Thursday, October 29, 2009

More about greens

Green Marmot, possibly from Ireland

I am going to continue talking about greens tonight by addressing some of the greens that you might have on your palette. My e-mail filled with questions about this and that green so In will describe a few of the common green pigments. Usually in small type on the tube are a couple of letters and numbers that will tell you what is actually in the tube. I have included those below.

There aren't all that many common green pigments in the art game, there are a lot of reds and yellows, but only a few greens. Here are those you will run into, and one you won't.

Viridian, (PG18 in the code on the tube) has been for a long time the standard artists green. It is made from hydrated chromium oxide,(whatever the hell that is) Viridian is a bluish green that is permanent. In recent years it has become expensive. I have had a problem with its being gritty on the palette.When mixed with cadmium yellow it will yield a foliage color in sunlight. Viridian is graduallyt being replaced on many artists palettes with............

Pthalocyanine green, often referred to as thalo is a powerful color discovered in the early 1900's. Thalo can be hard to manage due to its great pigmenting strength, it is what you get if you buy a tube of green marked with the words viridian hue. Manufacturers market it in different shades from a yellow green, to a cool blue like viridian, which is what I use. I mix most of my greens but lately I have had Pthalocyanine green deep from RGH on my palette.Remember that every manufacturers "deep" will be a different shade.

I used to use sap green, which was made from buckthorn berries. It was impermanent but a wonderful hue. It was transparent and had a brown, sort of whiskey color under its green. Sap green today is nothing like that and is a mixture of thalo and who knows what else. That varies with the manufacturer. I have no use for the hue today called sap green.

Chromium oxide green, (PG17) is a chromium color related to viridian, it is opaque, permanent and a dull green -yellow . It is a useful landscapists color. I think Metcalf used a lot of it. Give this color a try if you are experimenting with greens, it is not too powerful and goes well with earth colors.

You will never use emerald green , but it was once a common color. It was also called Paris green, and was copper aceto-arsenate. Besides being a green pigment it was an important insecticide in the 19th century. Deadly to bugs and artists. I mention it only as trivia, you will never see it as a pigment on your palette.

Cadmium Green, is an expensive mixture of cadmium yellow and usually cobalt. it is a permanent and opaque color that is not widely used because of its expense.

Terra Verte is an earth color made from a greenish clay. Generally today manufacturers use a mixture of burnt sienna and a blue instead of the real thing. It is a dull green with little pigmenting strength that is often used in underpainting flesh in Italian style paintings that will be painted in glazes.

Pretty much everything else out there is a mixture of pthalocyanine and a yellow pigment given an attractive and sometimes descriptive name by its maker, like olive green or vegetable green, etc. The pigment code for thalo is PG 7 and PG36 if either of those codes are on the tube, you are getting thalo .


Unknown said...

I have a question about RGH paints. I thought I might try them since you have recommended them. They come in jars or cans, and some now come in tubes. The jars are a much better deal. Would the paint dry out faster in a jar than a tube? Seems I remember vaguely that you tube your own. Can you expound on that process?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes once you open a jar it may dry out. I tube the paint when it arrives. The economy comes in when you buy larger containers.I buy at least a quart of most of there colors.
If you do use it out of a jar, press saran wrap onto its surface between uses, then put the lid back on.

willek said...

Utrecht's Veridian is PG18 and is their series 3. $29 for 150ml Not as bad as the cadmiums at their series 5.

Unknown said...

So viridian, pthalo, and chromium are really the only greens. The rest are just mixed of other common colors.

Gregory Becker said...

For the life of me I never knew what any of that meant. I simply opened the tube and rubbed it on a piece of paper to see what it looked like.
Good stuff to know though.

Gregory Becker said...

Oh that is good advice.
I have a question in your response to Deb's question...
If I premix a nuetral value mix can I store it in film containers if I use the saran wrap to push out the air and how long can I expect it to last?

Mary Bullock said...

Stape, Gregory and Deb:
A tip for keeping your oil paints in a plastic container like a film canister (or larger) from drying out between uses - freeze it. Take it out of the freezer an hour before you are going to use it again and voila!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I wrote a post on tubing paint it is

It is easy to do and allows you to save a lot on paint and make your own mixtures.

Stapleton Kearns said...


It is more than Rembrandt though, which I would prefer if I were buying ...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yeah thats it for the commonly available greens.

Stapleton Kearns said...


It is good to know , but it is not for obsessing over. Some people do, remember my friend with the stereo in the 1970's?

Stapleton Kearns said...

All you need is the saran. The film canister and the frig are extraneous.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Save the film canister they are going to be hard to find.Just the saran wrap will keep the paint fresh for a long time. Lay out a square about the size of a handkerchief, put the paint in the middle and then fold it up and secure the whole rig with a rubber band. The paint will last for months.

Unknown said...

thanks, Stape. Such continuously helpful info here.