Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Do You Make Your Greens?

Homeward, 11 x 14, oil

I'm often asked about my palette, and in particular what greens do I use to paint my trees?

I don't actually use tube greens on my palette. I mix all my greens from the primaries. Typically, I have two or three kinds of each of the primaries, plus white, and I can mix all the colors I need from them.

My blues are Ultramarine, Cerulean, and Ivory Black.  That's essentially a reddish blue, a greenish blue, and a low chroma blue.

Sometimes I use Cobalt instead of Ultramarine. Cobalt isn't really reddish blue, true, but it's still closer to violet than Cerulean.

Sometimes I use Prussian Blue instead of Cerulean. Prussian, like Phthalo is a very strong color and just a teeny bit will go a long, long way. If you're not careful it'll blow up in your face. So to speak. Cerulean is a much gentler, yet rich color and user friendly. I do recommend my students to use Cerulean until they've become very comfortable mixing colors.

My yellows - I have a cool yellow, a warm yellow and low chroma yellow; Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Deep, and Yellow Ochre.

Sometimes I just mix a warm yellow with Cadmium Lemon and TOR (Transparent Oxide Red), which gives me a nice rich warm yellow, and one less tube to carry.

Yellow Ochre is really handy, since mixing a darker value yellow can be a bit of work.

With these blues and yellows, you can mix them in different combinations to get all kinds of greens very quickly. Ivory Black and Cad Yellow makes a beautiful rich dark olive green. So does Ultramarine + Yellow Ochre. Cerulean + Cad Lemon makes a brilliant light green.

Just lay a couple of yellows and blues out on your palette and play around with it. You may be surprised at what you can mix when you're not trying to mix any specific color.

Add to these greens the reds, and of course the white, and you have further expanded the scope and the complexity of possible greens.

Tube greens are convenient, to be sure, but if you find that all the greens in your landscape paintings starting to look too similar, may be it's time to ditch those tube greens and start mixing them from your primaries.


  1. Great post! I wrote a similar post on greens a number of years ago you may find interesting: http://www.neilblevins.com/cg_education/greens/greens.htm

    1. Thanks Neil~! Your post is great too. And your work is terrific!

  2. I enjoyed reading this post about mixing greens. And your advice about tree greens is so right. Please answer this: what about the very bright grass greens. I painted recently on a golf course in Florida and had a difficult time with the smooth bright greens of the grassy "greens". they looked too bright and garish to me, and I wonder if you have a better example or idea for that type of landscape. How about in the springtime when the trees first bud out? That yellow green can look like candy, jellybean green. How to modify it and make the whole painting easier on the eyes?

    1. Hmmm... is the problem the fact that the these greens are too bright? Or the fact that when you paint these greens as you see them, they look too bright on your painting? Hart to make an assessment without seeing what you mean, but you can get pretty nice springy yellow greens by mixing Cad Lemon and Cerulean as a starting point. Both colors lean toward green, so they don't grey down. To this you can add a little white, or tame it down by adding blues and yellows that DON'T lean toward green (Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, etc.) or by adding reds.

      But when all is said and done, that green of the golf course will not look right if it's not harmonized with the rest of the painting. Depending on what other colors are used, the particular green you're looking for must be relative to everything else, not an absolute, and not quantifiable. So there's no formula.

      But Cad Lem + Cerulean is where I might start, and then make sure it's harmonized with the rest of the colors.

    2. Thank you for those tips!~ I will get myself some cerulean blue to mix with the cad. lemon. I think I was using prussian or ultramarine.

    3. You're welcome. BTW, Prussian would make an even louder yellow green than Cerulean. (If that's what you're looking for) Ultramarine would grey it down considerably because it has so much red in it.