One of the trickiest colours to mix in a landscape painting is green and it’s one that causes artists the most problems. Mix your greens right and they can look amazing and vibrant but get the wrong and they can look acidic and harsh.
In this painting tutorial I will show you how to paint the landscape above and how to mix some basic greens that you can use in a landscape painting. Whilst this art work is painted in oils you can use acrylics also.
Why are Greens so Difficult to Get Right?
When you look at greens in the landscape there are so many different hues but when it comes to getting that information down on canvas in can be very difficult to get right. But why is it so difficult to get the right green? Part of the reason is that your eyes can trick you. For example you may think the green on a distant hill you are seeing is really green when in fact it’s lost a lot of its chroma and vibrancy.
Greens don’t travel well over long distances, so for example a green on a distant hill will have lost most of its chroma (saturation) by the time it gets to your eye. Distant greens are more desaturated, but without understanding this combined with our eyes tricking us means we can end up mixing a green that is way too saturated on our palette.
Green is a colour that is difficult to get right full stop. Too much of the wrong shade of green can be a massive distraction in your composition if you’re not careful, but get them right and they can look amazing.
Tips for Mixing Greens
Mix Your Own Greens
There are many premixed greens available, for example chromium oxide green, sap green, viridian, phthalo green, emerald green, the list goes on. With so many greens which do you choose from? Personally I like to mix my own with yellow and blue as this makes the colour look more natural and it’s more likely to be harmonious with the other colours on my palette.
Having said that the one premixed green I do use is phthalo green as it’s great for increasing that saturation if your green needs a kick and it’s versatile. I never use this colour on its own, only to add to an existing green mix.
Keep it Simple
Part of the other reason I mix my own greens is that I generally use a limited palette and for two reasons. One is that I find it less confusing with fewer colours on my palette as well as it helping me to give me a better understanding of colour. The second reason is that with fewer colours on my palette my colour mixtures are more likely to contain common colours which means a more harmonious and cohesive painting.
Get Some Red in Your Greens
One last tip I can recommend when mixing greens is to round off the mixture by adding a red element into it. As red is the complimentary opposite to green on the colour wheel I found that my green mixtures to look more natural and harmonious when I add a red element into the mix. Very often I will round off my green mixture with a colour that contains red such as cadmium orange, quinacridone crimson and / or burnt sienna.
Some Examples of Greens You Can Mix for Landscape Paintings
In the rest of this blog post I will show you how to mix some greens that you can use in a landscape painting but instead of just showing images of greens on a paint palette I have put it into context of the landscape painting below which I will show you how to paint in this step by step tutorial.
This is a couple of the reference photos I used. Feel free to use these photos if you would like to have a go at painting this art work.
I am painting in oils and the colours I used in this painting are as follows:
Here is a list of the brushes I used in this painting:
I am painting on an 8” x 10” linen panel that I toned with a layer of burnt sienna. The burnt sienna adds vibrancy to the painting.
I sketch out the composition with a No.1 round brush with burnt sienna. I am using Liquin Original as a medium to thin the paint, it also has the advantage of speeding up the drying time. The group of trees is the main area of interest in the composition.
Now that I have sketched out my composition it’s time to start blocking-in the painting, but before I mix any greens I paint all my shadows and dark values first. By doing this it’ll be much easier to achieve atmospheric perspective in the painting and get the saturation of my colours correct.
I start by painting the lightest of my shadows first which are in the clouds. For this I mix a combination of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna which takes out some of the saturation in the blue, quinacridone crimson which adds a violet tint and then I lighten the value with titanium white.
I use the same colour mixture for the trees on the distant hills but I darken the value by using less titanium white in my mix.
The colour for the mid ground trees which are also in shadow was mixed with a combination of ultramarine blue, yellow oxide, burnt sienna, quinacridone crimson and titanium white.
The shadows in the group of trees in the foreground are the darkest value in the painting. I mixed this with a a combination of ultramarine blue, yellow oxide and burnt sienna.
Now to start painting some greens.
Mixing Green Diagrams
I have included a few visual images of how I have mixed some of these greens. I have done my best to simplify it and put it in context of the painting. The list of colours required is along the top. Start with the colour where is says ‘start’ and follow the steps, the plus signs mean to add the next colour and arrows direct you to the next line. I hope this makes sense.
You may have to play around with the mixtures a little but it’s good to experiment with mixing colour.
Mixing the Greens in the Distant Hills
First I start with the grass in the distant hills which are pale and low in chroma. They are also in shadow. The reason I have the background in shadow is to achieve a contrast between the dark background and the trees in the foreground which are in full sunlight. It also creates more atmosphere in the painting.
The green in the distant hills is desaturated so I need to mix a low chroma green otherwise it won’t recede in the painting. In general greens can be desaturated by adding a colour opposite and / or using low chroma colours.
To do this I mix ultramarine blue with yellow oxide to start with and then some titanium white. I then round off the mixture with quinacridone crimson to add a red element in the mix.
Mixing the Greens for the Pine Trees
The pine trees in the foreground are darker in value and more saturated. To mix this green I start with yellow oxide and ultramarine blue. I then increase the saturation by adding cadmium yellow to the mix which also lightens the value. I round off the colour with cadmium orange and quinacridone crimson. I can also vary the hue by adding in a little burnt sienna.
Mixing the Greens for the Grass in the Foreground
The green of the grass in the foreground is light in value and lighter than the pine trees. Trees are often some of the darkest values in the landscape whereas grass is much lighter.
I mix the green of the grass with a combination of ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, a little cadmium orange and a tiny amount of quinacridone crimson. I then lighten the value by adding titanium white. I can increase the saturation by mixing in a little phthalo green.
Once I have finished the blocking in stage I allow the painting to dry before I start adding some detail.
Creating Different Greens
I add more greens into the trees. They are the same colour combinations that I used before but I have varied the amount of colours I am using in the mix in order to create interest and texture within the trees. For example if I want to mix a more olive green I will use more cadmium orange, quinacridone crimson and / or yellow oxide.
If I want to mix a richer more saturated green I will use more cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue and phthalo green.
If my greens are looking too cold I can add more cadmium orange and quinacridone crimson.
I finish up the painting by adding in finer details such as the clumps on pine needles in the trees. I’m using smaller brushes including No.0 and 00 round brushes. I am still using the same colour combinations in the trees but making the values lighter to create three dimensional form within the trees.
I use my dagger brushes for the grass and mix a few greens to add texture to it but essentially I am using the same colours I used in the block-in stage but I vary the amounts I am using. I add my lightest greens at this stage as I have saved my lightest tones until the end of the painting.
Check out the YouTube video that accompanies this blog post.
Watch the video - Painting a Mountain Valley
Available in store now
Painting a Mountain Valley Video
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Join me, New Zealand artist Samuel Earp in demonstrating how to paint a landscape featuring a beautiful mountain valley.
In this video I show you a methodology for painting a successful landscape, which includes designing a composition from photo reference, sketching, painting a study and then the in-depth step by step process of painting the final art work.
Throughout the video I show you colour mixing principles made easy, how I mix the colours on my palette, how to create colour harmony and a painting that reads well and how to use values to create real depth in your paintings. All this and more.
After purchasing you will be emailed a PDF file containing the lesson notes and the link and password to the video where you can watch it online or download it to your computer.
Suitable for oils and acrylics
Thanks for reading 😊
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