What Two Colors Make Green & How to Blend Shades Like a Pro

Last Updated on January 8, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Color mixing is a fundamental skill that transcends various fields, from art and design to fashion and interior decoration. It’s the key to achieving the perfect hue, tone, and shade for any creative project. And while it may seem simple at first glance – just mix two colors, right? – there’s a certain art and science behind it that’s worth exploring.

One color that often sparks curiosity is green. As a color that symbolizes nature, vitality, and serenity, green plays a significant role in our visual experiences. But have you ever stopped to wonder, “What colors make green?” If so, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we aim to unravel the mystery behind creating the color green. We’ll explore the basic principles of color mixing, delve into the different shades of green, and even guide you on how to customize your green hues.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist, a design enthusiast, or simply someone who loves colors, this knowledge can open up a world of possibilities for your projects and interests. Let’s dive in!

In this article

The Basics of Color Mixing

Understanding Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

To fully grasp the concept of color mixing, it’s crucial to understand the terms primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. These terms form the basis of color theory, which is a practical guide to how colors interact with each other.

Primary colors are the root of all other colors. They are pure, meaning they cannot be created by mixing other colors. The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. Imagine them as the parents in the family tree of colors.

When you combine two primary colors, you create what’s known as a secondary color. There are three secondary colors: green, orange, and purple. Each is the result of mixing equal parts of two primary colors. Specifically:

  • Red and blue make purple
  • Blue and yellow make green
  • Yellow and red make orange

So, if we return to our initial question – “What colors make green?” – we can see that green is a secondary color created by mixing the two primary colors blue and yellow. This combination results in the vibrant, lively color we associate with grasslands, forests, and springtime.

As we move forward, we’ll delve deeper into the various shades of green and how to create them. But for now, remember this fundamental rule: Blue + Yellow = Green.

What Colors Make Green?

As we’ve established, the two primary colors that make green are blue and yellow. But how exactly do you go about mixing these colors to achieve the perfect shade of green? Let’s break it down.

Step-by-Step Guide to Mixing Green

blue and yellow
  1. Start with Yellow: Begin with a small amount of yellow paint on your palette. The amount of yellow paint you start with will determine the brightness of your green, as yellow is lighter than blue.
  2. Add Blue Gradually: Slowly add blue to the yellow. It’s crucial to add the blue gradually because it’s a dominant color and can easily overwhelm the yellow, creating a very dark green if you’re not careful.
  3. Mix Thoroughly: Use a paintbrush or palette knife to mix the two colors thoroughly. You should start seeing green as soon as you begin mixing.
  4. Adjust as Needed: If your green is too dark, add more yellow. If it’s too light or too yellow, add more blue. Remember, it’s easier to darken your green than it is to lighten it, so be cautious with how much blue you add.
  5. Experiment with Shades: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shades. By varying the amounts of blue and yellow paint, you can create everything from lime green to forest green.
  6. Try Adding a Third Color: To further customize your green, consider adding a third color. For instance, adding red or purple will darken your green, while adding white will lighten it.

Diving Deeper into Green

Variations of Green

shades of greens
Source: iStockphoto

Once you’ve mastered the basic mixing of blue and yellow to produce green, you can begin to explore the fascinating world of green’s numerous variations. By adjusting the amounts of blue and yellow or introducing other colors, you can create a broad spectrum of green shades, each with its unique character and mood.

Here are some examples of different shades of green:

  • Olive Green: This is a darker shade of green with a slight hint of brown. It can be achieved by adding a small amount of red to your basic green mix.
  • Forest Green: A deep, rich green that’s reminiscent of the color of evergreen trees. To make forest green, start with a basic green base and add a touch of blue to darken it.
  • Mint Green: This is a light, refreshing shade of green. You can achieve this color by adding more yellow to your green, or by mixing in a bit of white.
  • Sage Green: Named after the plant, sage green is a muted, gray-green color. You can make this shade by adding a small amount of both grey and blue to your basic green mix.
  • Army Green: This is a dark shade of green that’s often used in military uniforms. It can be created by adding a bit of black or brown to your basic green mix.
  • Jade Green: A gemstone-inspired color, jade green has a bluish undertone. To achieve this shade, mix a bit more blue into your basic green.
  • Tea Green: Mix a medium green with a small amount of light yellow. Add white until you have your desired shade.
  • Apple Green: Mix a basic green with a small amount of yellow, and then add a touch of white to lighten it up.
  • Lime Green: This is a vibrant color that requires a lot of yellow mixed with green.
  • Pear Green: Start with a base of yellow-green, then mix in a bit of white to give it a slight pastel hue.
  • Fern Green: Mix plenty of medium or dark green with a touch of brown.
  • Shamrock Green: Start with a medium green and mix in a small amount of dark blue to achieve the deep, rich tone of shamrock green.
  • Emerald Green: Emerald green can be achieved by mixing a medium green with a bit of light blue.
  • Sacramento Green: This is a deep, rich green. Start with a basic green and add a small amount of blue, then add a touch of black to darken it.

