What green do you have on your oil painting palette right now?
I’ve played with a lot of greens over the past 30 years. Everything from Rembrandt Green, Chromium Oxide Green, Viridian and Prussian Green, and a few others.
At times I’ve even eliminated green entirely from my palette and simply mixed all my greens from blues, yellows and reds. Some artists go as far as to say that green should never be on an artist’s palette.
There’s no magic formula when it comes to what colors work best for all artists. So, using green or getting rid of it is simply a personal preference.
My Favorite Greens
For most of the last 20 years I’ve added primarily Sap Green Permanent and Phthalo Green to my palette. Neither green is essential, but they are definitely convenient.
If I had to limit it to just one green however, it would be Phthalo Green (also called simply Thalo).
Phthalo Green is a versatile and intense color. A tiny bit goes a long way! That’s one of the reasons it scares off a lot of artists. It’s easy to grab too much and overpower everything.
And on top of that, it’s awful looking by itself. Used alone it would be difficult to match it to any plant’s natural color.
Fortunately, mixed with other colors it is beautiful.
In the early 90’s I used Viridian because that is what most professional artists I knew were using. I found over time that it didn’t have quite the kick I wanted for certain foliage though.
While browsing through Meininger Art Supply in Colorado Springs I noticed Phthalo Green. The name alone was so intriguing that I bought a tube. That’s when Viridian faded from my view. In reality, Phthalo isn’t a perfect replacement for Viridian, but it’s close enough for me.
Because it is such a dark transparent hue coming out of the tube it is excellent for cooling down shadow mixtures. A rich, cooler-temperature and dark-value shadow combination is Alizarin Crimson Permanent, Phthalo Green and a touch of Ultramarine Blue. That’s where Viridian falls short – it’s too light for deep shadows.
Using Green in Shadow Mixes
In the pic below are some shadow mixtures I often use in my paintings. The differences in hue are subtle and take some keen observing, but you can see a definite shift in color temperature from warm to cool.
Sap Green is one I use for shadows in place of Phthalo when I want a slightly warmer green. Sure, I can mix Sap myself, but I like the convenience of it. Most Sap green out of the tube is simply Phthalo Blue and Diarylide (Indian) Yellow, which is why Sap Green is a color that I occasionally eliminate and mix myself.
Phthalo Green makes fantastic warm and cool greens depending on what it is mixed with.
My Phthalo Green Mixture Grid
Here’s a snapshot of some simple greens I mixed up quickly using Phthalo Green and one other color – Cad Lemon, Cad Orange or Cad Red Medium (with varying degrees of Titanium white). Referencing the numbers next to each square I will describe the mixtures below.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Lemon and Titanium White – heavy on the green and White.
- Phthalo Green and Cad Lemon – no White
- Phthalo Green, Cad Lemon and White – heavy on the Lemon with a touch of green and White.
- Phthalo Green and Cad Orange – heavy on the orange with a touch of White.
- Phthalo Green and Cad Orange – no White – keeping the mix distinctly green with a hint of Orange.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Orange and White – heavy Green and White with a touch of Orange.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium, White – heavy on Cad Red – touch of White and Green.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium, White – heavy Green – touch of White and Red.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium – no White.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Yellow Medium – no White.
- Phthalo Green – nothing else.
- Phthalo Green, Cad Red Medium and White – just a touch of White and Green
Did you know that most people ignore the majority of their closet?
In a study of 20 countries around the world they found that 53%-88% of our wardrobe is never worn (source). It’s easy to slip into habits and wear the same 20% of clothes over and over.
The same thing happens with particular colors. We are creatures of habit. It’s easy to fall into a routine of reaching for the same color mixtures and forget the vast range of choices we have at our disposal. Each of our palette colors offers incredible possibilities when mixed with other colors.
It’s especially tough when we’re working quickly to capture a scene before the light changes during plein air painting. Maybe this will help you (and me) remember just how versatile and handy Phthalo Green is.
In the Hands of a Master
Peter Fiore demonstrates what Phthalo Green can do in the hands of a Master painter. In Winter Tangle – the film coming to the Membership in just a few weeks – Peter uses Phthalo Green often to modify and create rich saturated colors in his magical mix of tree limbs and bark texture.
You can request your exclusive invite to Peter’s training launch here:
Remember to keep exploring and testing because we have unlimited creative opportunities with our modern mix of paints.
What are some of your favorite colors and why do you like them?
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