Are you looking to learn how to make dark green paint and you’ve hit a wall? Well, you may rest assured that you are definitely not the only one to be stuck here as green seems to be a wildly troublesome color for most beginners, even though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that seems to be the case.
It’s likely related to a lack of understanding when it comes to basic principles about mixing colors or it may be something entirely different. Maybe, and this is just a guess, it has something to do with how we actually perceive green with our eyes and the results we expect to get from shade to shade.
The famous Pablo Picasso once had a wonderful saying about this: “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”. What can we learn from this? Green is a very versatile color so obtaining that particular shade that you’re after may be quite hard.
What Colors Make Green?
Let’s start off with some basics then round things up and get to the dark green part. Ask any child who hasn’t ditched art class and he or she will tell you that if you mix yellow and blue together you’ll get green. For those who are unfamiliar with basic color mixing, the simple way to think about it is that the result of mixing two colors will be between them on the color wheel.
So this is the simple explanation of why mixing blue and yellow gets you green. This is the general way subtractive color mixing works. But if we’re looking to go beyond that and obtain a specific shade of green like dark green, the question won’t be “What colors make green?” but instead “What type of green do you get by mixing a yellow and a blue?”.
As experienced painters will know, there is no such thing as an absolute yellow or blue since you have ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, manganese blue, or variations like cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow deep, and the list goes on and on.
While all of them belong to either the blue or yellow color family, each of them will naturally lean toward another color and this is called having a color bias. This is another piece of knowledge that has to be taken into account when you’re trying to get a specific shade of a color as you need to know exactly what you have to mix in order to get there.
As a result, this is a concept that a lot of beginners seem to struggle with. Colors are not that simple of a concept that you can just grab any red, blue, and yellow and start mixing them all together like some of the more theoretical aspects of it seem to suggest. In practice, coloring is never that straightforward.
Color Bias – Cool and Warm Primary Colors
An interesting exercise that you can do to find out more about different color biases is going through your studio and getting together every different red, blue, and yellow you have. If you are a half-serious painter, you’re going to have a lot of variations and this is the precise reason why answering “what colors make green?” is difficult.
A very good tip here would be to remember that, when thinking about color temperature, it’s much more effective to think of it as a relative term rather than an absolute certainty that is by no means changeable. While the shades do have a specific look, their sheer number makes it difficult to grasp what one means by simply using the words “blue”, “yellow”, or “red”.
Rather than referring to a certain green as being either warm or cold, you can try thinking about it as warm or cool relative to the other shades of green. This way, you’ll not only have an easier time categorizing your colors but you will also manage to find the ones you need to mix without as much hassle.
In theory, cooler blues will have more yellow and have a tendency for green while warmer ones contain more red and, as a result, will lean towards violet. Feel free to rank the colors you have using this scale because once you understand the color biases, mixing vivid and rich secondary ones becomes much easier.
This is because to get an amazing secondary color you just need to mix two primary colors together, right? Right! But what happens if, for instance, you mix a warm yellow with a warm blue? As we said, warmer tones have a touch of red in them so you’re basically mixing together all three primary colors, to some extent. What happens then? You get mud.
You only get mud, however, if enough of each color is found in the combination. But what we can learn from this is that the most vivid green possible should be obtained with the coolest shades on your palette. So get your coldest yellow together with the coldest of the blues and see what the end result is!
Getting Down to the Green
When it comes to getting green, some very good advice would have you using a single color of blue pigment and then just changing the yellow pigments until you get to the exact shade you want. Starting your mixing lessons with transparent pigments will allow you to see the clarity of the greens you create and improve your overall work.
Another thing worth mentioning, and this is true for every color, is that it’s worth taking the time to get to know your paints. Scribble on a piece of paper with a pencil then paint over your scribble. This will let you know how clear or cloudy that particular color is.
When you start mixing and you want to obtain dark green paint, you will want to emphasize the ratio of blue to yellow in order to get to the deeper end of the scale. Your ratio of white is also important and once you’ve developed a solid range and you’re confident in the shade of dark green that you’re going to see, introduce some titanium white if you want to light it up a little.
Be careful as too much of this can overwhelm the dark green mixture and wash it out. In the same way, if you want to enrich your color a little and make it a little deeper, go for some bone black and notice the results. Be careful that you do not use too much though as the rules from white also apply here.
Get Your Glaze On
However, we’re only humans, and mistakes tend to happen for all of us. What do you do if you’ve gone too far one way or the other? Do you have to start over from scratch with the entire combination? No, because this is where glazing comes in as a tool to help you create a lighter or darker green glaze.
What you want to do here is mix some glazing medium into your original formula then apply the color you get over the original result. Typical glazes will be built using a 6:1 ratio of medium to paint so you may want to remember that the more pigment you use, the less sheer your end glazing result is going to be.
Once you managed to be quite confident on your dark green base, glazing is amazing (quite the slogan, huh?) for playing around surfaces of green areas and really getting in there and finding the perfect shade for that field or tree.
It’s also very good for making sure you have a solid foundation that you can later evolve from and start playing around. Like pretty much any art or sport out there, fundamentals are a definitive requirement when you want to get into more advanced stuff that requires more in-depth knowledge of your field.
Favorites for Green Color Mixing
There are plenty of green pigments and paints out there for you to choose from so from here on out it’s going to be entirely your choice. What we can recommend is that chromium oxide green is a dense and opaque pigment which, for this very reason, is a great base color when you want to experiment with a field of greens.
Add some white and some Titan Buff then brush it on rapidly using a flourish of movement in order to get an amazing “start” for your field. When you want some quick depth for your darker green shades, sap green hue is another good place to start since its formula naturally has some black and it will immediately enrich your color.