Sunday, 29 December 2013

Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens

While there are many artists who do not have a green in their palette, I am not one of them! I paint too many botanicals to keep away from greens.

Here I will cover a range of single pigment greens, convenience green mixtures and wonderful special effect greens. You can also see them all, and more, on my website here.

Single Pigment Greens

There are many single pigment greens. Some are transparent and/or staining. Others are granulating. The advantage of using single pigment greens is that you don't have a multitude of pigments in the mix if you then mix them with other colours.

Below are 3 examples of Viridian on the left. I prefer the DaVinci or W&N. The Daniel Smith version is a disappointment and doesn't rewet well. Viridian is a softer, granulating and liftable version of Phthalo Green. It is lovely for florals but doesn't have the power of phthalo green PG7, which is a very staining pigment. Phthalo Green Yellow Shade is a more neutral green. Made with PG36 it is very popular but not a colour I choose to use. None of these greens is really useful alone - they are generally best mixed with a yellow or a yellow ochre/earth to create realistic greens. (for more on mixing greens see my website here.)
Single Pigment Greens - Viridian PB18 by Da Vinci, Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton; Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) PG7 by W&N, Da Vinci, W&N and Daniel Smith; Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) by Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton.
Below are a number of other single pigment greens. Some are useful alone, some are wonderful in mixes. I particularly like Perylene Green PBk31 for deep passages in florals or landscapes, Green Gold PY129 for florals, Green Apatite Genuine for wonderful granulation in landscapes and Jadeite for landscapes and as an alternative to phthalo green BS.
Top from left: Rare Green Earth DS, Perylene Green DS, Perylene Green W&N, Cobalt Green DS, Verona Green Earth Liquitex, Green Gold OH, Green Gold DR, Green Gold W&N and Rick Green Gold DS .
Bottom from left: Ziosite Genuine DS, Malachite Genuine DS, Bohemian Green Earth DS, Jadeite Genuine DS, Diopside Genuine DS, Green Apatite Genuine DS, Serpentine Genuine DS, Oxide of Chromium W&N and Chromium Green Oxide DS.


Green mixtures may include two, three or even four pigments. These may well misbehave if mixed with other colours - it just gets to be too many pigments - but they can be popular and convenient.

Top from left: Sap Green Lake OH, Permanent Green DS, Permanent Green Pale MG, Spring Green DS, Permanent Green Light DS, Phthalo Yellow Green DS, Green Gold DS, Leaf Green Holbein
Bottom from left: Olive Green W&N, Olive Green DS ( PB29+PY97+PBr7), Sap Green Deep DS, Cadmium Green Light OH, Undersea Green DS, Hooker's Green DS, Sap Green AS, Hookers Green W&N.

From left: Prussian Green DS, Sap Green DV, Terre Verte Hue DR, Hooker's Green Light Lake OH, Australian Leaf Green Dark AS, Cascade Green DS, Terre Verte DS, Permanent Sap Green W&N
So why include greens in a palette? They are easy to mix, but that takes additional time and space in your mixing palette. You could mix your own from tube colours and have your favourites ready to go, or buy one that you like, or just mix as you need them. As a painter of botanical themes I like to have some premixed but realistic greens so my leaves all look as though they belong to the same plant when I paint them and I am not constantly mixing more and more of the same colour.

How else are they useful?

If you only have one green in your palette, make it phthalo green BS (or Jadeite if you want a granulating alternative). This will neutralise your crimson to make deep shadow and aubergine tones and can be neutralised with crimson to make deep prussian and perylene green hues. It will mix with a warm yellow or and earth yellow to make a nice version of sap green. It will mix with phthalo blue or ultramarine to make turquoise. It will mix with a cool yellow to make very bright greens, should you want them.

If you have two greens, make one warm and one cool so add a yellow-green such as green gold (PY129) or Sap Green or even the gorgeous granulating Green Apatite Genuine for some lovely effects in your painting. Another interesting option that I use a lot in Australia is Undersea Green by Daniel Smith - Ultramarine and Quinacridone Gold. This dark olive green is perfect for so many of the dull greens of Australia, especially gum leaves.

I have 5 greens in my 24 colour plein air palette, which is a lot - Phthalo green BS, Undersea Green (convenience mixture), Sap Green (convenience mixture), Perylene Green and Green Gold PY129, (All Daniel Smith, though for the single pigment colours other brands would do)

I also have Jadeite and Green Apatite Genuine in an extra's palette for granulation  These last two are also wonderful in a limited palette for their multiple uses - Jadeite washes down to a very soft green or makes a deep green comparable with Perylene green. As a 'blue' green it also doubles for phthalo green as stated above and nuetralises a crimson. Green apatite genuine is equally versatile - a green gold really watered down, a sap green in a medium wash but in mass-tone it is a wonderful deep olive green with amazing granulation. So why not just use these two for everything? Sometimes I don't want the granulation, simple as that. But in a limited palette of 12 or even 16 they are wonderful.

Enjoy your greens!

