The color green is the color between yellow and cyan on the visible spectrum of light. In the RGB model, green is an additive primary color, along with blue and red.
Green is the color of the chlorophyll in leaves and of certain precious stones like emerald and jade. We associate the color green with things like money, wealth, nature, life, and health.
As an artist, it's important to understand this refreshing color, how it's used in the past until today, what it means and the different emotions it evokes, as well as its different shades, and how to produce them.
This article aims to help you do just that.
A Brief History of the Color Green
Neolithic people from Northern Europe never painted with any green pigments but they did use the color to dye their clothes using Birch tree leaves. Ceramics from Mesopotamia also depict people wearing vivid green costumes using an unknown dye.
The ancient Egyptians saw the color green as a symbol of regeneration and rebirth. They painted everything from their papyrus to their tomb walls with powdered malachite to depict healthy crops brought about by the Nile river. The ancient Egyptians also used green pigments by mixing yellow ochre with blue azurite and dyeing clothes with saffron then blue dye from the roots of the woad plant.
The ancient Greeks used the same name for blue and green and considered them the same color. They used these colors to depict the sea and trees in their paintings. The ancient Romans used green to depict gardens, vegetables, vineyards, and the goddess Venus.
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the color of a person's clothes showed their social rank. Green was used to identify a person as a merchant, banker, or part of the gentry. For example, the Mona Lisa's green clothes meant she was part of the gentry and not a noble (who wore red).
Before the 16th century, green dyes were produced from plants like the fern, plantain, buckthorn berries, nettle and leek juice, the digitalis plant, the broom plant, the leaves of the Fraxinus, or ash tree, and the bark of the alder tree. These dyes produced good green colors that quickly faded or changed color. It was only in the 16th century when a good green dye was created by first dyeing cloth blue with woad then yellow with Reseda luteola, a.k.a yellow-weed.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, green was associated with the romantic movement and its literature. It was also at this time that synthetic pigment dyes were discovered and manufactured. These new dyes were more stable and brilliant and quickly replaced the earlier mineral and vegetable pigments and dyes (although some did contain high levels of arsenic).
In the 20th and 21st centuries, green is used as a political color in Europe and symbolized the environmental movement.
Green Colors: Psychology and Meaning
Now that you're up to date with the history of the color green, let's discuss what these colors and is associated with in today's modern times.
Green is often used as the universal color of permission. For example, red and green are both used in traffic lights to mean stop and go, respectively. Both colors are also featured in video games where green stands for completed quests and red for the opposite.
In Europe, green is the color most associated with life, nature, and vivacity. This is why green is often used by environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Green Parties. Gardens and parks are designated green spaces and a green cross often stands for a pharmacy.
In the US, people associate the color green with springtime, freshness, and hope as well as youth and inexperience. Ancient cultures see green as the color for immortality and renewal.
The color green is linked to emotions such as calmness, tolerance, and being agreeable as well as jealousy and envy. The expression "green with envy" was first used by Shakespeare in Othello. Green is also the color associated with poison and toxicity.
Shades of Green
The color green comes in many different shades. These shades differ in hue, chroma, brightness, or a combination of these qualities. As of the writing of this article, the color green has 44 different variations.
Here are a few examples:
Celadon is a pale grayish, light yellowish shade of green. Its European name originates from a class of Chinese ceramics copied by Korea and Japan.
2. Lime Green
Lime green is a web color characterized by its vivid yellowish-green shade.
Evergreen is a color that resembles evergreen trees. It's unknown when this color first got its name.
Fern is a brilliant yellowish shade of green. The first recorded use of this color name in English was in 1902. Crayola made a crayon named fern in 1998.
Emerald, a.k.a emerald green, is a vivid yellowish shade of green.
This particular green tone is characterized by its lightness and brightness making it mimic the precious stone of the same name.
Similar to emerald green, malachite has a vivid yellowish shade, albeit a little more on the yellow side. Malachite was made to represent the mineral malachite, one of the first materials to be made into green pigment.
7. Green Earth
Green earth, a.k.a Verona green, is a light yellow-green tone. This color is an inorganic pigment produced from celadonite and glauconite.
Modifying Green Acrylic Paints
Now that we've discussed the history, meaning, and different variations of the color green, it's time to learn how to make your green shades.
As artists, we usually look for the right shade of color to really make our acrylic painting pop. If you don't happen to have the exact shade you need, here's how you can modify your green acrylic paint to achieve your desired shade.
How to Create Warmer Shades of Green
Green is, by default, a cool color. If you're looking to make a warmer green shade, try mixing in some red, orange, or yellow.
How to Create Cooler Green Shades
Despite the color green having a bias towards the cooler spectrum, you can still make it even cooler. This can be done by mixing in some blue. If you want to make green a bit cooler and darker, you can mix in some indigo or violet.
How to Mute Green Colors
Sometimes you want to take away a color's vividness, brightness, or darkness. For the color green, you can do this in one of 5 ways.
To make a muted darker green, mix in some black.
To produce a muted but brighter green, add in some white.
To mute green without changing its brightness, mix in some gray.
If you want to make a greenish-brown, gradually add in some red (green's complementary color) until you achieve the color you want.
You can also achieve the above effect by mixing in some brown, like raw umber or burnt sienna.