Friday, 26 August 2011


The use of greens, primarily in landscapes, is one of the challenges in watercolour painting. Some avoid them entirely but  are they such a problem? I don't suggest mine is an expert view, just various thoughts and suggestions that may help. This is  a recent exercise as I felt I needed to revisit the subject. The colours were mixed on the paper, the first put down and then the second added. If you mix them in the palette the result will be different and a more homogenous colour will emerge.

 There are several basic approaches although mixing blues and yellows is probably the most popular. Another is to add other colours, starting with the earth colours, to a convenience green like  Hookers Green, in my case the Maimeri version. Sap Green could be another choice. This is generally a lighter mix than Hookers although the pigments are often the same. Each manufacturer has a different view of what constitutes a Hookers or Sap Green and formulations aren't identical.  I have also tried Viridian, which is a single pigment (PG18) paint, and there are others like Olive Green (PG17) and Cobalt Green (PG50), the latter coming in several shades.

 Another method is to start with either the blue (PG7) or yellow form (PG36) of Phalo Green and mix touches of, for example Burnt Sienna or Raw Umber and see what happens. PG7 mixes darker shades. Obviously the proportion of each colour determines the final result.  Why not use these straight green colours? The obvious answer is that they are nearly all to a greater or lesser degree unnatural looking, especially compared to Natures greens in the UK. I should add convenience greens abound, particularly from makers like Old Holland who list over 20. Most contain one or other Phalo greens. Unless you have a very limited palette you can probably mix many of these shades from existing paints.

The paper used is Fabriano Artistico Extra White Not. I have numbered the swatches 1 to 46 but a few `experimental ones'  aren't relevant.The first column on the left starts with Hookers Green from Maimeri. This is purportedly PO49 (PV49 in the literature) and PG7. As PO49 is now unavailable they must be using some other pigment. From top to bottom Gold Ochre (W & N PY42), Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and finally Burnt Umber. The second row is Viridian with the same colours added. There are some interesting mixes here. The next five columns, excepting the single swatch of Ultramarine Violet/Transparent Yellow, are blues.  The darkest are those mixed with PB60 Indanthrone Blue, here the Maimeri Faience Blue, which you would expect as this pigment is very dark valued, only exceeded by black. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you should be able to read what the mixes are. The final three columns are experimental (19, 29, 39) and include mixes where reds like Permanent Carmine, Permanent Rose (Both W & N) and Avignon Orange (Maimeri), have been added to Hookers. The yellows used were Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153), Transparent Yellow (W & N PY150), Cadmium Yellow Light, Hansa Yellow Medium (DS PY97) and Greengold (Rowney PY129), actually a yellow green.

These swatches will give some idea of what to expect and they can be varied considerably depending on what proportion of each pigment is added. They are also affected by the order they are put down, yellow on blue or blue on yellow. If you don't want the bother you can mix on the palette and add small amounts of either colour until you get what you want. Comments welcome.


Anonymous said...

Peter, this took much time and I thought I should comment...(a little late, but just returned yesterday from being evacuated due to an east coast hurricane which landed on the mainland, directly above our island). Back to greens...I currently have olive, sap, and hookers on my palette. With the exception of olive, the greens are mixed on the palette with yellows, blues, or a touch of a red. It took me a couple years to get rid of my fear of mixing greens.
I also used to have D.Smith's Undersea Green on hand, but it seemed to be a bit gritty. Now I mix that exact color using DS' (the only quin. gold!)and WN's french ultra "go to" mix for touches of dark greens.
Finally, I'm curious about your basic palette, due to your clean colors...searched your blog but couldn't find a reference...I also strive for clean, luminous colors...and avoid mixing cools with warms unless I want a dulled down, or grayed color.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

You are ahead of me as I have been working on something similar to try and improve creating decent greens in watercolour. Strangely enough I did not seem to have the same problems in oils.

I am sure it was painfully boring and time consuming for you to do all these tests for which I can only thank you.

They give me even more ideas of green combinations than I already have.

Kind regards,


Peter Ward said...

Thanks for your comments Carol and Rui. Much appreciated. I only scratched the surface as there are other options particularly with so many yellows.

Carol. I am reluctant to go into detail about my palette because I don't consider myself an expert just a keen amateur. Neither am I particularly scientific and while I have studied what Handprint and others like Michael Wilcox and Hilary Page have said I don't always take their advice!
To sum it up I have a 16 paint basic setup which is determined by the fact my main palette is a Craig Young with 16 wells. I also have a 9 paint secondary palette.
All the paints in the first palette are single pigment paints with two yellows, two reds, four blues plus violet, Cad Orange, Viridian, and five earths. Some of the earths are classed as yellow of course, Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre and Raw Umber.

