Ways to Make Green

Ways to Make Green

Readers often ask how to make specific colors, usually when they can’t find a perfect match in their collection of colored pencils. So I thought I’d show you a few different ways to make green.

Why green?

Because I like landscapes and landscape greens are one of the most difficult colors for many of us to mix correctly. But the process I’m about to show you works for mixing any specific color.

Let’s get started.

Ways to Make Green

First, I need to assure you that these are not the only ways to make green (or any other color.)

Second, let me tell you that I’m using Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils on Bristol Vellum paper. These layering methods work with any brand of pencils and on any good drawing paper. You’ll get the best results with artist-grade pencils and white paper, but you should be able to mix a reasonable green with any pencils on any paper.

#1: Look for the Closest Color Match in Your Collection of Pencils

This is the most obvious method if you’re working from a reference photo and need to color match a specific green. If you’re working from a digital image, use the color picker in your photo editor to isolate the green. Then look through all of the green pencils you own to find the color that comes closest.

If you’re working from a printed image, then you can physically compare your green pencils to the image by simply laying them on the image. The one that comes closest is the one to start with.

As you can see in this illustration, that’s quite easy to do, but even if you have a lot of green pencils, you’ll probably have to make some adjustments. I’ll talk a little bit about that in a moment.

Ways to Make Green

#2: Mix Blue and Yellow to Make Green

Another good way to make green is by mixing the two primary colors, blue and yellow. Depending on how you blend these two colors, you can produce a wide range of greens.

Depending on the blue you use and the yellow you mix with it, you can get also get a wide range of greens.

The colors that are the truest primary colors are all the same no matter what brand of pencils you use. But the color names do vary. For example, in the Prismacolor line, the best colors to use as primaries are Magenta (for red,) Lemon Yellow, and True Blue.

The truest primary colors among the Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils are Fuchsia (for red,) Cadmium Yellow Light, and Middle Phthalo Blue.

Amy Lindenberger is my source for this information, as provided in her book, COLORS: A Workbook*. After many color swatch tests, she concluded these colors were the best for color mixing. She preferred Prismacolor because she said the Polychromos didn’t produce colors that were as vibrant as the Prismacolor pencils.

Below are two sets of color swatches I made with the Polychromos colors.

Color swatches combining different blues and yellows.

Look at the variety of greens! Even the top row, which used only two colors, shows eight different shades of green.

Note: It took about an hour for me to make the swatches above, but it was worth the time. If nothing else, I discovered that Sky Blue layered over Cadmium Yellow is an almost perfect match for Prismacolor Limepeel. Limepeel was one of my favorite landscape colors, but it’s so poorly rated for lightfastness that I no longer use it. So I was delighted with this discovery!

#3: Add Other Colors to Make Even More Greens

Remember I mentioned you would probably need to add other colors to your green if you used the first method? You’ll probably need to do the same thing when you mix blues and greens.

You no doubt have also noticed that none of the green color swatches above are really dark enough for some shades of green. Others are too bright, and would look fake in a landscape drawing. What to do?

You start adding other colors.

The illustration below shows the same blocks of color shown above, but with two other colors layered over them. I shaded Caput Mortuum Violet over the top of each block, and Terracotta over the bottom of each block.

To make darker greens, mix a dark blue, dark brown, or even black with the blue and green. To make lighter or paler greens, add white or some other light color. One word of caution: If you use white, the resulting green may look a bit chalky if White is the last layer you add.

For the best results, do multiple layers, alternating the colors from one layer to the next until you have the right green.

There are a couple of ways to make green.

These methods work equally well for mixing any color match you need. Just remember to start with either the two base primaries or the closest color match you have, then figure out what other colors you need to add.

Remember I said I used Bristol Vellum? That turned out to be a mistake.

It is much easier to get better results (darker values and more layers) on a toothier paper. In hindsight, I should have used Pastelmat, but that’s one of the advantages of trying things. You learn what not to do!

Whatever paper you use, remember the following:

Proceed carefully and slowly.

Do test swatches like those above! Don’t experiment on a drawing in progress!

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  1. Ann Hardcastle

    I really enjoyed this post. I had just seen a watercolor book at Hobby Lobby called TakeThree Colours Landscapes and was thinking about trying this with colored pencil. Do you know what pencil would be similar to Light Red? I only vaguely remember that color from my long ago oil paint days—-I know it is not Cad Red Lt! The other 2 colors used were Cad Yellow Pale & Ultramarine—those I know! Thanks for your posts & your help. PS, I only have access to Prismas locally. Thanks again!

    1. Ann,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m glad you found this post helpful.

      I looked up the book you mentioned and could find no information on specific colors other than “student grade watercolors.” I also checked Dick Blick and could find no line of watercolor paints that listed “light red” as an available color. So I have no color to compare with my Prismacolor pencils.

      If there are color swatches in the book, then your best option is to compare the Prismacolor pencils you have to the color swatches in the book.

      Sorry not to be of more help!

  2. Ann Hardcastle

    Thanks for the idea about looking up swatches of color! I found a swatch at CheapJoes of WN Cotman watercolor in Light Red & it looks like what was in the book. It is kind of a red earth color. Thanks again for your help & your posts.

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