How to Nail Those Shades of Green in Watercolor


Green is definitely Mother Nature’s favorite color. Every tree, bush, and flower stem comes in its own unique shade ... all of which perfectly coexist. Now try to recreate all of that in a watercolor painting, and you might be the one turning green!

Whether you’re working on a landscape, floral, or animal piece, here are three ways to score great results with this all-important hue.

1. Use tube (manufactured) greens

Pre-made green paint gets a bad rap for being bright and overpowering. But these colors can actually work straight from the tube if you want to paint a tropical plant, bird, butterfly or anything else that has a more intense green color. Consider these swatches to get the ideas flowing:

Most of the time, however, you'll want to use the tube green as a base and mix in other colors. You'll be surprised what a big different this technique makes! Sap Green, for example, looks natural and gorgeous when combined with other hues. Check it out:

2. Mix your own greens

You probably remember this formula from elementary school art class: Mix yellow and blue to make green. Easy peasy! True, it's a touch more complicated if you want to make a selection of natural shades. The keys are to play around with different shades of yellow and blue (try anything from Cadmium Lemon to Burnt Umber for yellow, for example), and different ratios of each pigment. It's really helpful to reference a standard color chart when you're making greens, and even to create your own chart once you develop some shades you love.

3. Swap green for other colors 

Here's your secret weapon for when none of your greens are panning out: Just use a different color altogether. There's no rule saying that what's green in nature has to be green in your painting, and using a monochromatic color scheme or choosing a shade that better pairs with other aspects of your piece may even make it better.

Mix the glowing, harmonious watercolors you want, every time. Learn how using fundamental techniques and a limited palette of just six pigments.
Kateri Ewing
Kateri Ewing
Finish working on the sunflower painting started in the previous lesson by concentrating on the painting's wide range of greens. Lexi begins by demonstrating the different color palettes of green you can create when you know how to mix colors correctly. Next, Lexi demonstrates how to use complements to adjust the chroma of greens and how other pigment combinations can create a natural range of greens. In addition, you'll learn Lexi's tricks for painting realistic shadows.
Build your skills and create a watercolor painting that you can be proud of, even if you’re a beginner!
Mary P. Murphy
Mary P. Murphy
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How to Nail Those Shades of Green in Watercolor