'Once you know how to use tube greens, or mix your own successfully, you can begin to alter your colours to suit the situation you are painting,' says Paul Talbot-Greaves.


Cool greens

Cool greens tend to be part of the distance or in shade. Begin with a cooler base green such as phthalo green and add elements of blue.

The closer the blue is to phthalo green on the colour wheel, the brighter the resulting colour will be; the further away it is, the greyer the colour will become. When painting distance you will also need to add white to the mix.


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Warm greens

Warm greens can permeate through an entire summer scene and it is important not to use one single hue, otherwise your painting may end up looking rather flat.

Choose a green with a warm bias, such as sap green or permanent green light and mix variable amounts of different yellows or oranges into it to create variety.

Once again, the further away your added colour is from the base green, the greyer the result will be.


Bright and grey greens

As I have already stated, to keep colours bright, make sure your mixed colours are closer to each other on the colour wheel.

To make grey shades choose colours that are furthest apart or near opposite. In some cases of using warm greens, mixing opposites may create brown – this is due to the higher content of yellow and red in the green.

To counter this, just add some blue in order to redress the colour balance and bring the mix to a darker, grey green


Demonstration: Summer in the Wye Valley


Reference photo

This image of high summer in the Wye Valley illustrates the necessity to be able to create a whole manner of appropriate greens. I decided to keep the majority of my colours high key and therefore I used very few grey shades – those reserved only for the darks amongst the trees.

In order to make this painting work I had to use lots of variety, not only in the colours and values but also in the brushmarks


Stage one



I frequently work my acrylics on failed paintings, using the old image to create interest throughout the layers of paint.

Sometimes parts show through the finished painting, sometimes the old image disappears completely.

Here I worked on an old watercolour, which I washed loosely with yellow ochre, permanent green light and cadmium orange Galeria acrylics, using a size 18 sable/synthetic short bright.

The intention here was to create a warm, vari-coloured ground, which would help to bring over the warm feel of the summer’s day.


Stage two



Next the darks were mapped in with a series of short bright brushes ranging from size 6 to size 14.

To create the cool, dark grey green I used strong mixes of phthalo green, Winsor violet and crimson.

In some parts I roughly blocked in the mid-green trees with sap green, allowing some of the dark green to mix into this.

At this stage, accuracy was not imperative


Stage three



I applied some mid-values using sap green, neat in some parts and mixed with yellow ochre in others.

I also blocked in the river with cerulean blue and titanium white because I find it useful to work the entire painting roughly to start with


Stage four



On the left-hand side I added more cool green, using mainly phthalo green with a little sap green, whilst over on the right I mixed sap green, lemon yellow and titanium white to build up the warmer, lighter values in the grass.

At this point, notice how the warm under colour is showing in places, complementing the overall scene


Finished painting

Summer in the Wye Valley, acrylic on Bockingford paper, (35.5x38cm)


I continued adding layers to generate opacity in some places and thinned the colour to a glaze in others to change the hue.

The painting is built on a bright, warm bias complemented with cooler and darker greens throughout to create contrast.


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