Watercolour Comparisons 1 - Ultramarine Blue here
Watercolour Comparisons 2 - mid yellows here
Watercolour Comparisons 3 - Primary Red here
Watercolour Comparisons 4 - Burnt Sienna here
Watercolour Comparisons 5 - Greens (Single Pigment, convenience mixes and special effect) here
Watercolour Comparisons 6 - Reds (Cool, mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 7 - Yellows (cool mid and warm) here
Watercolour Comparisons 8 - Blues here
Mixing with Phthalo Green here
Mixing with single pigment greens here


  1. My experience with DS Viridian is similar to yours. It's such a weak colour. I could never get it saturated enough. The colour also seem to suck water from the brush instead of the brush sucking the paint. It's a really strange colour.

    1. Yes I tend to use Phthalo green as it is more intense so has more mixing options. The Viridian should be a nice granulating alternative if you want to be able to lift it. The Da Vinci one does work, but I still prefer that tonal range of Phthalo Green. I think the DS colour has too much gum. It is odd - most of their colours are wonderful but that one just isn't.

    2. 2106 update - I tried another tube of DS viridian and it behaved much better. It is still a gentle pigment, like ultramarine violet, but it rewet much better :-)

  2. I find pthalo green in schimincke has too much gum also,a 15ml tube was almost all gum,if i use it that way by mixing it in ,the area that is painted goes very hard and shiny.The company replaced a tube that i complained about ,to fond the replacement was just as bad,will try another brand.

    1. That's not pleasant. I always shake the tubes very thoroughly before squeezing any out, and if necessary I stick a blunt needle in to really stir up the contents. Phthalo Green is not a colour that usually separates so I hope you've found a brand that works for you.

  3. This is such a helpful post, together with the mixing post on greens on your other site. I love greens and foliage, and to see the mixing possibilities of the phthalo green (blue shade) has moved me to order a tube from DS. (I usually avoid very staining pigments and actually threw out a tube of MGraham Dioxazine Purple as it was staining everything, even my porcelain palette!) Your mixes are inspiring me to give this a try. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Lynn. Phthalo Green can certainly stain your palette, but you can remove it with a touch of vegetable oil on a paper towel as phthalo colours are soluble in oil. Then wipe the palette well with a damp paper towel to remove the last traces of oil.
      I have added a link above to the other posts on mixing with phthalo and other single pigment greens.

    2. How lovely to get this advice on using the vegetable oil. I am now using the Phthalo Green and the mixes I can get are great and are adding life to my drawings.

  4. hi again jane! you answered my question about a crimson earlier (thank you!) but now I have a question about greens (lol). If I wanted to make an expanded palette, what green should I choose other than phthalo green pg7?

    from what I found, handprint suggests green gold py129 or chromium oxide pg17, but on the black segment he also says that perylene green pbk31 can mix/wash out to sap greens and chromium greens, as well as being good for botanical/portrait shadows, mixing darks, etc.

    BUT THEN on your site there is undersea green or olive green (which apparently changed its formula to pb29, py97, and pbr7 according to your other site - also). so now I feel overwhelmed! (For reference, I live in Vancouver, Canada, so there is an extremely (!!!) large range of greens seen in this part of the world)

    1. How 'extended' is your palette? I like to have a couple of convenience greens in mine - In a 20 colour palette I have phthalo green for mixing, Daniel Smith Sap green (the new formula is fine), Daniel Smith Undersea Green and Perylene green (many brands). I would also add PY129 in an extended palette of over 20 colours. With those you can mix a massive array of colours but also have some handy. If you just wanted three single pigment greens you'd go with phthalo green, perylene green and the PY129 green gold (called Rich green gold in DS) and mix your own versions of sap green (quin gold+phthalo green) and undersea green (quin gold + ultramarine) and a pine green (phthalo green + Indian red or burnt sienna) as you need them.

      I don't use chromium green as it is a very opaque green, though it is an interesting colour. If I use an extra greens for special effects they are the primatek colours - Green Apatite genuine and Serpentine genuine - these have a little of the look of chromium oxide but are far more variable and granulating so far more interesting. Not essential, but fun, especially for plein air :-)

  5. Thanks for this wonderful website! I've been looking for a deep green for tree shadows, and I see that you favor perylene green. Do you also have favorites for medium and light greens to go with it?

    1. Perylene green is perfect for deep try shadows, and is made by a number of brands using PBk31. I also like Undersea Green DS for a great dark olive-green, Sap Green DS for a mid green straight from the tube, and Rich Green Gold DS (PY129 and often called Green Gold in other brands) for the yellow-green you see at the top of trees when the sun i shining through. I also have phthalo green in my palette and mix that with a range of other colours - yellows but also earths and reds - to create more greens.

      If you enjoy granulation the Primateks are also fun - Green Apatite Genuine can be a fairly bright sap green hue, but in masstone is more like Undersea Green. Serpentine Genuine is great for grassy meadow. I enjoy these guys in travel palettes but the above are my palette staples.

  6. Greens are very interesting and have caused problems for dyers for centuries as few naturally occuring substances give a good green without using indigo over dye process.There are one or two lichens but they are generally not available .Coperas can produce interesting greens . Naturally occurring green earths are rare ,but malachite is the most useful for the watercolorists and best bought as pans . If producing your own ,work like genuine Lapis(ultramarine) otherwise try Windsor Green and Green Earth genuine and the rest of your palette will create all the greens and effects you need .

  7. is sap green a yellow green? so it is warm or cool?

  8. What do you prefer for shadow colours over green areas, such as grasses or varied foliage? I find if I use a blue/purple shadow mix it comes across as a dead, blackish tone, but I haven't found a perfect solution yet!