Case Study: Artists’ Approach to Green

Artists throughout history have employed the color green in their works, using its various shades to evoke different emotions and meanings. Let’s delve into how some famous artists have uniquely utilized this versatile color.

Bruce Nauman

In his neon installations, Bruce Nauman often uses green to create a stark contrast against the darkness, highlighting the tension between the seen and unseen. His use of green is both striking and unsettling, creating a sense of unease that compels viewers to engage with his work on an emotional level.

Brice Marden

Brice Marden is known for his monochromatic canvases, many of which feature varying shades of green. His approach to color is thoughtful and deliberate, using it to explore the relationship between color, light, and form. In his “Cold Mountain” series, for instance, Marden uses a subdued green palette to convey a sense of tranquility and stillness.

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson often uses green in his large-scale installations to explore perceptions of space and the natural world. His work “Beauty” features a fine mist of water illuminated by a single green light, creating a mesmerizing rainbow effect that invites viewers to consider the interplay between light, color, and perception.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh’s use of green was notable for its contrast. In his painting of a yarn winder, he used different shades of blue-green, accentuating lighter tones of the same color to highlight specific areas. This use of green not only added depth to the painting but also created a soothing yet vibrant visual experience.

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, a pioneer of modern art, used an unusual shade of green in his portrait “The Green Stripe”. In this painting, a bold stripe of green divides the face of his wife, Amélie, creating a striking contrast against her pinkish skin tone.

These examples illustrate the myriad ways artists use different shades of green to convey specific moods, evoke emotions, and explore complex themes. Whether it’s creating contrast, evoking tranquility, or challenging perceptions, green is a powerful tool in the hands of an artist.

Creating Custom Greens

Adding a Third Color

In the world of color mixing, yellow and blue are just the starting point. You can create an even wider range of green shades by adding a third color to your blue-yellow mix. This approach allows you to customize your green to suit your specific needs and preferences.

Here’s how you can do this with acrylic paint, based on various online sources:

  1. Start with Your Basic Green: Begin by mixing yellow and blue to create your basic green. The ratio will depend on the specific shade of green you’re aiming for.
  2. Choose Your Third Color: The third color you add will significantly influence the final shade of your green. For instance, adding red or purple can darken your green, creating a more earthy tone like olive or forest green. On the other hand, adding white can lighten your green, producing a softer, more pastel shade like mint or sage green.
  3. Add the Third Color Gradually: Just as with the initial blue-yellow mix, it’s crucial to add your third color slowly and carefully. Too much of this color can quickly overpower your green.
  4. Mix Thoroughly: Make sure to mix your colors thoroughly to ensure an even distribution of pigments.
  5. Adjust as Needed: Don’t be afraid to adjust your mix as needed. If your green is too dark, add more yellow or white. If it’s too light, consider adding more blue or even a bit of black.
  6. Experiment: The key to success in color mixing is experimentation. Don’t be afraid to try different third colors and ratios to find the perfect green for your project.

How to Make Green Using Other Colors

While the traditional method of creating green involves mixing blue and yellow, there are other ways to achieve this vibrant color. By understanding the principles of color theory, you can create green using a variety of color combinations.

One such method is by mixing cyan and yellow. Cyan, a shade that lies between blue and green on the color wheel, when combined with yellow, can produce a bright, lively green. This combination is especially useful in digital art or printing where cyan is one of the primary colors used.

Another less common method involves mixing red and blue. This might seem counterintuitive, as these colors traditionally produce purple. However, if you use a blue with a yellow undertone (such as turquoise) and a red with a yellow undertone (like orange-red or vermilion), the yellow undertones combine to create green.

It’s also worth noting that the shades of green produced by these alternative methods will be different from those created by mixing blue and yellow. The green resulting from cyan and yellow tends to be brighter and more vibrant, while the green from red and blue (with yellow undertones) often has a more earthy, muted quality.

The key takeaway here is that there’s more than one path to green. By understanding how different colors interact and influence one another, you can expand your color-mixing repertoire and create the perfect green for any project.

what colors make green quiz

Test your knowledge with this ultimate green trivia quiz

Test your color mixing know-how with this fun "What Colors Make Green" quiz! This quiz contains 10 questions that cover a range of topics related to mixing the color green.

1 / 10

What are the two primary colors that combine to make the color green?

2 / 10

What kind of colors are located opposite each other on the traditional color wheel model?

3 / 10

Which of the following combinations could NOT be blended together to make some shade of green?

4 / 10

How could you make an olive green shade that is muted and natural looking?

5 / 10

If you wanted to make a bright lime green color, what ratio should you use?

6 / 10

What is the name of the common color mixing tool that shows the interrelationships of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors?

7 / 10

What color can you add to green to darken it?

8 / 10

What color do you get when you mix orange with blue?

9 / 10

What color should you add to green to make it lighter?

10 / 10

Which color can be mixed with blue to create a range of green shades apart from yellow?

