How to Mix Natural Looking Greens in Watercolor

  • Most beginning artists have trouble mixing greens. We have all been taught since childhood the way to get green is to mix a blue and yellow together.

Mix a Home Based Green with a Blue and Yellow
© Annie Glacken

Usually this gives us a chemical looking, unnatural green. Tube greens or convenience greens have the same problem. What is an artist to do?

A better option is to mix your own.

“Field of Sunflowers”
© Annie Glacken

The first thing you need to do when mixing a green is to notice the shade of green you are wanting to paint. Is it a yellow-green or a blue-green? Is it bright or dull?

To mix greens properly, you need to mix three colors–not just a yellow and blue. You need a third color to help neutralize or dull the green to make it appear as you would see it in nature. Most greens in nature are duller than you think.

How to Mix Natural Looking Greens
© Annie Glacken

Here are some examples of the steps to take when mixing greens:

1. Choose or mix your home base green. I mixed the yellow on the left with the blue on the right to get the green in the center.

Mix a Home Based Green with a Blue and Yellow
© Annie Glacken

2. Adjust the hue by adding yellow or blue. Yellow will make the color warmer and brighter. I added the yellow on the left to the home base green in the center to get the yellow-green on the right.

Home Base Green + More Yellow
© Annie Glacken

Blue will darken the color and make it cooler. I added the blue on the left to the home base green in the center to get the blue-green on the right.

Home Base Green + More Blue
© Annie Glacken

3. To make the green appear more natural, add a tiny amount of a neutralizing color (a violet, red, or orange). I used a tiny amount (lighter in value than what is pictured here) of Quinacridone Burnt Orange on the left to the green in the center to get the neutalized greens on the right in the next two samples.

Yellowish Green Neutralized
© Annie Glacken

Bluish Green Neutralized
© Annie Glacken

4. Adjust the value by either adding water to lighten the green or use a blue or violet to darken the green.

I created the following color wheel chart that illustrates these concepts. You can add yellow to your home base green to lighten or brighten. Yellow-orange will warm up your green. Blue or blue-violet will make your green cooler or darker. Any color on the color wheel from orange to violet will neutralize or dull the color.

Mixing Greens
© Annie Glacken

When using greens in a painting or a sketch, you must use a variety of greens to make your sketch more interesting,

Annie’s Barn and Studio
© Annie Glacken

I hope this tutorial will help you mix a wonderful variety of greens.  I learned a lot about mixing greens from this website which I would encourage you to visit.

Please use this information for your own personal use. Please be fair and do not share! Thank you.

Happy mixing!


12 Replies to “How to Mix Natural Looking Greens in Watercolor”

  1. Good post Annie, thank you.
    I changed my way to mix greens thanks to Jeanne Dobie and her book Making color sing. It’s a precious book for mixing colors but specially for mixing greens with a natural effect. And yes, before, I thought green was just Blue and Yellow 😉

    • Hi Laurence, i agree with you about Jeanne Dobie’s book. It is a great book. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thank you again Annie for your wonderful tips. Maybe you should write a book with all these wonderful suggestions. I would buy it for sure.

    • Hi Betty! You are always so encouraging. I love sharing art tips and glad you find them helpful!
      Thanks for the nice comment.

    • Great Janet. Please let me know how it goes for you! Happy color mixing! Thanks for commenting!

    • Robin, I love the green you get with Prussian and Quinacridone Gold too. One of my go to green mixes is Winsor Green Blue Shade mixed with Quinacridone Gold which I learned from Susan Crouch years ago. I can get a variety of greens from just these two and maybe a touch of Quinacridone Burnt Orange for a pine green. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Thank you for another great tutorial, Annie. The greens you created in “Field of Sunflowers” are beautiful!

    • You’re welcome Susan! Hope you find it helpful. Thank you for the compliment on my sunflower painting and for commenting!