Everyone knows green is the color of spring. Green is also fairly commonly known as a symbol of youth, fertility and eternal life.
However, while it may seem like a fairly basic color, being one of the seven ROY G. BIV rainbow shades, and the opposite of red on a common color wheel, green can be surprisingly vibrant, exotic or even shocking, depending on the shade that you choose. Even in nature, this color comes in seemingly innumerable variations of tone or hue.
As we explore the composition of the basic color, and how to mix it, you will soon see how easy it is to create dozens upon dozens of new greens.
A meter of green is greener than a centimeter.Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin
Color Theory And Materials
For the purpose of this article, we will explore shades of green according to Subtractive Color Theory, a system used by most artists to define and compose colors. This is the system from which we get color wheels, which are made up of primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors.
This guide is also designed for use with paint mixing, specifically acrylic paints. However, the basic recipes provided will be workable in other mediums, such as pastels, watercolors and oil paints, but your results may vary considerably depending on the materials you use.
Bear in mind that while you could try the color mixing concepts below to create codes for electronic art and Website backgrounds, the hexadecimal and RGB codes used for onscreen colors are based on Additive Color Theory, not Subtractive. But don’t worry, some Hex and RGB codes have been included with each shade in case you came here wanting to play with onscreen colors rather than physically mixing paints.
What Colors Make Green?
Green, in its most basic form, is quite simple to create. With only two other colors, yellow and blue, both of which are primary colors, you can make the color green. Variations of the shade or temperature of green can be created by changing the ratio of yellow to blue, or by adding other colors to the mix. The end result will also be determined by the initial shade of yellow and blue that you choose to mix.
Start by combining a very basic yellow and blue. For instance, try to match those primary shades that are found at the very top of the color wheel, for yellow, and the bottom left of the wheel, for blue. Combine around two parts yellow to one part blue. You may have to play with the ratio a little to get a good medium shade that is similar to the green found on a color wheel.
If you want to experiment with the shade without adding any other colors, try a little less yellow than blue for a cooler, darker variation of green, or try less blue for a warmer, lighter variation.
But if you want to get more creative, and really build a full library of shades of green, you’ll want to try some of the following experiments.
Creating Different Shades Of Green
Different shades of green can easily be achieved by studying color bias. Color bias is a term used to indicate which direction, towards warmer hues like orange and red, or towards cooler hues like greens and blues, a particular color leans on the color wheel.
Different Blues And Yellows
Using different shades of blue with the same shade of yellow will result in a variety of different greens. For instance, you can mix equal parts of Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue or Manganese Blue, and you will end up with three different shades of green.
You can, of course, also play with your results by changing the shades of yellow that you use instead of the shades of blue. For instance, Saffron Yellow, which has a subtle orange tone, will lean more towards the reds on a color wheel, making it a warmer shade of yellow. Thus, mixing Saffron Yellow with a blue pigment will tend to create a warmer shade of green than, say, if you choose Lemon Yellow, which is a cooler shade of yellow, because it leans more towards the greens on a color wheel.
Using Other Colors
Another fun way to create new shades of green is by introducing other colors. For instance, you can add a little bit of white to your blue and yellow combo to create a paler or brighter green tone, or, why not leave blue out altogether and mix yellow and black for a dark, olive-like green? Another great way to change the shade of green is by adding a red, purple or a second blue to the mix.
As you can see, there are many ways to create the color green. You can use blue and yellow together, add additional colors and even leave one original color out. With so many mixing options, there are countless shades of green to discover! Below you will find a few recipes for specific greens to get you started.
How To Make Specific Green Colors
Olive Green is named for the humble but powerful green olive fruit, celebrated around the world for its health properties and delicious taste. This color is also used to describe olive drab fabric.
Instructions: To mix an Olive Green, if you can, begin with a premixed medium green, such as Grass Green. If you need to create a basic green first, try mixing Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue.
Next, add a touch of warm, natural yellow to the green, such as Sand or Ochre. This will add the earthy, slightly brown tone to the green. Finally, to darken the green to a deeper shade of olive, you can add a little bit of dark purple to the mix. If you find the finished result is too dark, or it is not warm enough, add a little more yellow to adjust. You can also add a tiny bit of white to your mixture if you need to lighten the shade.
RGB 128, 128, 0
Named for a region of England that produced dyed woolen fabric in medieval times, Lincoln Green is a vivid shade of medium green. This shade is darker than Grass Green but lighter than Forest Green.