In the secondary palette the most used paints are Hookers Green, Faience Blue (PB60) and Avignon Orange (PR206).

I am currently mulling over what to do with the Graham and Daniel Smith paints I have bought. Perhaps a third palette! I try and follow Charles Reid's advice not to overmix and aim for a finish first time. This isn't possible as far as the finish is concerned with some overpainting always necessary but kept to a minimum. I think this is the key to clean colours and freshness together with single pigment paints.

Glad you survived Irene. We watched with horror how it progressed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information about your palette choices, Peter...limiting my colors to 16 would be difficult, but maybe owning a Craig Young would make it easier!!!
For my first seven years with watercolor, I used only transparent or semi-transparent colors. For the Reid workshop last Sept. I added cad yellow, cad orange, cad red lt, cerulean and yellow ochre...all opaques. I thought this might lead to some mud, but it didn't.

I look forward to your blog posts about color...thanks again.
If you watched Irene with horror, you should have seen me...I am the third house from the ocean!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks again Carol. Next to the beach with that lot approaching! Wow!

Actually I missed out one or two things in my first reply. In my secondary palette I also use Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153) and Greengold (Rowney PY129) quite a lot, mainly on flower paintings and landscapes. I also use Permanent Rose (W & N PV19) for flower paintings.
I'm now in countdown to my fourth (and almost certainly final) Charles Reid course in five weeks time. The tension rises....

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter,

I'll mention one yo have not mentioned: Cobalt Turquoise. Somewhere in between pale watery green and light blue, that paint is terrific for many things. Perhaps the most versatile colour in the palette of painters who use it.

Seldom used just on its own in full strength, it's a perfect complement in mixes.
It extends the range of water hues.

Because it's very cool colour, it is ideal distance colour. Add it lightly in mixes to push the colours way back into the horizon. It cools down colour mixes – when something's jumping too forward, add Cobalt Turquoise to push it back.

Add raw sienna, or burnt sienna, different yellows, oranges into it, and you get a variety of fantastic, natural looking greens. Add a touch of cobalt blue, or ultramarine blue into the mix to get deeper, cooler greens. You may add prussian blue or W&N blue together with yellows.

Add some purple into it, or some red .. check it out, I won't tell you right now.

I support your idea that greens may impose problems. Some people use Hooker's Green, Sap Green, etc. as an addition to the palette. However, all those greens are inert on the palette, or, they are not as versatile to be added in colour mixes to create other colours. You green pans will outlast blues, yellows and reds. Not that's a problem, though – people use what they like, sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes out of anxiety and fear to change.

Give it a go. I have Cobalt Turquoise by Schminke, W&N and Graham and they are all good.

Best, Rembrandt van Rijn

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for your comments Rembrandt (is that your real name?)

I've never had Cobalt Turquoise on my palette but noted the colourist Jean Haines has it.

The main problem is the cost and the opaque quality of Cobalt colours (and toxicity). I'm intrigued by what you say and will certainly give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Hello Peter

First my apologies; some manufacturers refer to this colour as Cobalt Teal, but some as Cobalt Turquoise Light (W&N uses the latter).

It was late in the night, I was drowsy, suffering from flu, so I had to correct that.

Cobalt Teal, or Cobalt Turquoise Light, is the one I was talking about — it's lighter than the Turquoise. In W&N range, that's number 191 (see the link):

Yes, it's on the top of the list of more expensive pigments. However, it cuts down time and necessary steps needed to achieve desired colours and effects, with greater satisfaction. Thus overall, it saves a lot.

Regarding its opaqueness, well, because it is strong colour, just a tad is needed in mixes and the wash is transparent. Again, you'll perhaps never use that colour on its own and in full intensity like Cad red, and Cad red in its full intensity is opaque.

Re toxicity, I'm aware of cobalt-based colour issues. However, today we use sophisticated enough tools, procedures and good hand-washing and brush-washing soaps that minimise exposure of our skin to such pigments.

Hope this helps!


Peter Ward said...

Thanks for this clarification Rembrandt. I wondered which Cobalt Turquoise you refered to as W & N list two and where this colour is offered there appear to be versions with different pigments.
As it happens I have a half-pan of the W & N Turquoise LIght which I bought recently to try, because I noticed the artist jean Haines had it in her palette. I've also a tube of Daniel Smith Cobalt Teal Blue and.. some Maimeri Cobalt Green Light. They are all PG50 so presumably will work in the way you describe. I have tried the Maimeri in the past but wasn't enamoured of it . Perhaps I needed to dilute it further.