This is the season for mixing greens if you are a plein air landscape painter.  A little time making quick color wheels can save hours of time in the field as well as a great deal of heartache when the greens on your paper or canvas don’t work well together.

Comparing greens resulting from two different blues

The little color wheels using only three pigments each are valuable tools, saving far more than the fifteen minutes it takes to make each one.  The two wheels illustrated here were painted with only one variation…. the blue.  Both wheels show Winsor Newton – New Gamboge as the yellow and  Winsor Newton – Permanent Carmine as the red.  The wheel on the left shows American Journey – Joe’s Blue (Phthalo) as the blue.  The wheel on the right shows Grumbacher – Ultramarine Blue as the blue.  Obviously the orange mixes are the same.  Notice that the purple mixes are fairly close.  The green mixes, however, are strikingly different.  Hopefully your monitor shows this difference.

When the wheels are placed atop one another, showing the greens of the two wheels next to one another as they might appear if you mixed them and used them in your painting, you will see that they don’t work well together at all.  Why? because they describe a different kind of light illumination on a landscape, perhaps a different weather condition or a different global location. I feel safe to say that it would be close to impossible to make them work well together in a painting.

One of the reasons many painters add a green to their palette (such as Viridian or Hookers) is to resolve this conflict of greens mixed with different blues.  By adding a pigment that falls between the yellow and the blue, the temperature of your yellow plus blue mixes can be altered without turning to mud.  Once again …. charts should be made so you know what works well together for you.

The color wheels are created using watercolor.  Oil and acrylics will mix giving similar results, but I recommend making comparison color wheels in those mediums, too, in addition to the quick watercolor wheels.