Mixing watercolor on the palette is one of the pleasures of painting – at least for me. And while there are so many beautiful pre-mixed colors available, it’s something I recommend beginning watercolorists do to learn the nuances in hues. Even if later you do decide to use pre-mixed purples or greens, learning how to mix your own colors will help control how a color will behave – you’ll be able to tone it so that it balances with the other colors in your piece.
Today we’re exploring the color green!
Green is considered one of three secondary colors made up of two primaries: yellow and blue. (The other secondaries are purple and orange.) The beauty of mixing your own color is that you can tweak the result by altering the shades of blue and yellow.
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The Colors Currently On My Palette
My current palette contains the following blues and yellows (all my paints are Daniel Smith Watercolors, but you can find matches for most hues in other brands):
Hansa Yellow Medium
I’ve experimented with a lot of yellows before finally settling on this hue. It’s clean and bright, neither too warm nor too cool, and it mixes with other colors like a dream.
I’m a firm believer in having at least two of each primary color on my palette: one warm, one cool. QG is what I consider my “warm” yellow.
This is my favorite watercolor blue – and the one I use most. It’s got a granular quality – meaning the pigment particles are large and settle into the paper in interesting patterns – and mixes with other colors in delightful ways.
Pthalo Blue (Green Shade)
When I was starting out I rarely used this color, which is a shame. It mixes beautifully with my yellows and creates some of the most vibrant, fresh greens.
Every time I replenish palette colors, I always think about retiring this one, but never do. It’s a clean, clear blue that comes in handy in a variety of situations and subject matter.
I keep this blue on my palette because it creates beautiful pale skies, has fun granulation, and behaves in surprising ways in mixes.
Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
This color I use in a lot of different ways: to make black, to “push” a mix to green, and sometimes as demonstrated below to make a “quick” green or aqua. But I never use it on it’s own – it doesn’t look natural on its own.
I’m still experimenting with this color, but it has replaced Payne’s Grey, Neutral Tint and Black on my palette. I’ve found mixed with yellow it makes earthy greens, and I love it!
Mixes with Hansa Yellow Medium
Mixes with Quinacridone Gold
Experimenting and swatching watercolor mixes is one of my favorite exercises. What I’ve described here is just the beginning. I hope you take some of your paints and play around with mixes. I keep a small watercolor notebook with my notes and swatches – a sort of recipe book if you will. Enjoy making your own mixes, and let me know in the comments how it went for you!