Instructions: To create Lincoln Green from other colors, mix a medium, warm blue, such as Cyan or a Light Turquoise, with a warm medium yellow, such as Canary or Dandelion. If your results are too bright or too warm, add a tiny bit of black to the mix to mute the shade into a truer Lincoln Green. Alternatively, you could try adding a tiny bit of a dark, cool blue, such as Midnight Blue, instead of the black.
RGB 25, 89, 5
Yellow Green is often depicted as a warm, light green with slightly neon undertone. This color is can be used represent the young leaves of trees, plants and flowers in the spring. It is often warmer and lighter than Spring Green or Leaf Green.
Instructions: To create a basic Yellow Green, begin by mixing a cool yellow, such as Cadmium Yellow or Lemon Yellow, with a medium to dark warm blue, like Ultramarine Blue or Cobalt. You will want to use slightly more yellow than blue. Next, you may wish to add a tiny amount of white to the mixture to add brightness. Finally, you can add a hint of red or orange to the mixture to round out the depth of the shade. For orange, try a medium bright orange, such as Cadmium Orange or Tiger, and for red, try Garnet, Crimson or Wine. Use the orange or red very sparingly as it can overpower the entire color.
RGB 154, 205, 50
Forest Green is a deep, cool green reminiscent of the color of evergreen trees. There are several ways you can create a dark, natural looking green to represent the forest.
Instructions: Probably the easiest way to create Forest Green is by darkening a premixed, medium green, such as Grass Green, Lincoln Green or Kelly Green, with a tiny bit of blue or black. Royal Blue works especially well in combination with Kelly Green to create a dusky, muted green similar in tone to pine needles. To darken this combination, you should add a tiny bit of black as well.
Another way to create a dark Forest Green is by adding a tiny bit of red or reddish brown to a premixed green. Further, you can combine black with any bright, medium yellow to create a very rich, dark green.
RGB 34, 139, 34
Named for the sage plant, this shade of green is cool and fairly light with a dusty, muted tone.
Instructions: To create Sage Green, begin with a deep, warm yellow, such as Citron, and combine it with a cool blue with gray or purple undertones. Slate Blue is a good option. Once you have achieved the right shade for Sage Green, you can lighten it up by adding a very small amount of white. If you find that the green you’ve created is too light, try adding a tiny bit of dark red, such as Crimson. Be very careful with the red, as adding too much will make the green too brown.
RGB 154, 171, 137
Moss Green is a medium, muted natural green somewhat similar to Sage Green, but warmer in tone. It could also be described as a soft or pale Olive.
Instructions: To achieve a Moss Green, begin with a basic blue, like Cobalt or Ultramarine, and add small amounts of a light to medium yellow, such as Canary, until you get a medium green. Once you have a green base, finish out the tone by adding a tiny bit of purple, or even a gray, to create that muted finish.
You can also create a warm Moss Green by beginning with a premixed Bright Green and slowly adding small amounts of a warm, natural yellow, like Sand, and white. After you’ve achieved the shade you want, you can darken the hue with a little bit of black.
Another way to achieve a Moss Green is by combining a light or medium yellow with a pale or medium purple. Your results will vary depending on which shades you choose.
RGB 138, 154, 91
Pastel Green is a light, cool green with a very soft aesthetic. Like other pastel hues, this shade gets its name from the pastel crayons first used in art in the late 1600’s.
Instructions: One of the easiest ways to mix a Pastel Green is to start with a premixed medium or dark green that is cool in tone. Emerald and Jade are great blueish greens to begin with. To lighten your green of choice to a pale pastel, simply add small amounts of white until you reach the desired shade.
If you find that your Pastel Green is turning out too blue, or too cool in tone, and you want to achieve something closer to a pale Kelly Green, add a tiny bit of a light yellow, such as Pastel Yellow, to your mix. If your Pastel Green is turning out too warm in tone, add a little bit of a light blue, such as Mint or Light Aqua, to get a cooler result.
RGB 119, 221, 119
As you can see, there are a great number of ways to create the color green, and green comes in a wide array of shades. Experiment with some of the shades you find here, or create your own spectrum of greens using the basic concepts provided.
We hope that you’ve found some color ideas and recipes here that you are excited to play around with for whatever creative project you have planned.