far one way or the other? That’s where glazing comes in. You can always create a lighter or darker green glaze. Just mix your original formula with glazing medium, and apply the color over your original.

Sheer glazes are built by using a 6:1 ratio of medium to paint. Remember, the more pigment you use the less sheer the glaze will be.

Glazing is an excellent way to play with the surfaces of green areas as well. Want to create a shadow? Add a little glaze layer of Dioxazine Purple or Payne’s Gray over an area and see it shift.

Favorites for Green Color Mixing

Mixing Greens in Acrylic | Color Mixing Techniques | Chris Cozen | ArtistsNetwork

Acrylic Painting by Chris Cozen

Of course, there are plenty of green pigments/paints out there in the marketplace to choose from. I have a few favorites of my own. I use green-gold (Golden), chromium oxide green, and sap green hue as mixers.

  • Green-gold leans heavily toward yellow. I often substitute it for yellow to mix with my blues when I want a unique green.
  • Chromium oxide green is a dense opaque pigment, which is a great base color for starting a field of green. Mix loosely with white and Titan Buff, brush on rapidly with lots of movement and you’ll get a lovely “start” for a field.
  • I turn to sap green hue when I want some quick depth, especially in a glaze. Its formula has some black in it which adds a lot of richness to the glaze.

All in all, mixing greens is pretty fun. You can take any color on the blue to blue-green spectrum and add any yellow to create an array of greens to work with.

Color mixing is an adventure as well as an investment in your painting process. The goal is to get to know the pigments you own and fully explore their potential! You should aim to be fluent in color so you can readily mix any color you may need.

You can find more great ideas in my book as well as in the instructional videos I created as a companion to Acrylic Color Explorations by checking out my bundle at North Light Shop. Each of the DVDs covers techniques for using color in various ways.

Check out the preview trailer below for one such video workshop, Exploring Acrylic: Color Discoveries, which you can stream now on ArtistsNetwork.tv.

Additionally, be sure to check out my website, ChrisCozenArtist.com. Happy exploring, artists!

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