How to Paint Greens

Colour mixing green can be difficult as this colour is in abundance in the countryside. Sensitive observation is the key to an effective painting of trees or grass. The painting could otherwise end up as an unchanging block of green.


Realistic Greens


Few places match the verdant diversity of the English landscape, where this rustic barn is situated. Opportunities exist for the artist to explore how greens recede in the background, the greens of sunlight and shade, and the types of greens found on different plants. The following pointers might help the artist tackle greens effectively.
  • Green is not merely a mixture of blue and yellow, but also other colours. The introduction of violet, crimson or burnt sienna will tone down a garish green and make it look more authentic
  • Don’t darken green with black. Shadows beneath trees can be suggested by the introduction of green’s complimentary colour, which is any colour in the red spectrum; violet, permanent rose or cadmium red will add richness to shadows.
  • The much-maligned viridian is garish on its own, and will make the nature’s greens look artificial, but produces lovely greens when mixed with other colours
  • Warm greens, as of autumn leaves can be produced with cadmium yellow and ultramarine
  • Cool greens, as of early spring, can be produced with lemon yellow and pthalo blue
  • Be aware of the tonal values of green, as well as its hue. This will help create a more atmospheric painting
Art Materials Required
  1. A photograph exhibiting a verdant landscape
  2. Permanent rose acrylic paint
  3. Oil paints in the following colours: titanium, viridian, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, pthalo blue, ultramarine, permanent rose, burnt sienna and burnt umber
  4. 9” x 14” (23 x 35.5cm) canvas board
  5. A size 3 and size 6 round sable brushes
  6. A ½ inch wide bristle brush
  7. A palette consisting of a china plate or varnished wood.
  8. Small pot of artists’ white spirits
  9. A few rags
  10. Soft pencil

Tips on Green Mixing


To avoid trees and grass looking flat and featureless, look out for how greens shift in respect of its tone, colour temperature and purity. Recording these slight variations will make the painting appear more authentic.

Demonstration on Painting an English Landscape
A diluted layer of permanent rose acrylic was applied onto the painting surface. This sets the tones of the painting and also offers contrast to the overlying greens. Applying an undercoat of paint is known as an imprimatura, and in this case, will imply warmth to the resultant painting.
Once the imprimatura had dried, the composition was sketched in soft pencil. With a thin sable, the colours were simplified into light, medium and dark. Varying amounts of white, burnt umber and ultramarine were used throughout. 



If a setting appears too green, introducing an object exhibiting a colour within the red spectrum will add a focal point. Red, violet, orange or purple will add contrast. A deckchair, toys or garden tools would be ideal. In this case, the warm colours within the barn created an interesting focal point.


Mixing Different Greens in Painting

The mossy roof of the barn exhibited a slightly warmer green than the surrounding countryside. With a thin sable, a mixture of lemon yellow, cadmium yellow a little viridian and white was applied. For the shadows, a little ultramarine and permanent rose was introduced into the green mixture.

For the mountainside, the sunlit greens were achieved by a mixture of lemon yellow, viridian and white. Notice how the green skids over the canvas surface, revealing some of the reddish imprimitura beneath. This helps adds texture and expression to the painting.


How to Darken Green

Dirty mixes can be avoided by introducing green’s complimentary colour in order to darken it. For the shadowed areas on the mountain, a little permanent rose was added to the ultramarine and pasted onto selected areas. These colours were similarly used for the tree next to the barn.

The pthalo blue of the sky is echoed within the bluish greens of the landscape. The clouds were pasted on with white. The painting was then completed by knitting together the different areas of colour and tone by using a soft clean brush.
Read more about green on my science of color site.

This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010