Watercolor – Open Morning (& mixing greens in watercolor)

Open Morning 11×8 watercolor (SOLD)

Mixing Greens

Now that I’m finished with Spring art festivals and overseas travels, it’s time to sort the studio and plan summer paintings.  I’m almost finished with two citrus watercolors similar to this one. While mixing yellows and greens for grapefruit, oranges, and citrus leaves, I refer to Jeanne Dobie’s Making Color Sing. I like what she has to say about mixing green in watercolor:
What are the best pigments to mix with green? Begin by selecting aureolin yellow, the most transparent yellow pigment. Many students reach for yellow ochre to mix in their greens, believing it is a natural landscape or earth-tone yellow. While quite natural looking, yellow ochre is an opaque color and as such reduces the amount of light reflecting through it. Greens made with yellow ochre are not as luminous as greens made with aureolin yellow.
~Making Color Sing, Jeanne Dobie
In flight over Maidenhead, England. A study of greens.

All the Yellows

I love yellow ochre, and I go through it fast on my palette. But for citrus skin and leaves, I want aureolin luminosity under the greens (delivered by the white of the paper). Jeanne explains what to mix, ratios to use, and which combinations to avoid if you don’t want to flatten your greens to browns.  Until I read her book, I made greens with yellow ochre or cad yellow, which gave me mud-puddle-dull passages.  I’ve referred to her green chart (pg 25 in the book) so many times, there’s a dog-eared post-it note marking the page. If you’re looking for some color mixing books, I’ve listed a few for you at the bottom of this post.
Art books in my studio. Great references, ready inspiration, and encouraging company for any artist.

Every Artist’s Library

Don’t you love your art books? I often sit on the floor in front of my book case, and randomly select artists to visit with a cup of coffee. Reading about other artists gets my mind hopping before I grab the brushes. What do you do to limber up before you paint, or draw, or print?
Tubes of watercolor paint

If you’re interested in the results of the one question survey I posted here, I asked if readers of this blog were more interested in watercolor, or printmaking, or both. The overwhelming majority answered both! Feel free to chime in if you haven’t already.

Here’s to a week of painting luminous greens and yellows. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. You can subscribe to get each new blog post as an email. Sign up here.

Art Quote
Have you ever looked into a lake or pond or even a rain puddle and discovered with surprise that the reflection looks better than the actual scene?  Something indefinable happens when the subject is transposed. It is not quite the same as the scene; it is an “image” of the scene. When we, as artists, view a landscape, our minds also act as mirrors, reflecting what we see much like the lake or pond. Therefore, to be creative, we should paint the reflection in the mind, and not the scene.
Jeanne Dobie, Making Color Sing

Ten Watercolor Mixing Resources

(NOTE: Some of these are affiliates; if you purchase from these links, I get a teeny percentage. It doesn’t affect your costs at all. I hope you find the links useful. Thank you for supporting this blog!)

Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie

Color Choices: Making Color Sense out of Color Theory, by Stephen Quiller

Watercolor Painter’s Pocket Palette by Moira Clinch

Hazel Sloan’s Watercolor Rainbow

Color Mixing Color Wheel

Colour Mixing Guide for Watercolour by Julie Collins

Color Mixing Bible by Ian Sidaway

Color Mixing Recipes for Watercolor by William F Powell

Watercolour: A Visual Reference to Mixing Watercolor Paints by John Barber

The Art of Color Mixing, Using Watercolor, Acrylics and Oils

New online video course coming soon! Click the cat to sign up, and be notified when it’s available! 🙂

15 thoughts on “Watercolor – Open Morning (& mixing greens in watercolor)”

  1. Hi Belinda, I love your posts and tutorials in BOTH printmaking and water colour. A quick question: can someone explain what the ‘:3’ or ‘:5’ after a pigment colour refers to? For example PB 15:3 and PB 15:6. And why is it that there can be several colours with the same pigment number? Eg DS Quin red and Quin violet are both PV19 . Thanks everyone for paint and pigment recommendations, I too love Aureolin, and am disappointed to hear of its tendency to brown, esp as it is an exe paint.

    1. Hi Jenny, Thanks for stopping by and leaving feedback. It’s really helpful. 🙂 The labels on paint tubes are based on Color Index Name, coded in pigment manufacturing standards abbreviations. PR = red, PY = yellow, PB = blue, and PG = green. PBr is used with earth pigments, which, for the most part, have been replaced with synthetic iron oxides. The P stands for Pigment, and the second letter is the generic name of the base color. The colons are used to separate generic names (V is Violet) from the manufacturer’s particular ingredients (different ratios of added metals, salts, etc.) So, I presume that DS Quin Red and DS Quin Violet have the same ingredients, but at different ratios – to create a warmer and cooler version of the same mixture. You can think of it as each manufacturer’s “recipe index card number”. 🙂 Clearly, I’m no chemist, but as I understand it, that’s the basic gist… Does that make sense?

  2. As John Rindlaub mentioned, I used to use Aureolin until I read that it turns brown with age also. In a Hilary Page book on lightfast watercolors, she mentions this fact as she has done the testing herself. So her choice is to use Winsor Newton Lemon Yellow in exchange and that is my yellow color choice as well, along with Winsor Yellow as more of a warm yellow if needed.

    1. Hi Bonnie, You are so right – and I’m grateful for the alternative choice. I’ll order some WN Lemon yellow to test. How do you like the results and transparency when mixing with viridian greens and cooler blues?

      1. I usually mix Lemon Yellow with French Ultramarine or Cobalt for my greens and maybe add a touch of warm or cool red. I don’t use Phtalo Blue very much. I find my favorite yellow is Winsor Yellow as it seems to be warm to neutral. It’s useful in making oranges as well as greens. When painting animals fur, I mix Winsor Yellow, Winsor Red and French Ultramarine blue to make various browns.

        1. Hi Bonnie, Thanks for the great list of color mixing options. I don’t currently have lemon yellow on my palette, but I know it’s a relatively “cool” yellow, so I’ll get some and check it out. I’ll look at WN yellow too, since I’ve never used it. I hope your painting time this summer is marvelous! 🙂

          1. I’m interested in knowing what you think of the Winsor Yellow. The Pigment number is PY154 and another brand with the same pigment number would be similar. I find Winsor Newton colors to be some of my favorites and the Quinacridones in Daniel Smith are all unmatched by any other brand.

              1. Quinacridone Gold by Daniel Smith is the best Q Gold. It makes wonderful earthy green colors when mixed with either Cobalt or French Ultramarine Blue by Winsor Newton.

  3. A long time ago, I did a light fastness test which included Aureolin I found it turns brown with age. At least the Aureolin that I used did. But I have seen other reports that came to the same conclusion.
    I like to check with “handprint.com,” in the watercolor section. There are things you will probably never use there, like models of chemical compounds and such, but the section on actual watercolor pigments is pretty good. It doesn’t cover every brand, but nowadays you can find the ASTM number for any watercolor you are thinking of buying listed on the tube and see how that pigment rates from the brands that are covered on handprint Transparency and staining are also rated.. Try: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html

    1. Hi John! This comment demonstrates the reason why I love having Smart Friends! Thank you for pointing this out, and sharing the link. I think I knew about aureolin’s fugitive reputation, but misplaced that data over time. And I love Handprint, as well as Jane Blundell’s informative posts on watercolors:
      What would we all do without smart artist friends, and detail oriented pigment researchers? Thank you very much! P.S. What’re you working on in the studio these days? XO

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....