Your score is

The average score is 60%


Practical Applications of Color Mixing

In Art and Design

green arts

Understanding color mixing is a fundamental skill for any artist or designer. It’s not just about creating the right shade for your work; it’s also about understanding how colors interact, influence one another, and affect the overall mood and message of your design.

One of the primary benefits of mastering color mixing is the ability to create a unique, customized palette for your artwork or designs. This is especially useful in painting, where pre-mixed colors can sometimes fall short of the exact shade you need. By mixing your colors, you can achieve a level of nuance and subtlety that’s difficult to replicate with pre-mixed paints.

In the world of graphic design, understanding color mixing can help you create more effective and visually appealing designs. For instance, knowing how to mix complementary colors can help you create contrast, which can draw attention to key elements in your design. Conversely, mixing analogous colors can create a sense of harmony and cohesion, which can be calming and pleasing to the eye.

Finally, color mixing can also be a powerful tool for evoking specific emotions or responses. Different colors can have different psychological effects, and by carefully selecting and mixing your colors, you can influence how viewers perceive and respond to your work.

For example, a designer wanting to convey a sense of tranquility might choose to mix various shades of blue and green, as these colors are often associated with calm and serenity. On the other hand, an artist aiming to evoke excitement or passion might mix various shades of red and orange, which are typically associated with energy and warmth.

In Everyday Life

Color mixing isn’t just for artists and designers – it has practical applications in everyday life too. Understanding how colors interact can help you make better decisions in a variety of day-to-day contexts.

One common example is home decoration. The colors you choose for your walls, furniture, and decor can significantly impact the mood and feel of your space.

For instance, mixing warm colors like reds, oranges, and yellows can create a cozy, inviting atmosphere, while mixing cool colors like blues and greens can create a calm, serene environment.

By understanding how to mix and match colors effectively, you can create a living space that’s perfectly suited to your tastes and needs.

Another everyday application of color mixing is in clothing choices. Just like with home decor, the colors you wear can influence your mood and how others perceive you.

Mixing and matching different colors can help you create outfits that express your personal style and make you feel confident. For example, you might mix complementary colors to create a bold, high-contrast look, or mix analogous colors for a more harmonious, coordinated appearance.

Color mixing can also be useful in cooking and food presentation. By understanding how different colors combine and contrast, you can create visually appealing dishes that are more likely to whet the appetite. For example, contrasting the green of fresh herbs with the red of ripe tomatoes can make a simple pasta dish look more appealing and appetizing.

DIY Craft and Decor Projects Incorporating Custom Mixed Greens

shades of green home decor

Crafting and decorating with your custom mixed greens can add a unique and personal touch to your home. Here are some ideas based on my search results:

1. Painted Glassware: Using glass paints, you can create your own custom mixed green shades and apply them to glassware for a unique look. This could be done on vases, jars, or even wine glasses for a creative touch.

2. Wall Art: Create a piece of wall art using various shades of custom mixed greens. This could be an abstract painting, a landscape, or even a modern geometric design. The possibilities are endless and completely up to your style.

3. Wreaths and Garlands: These traditional decorations can be given a fresh twist with custom mixed greens. You could paint wooden beads or leaves in different shades of green and assemble them into a wreath or garland. This would add a unique and personal touch to your Christmas decor.

4. Furniture Upcycling: If you’re feeling adventurous, why not give an old piece of furniture a new lease of life with a coat of custom mixed-green paint? This could be a great way to incorporate your favorite shades of green into your home decor.

5. DIY Gifts: Handmade gifts are always a hit. Create jewelry, picture frames, or even homemade candles using custom mixed greens. These gifts will not only be unique but also show your loved ones how much effort you put into creating something special for them.

Historical & cultural facts

Absolutely! Here are some interesting snippets about the evolution of pigments, the use of greens in art, and green symbolism across cultures:

Evolution of Pigments:

  1. The first pigments were earth tones that early humans could easily make. They used these pigments to paint on the walls of caves.
  2. Artists invented the first pigments—a combination of soil, animal fat, burnt charcoal, and chalk—as early as 40,000 years ago.
  3. The evolution and function of multiple forms of a given photosynthetic pigment in vivo are discussed. ‘Accessory’ pigments may be regarded as rudiments of the past.
  4. The first chemically synthesized pigment was made in Germany in 1704 by Diesbach who was manufacturing red lake pigments.

Use of Greens in Art:

  1. Green pigments have been used by artists since the Middle Ages, often to depict verdant landscapes and the rich greenery of life.
  2. In the Renaissance, artists began using green earth pigments to underpaint flesh tones, due to its ability to neutralize red.

Green Symbolism Across Cultures:

  1. In many cultures, green represents new beginnings, growth, and abundance.
  2. In Western cultures, green is often associated with money, banking, ambition, and jealousy.
  3. In Eastern and Asian cultures, green symbolizes fertility, luck, health, and youth.
  4. In the Middle East, green is synonymous with wealth, fertility, and prosperity. It’s also a sacred color in Islam, symbolizing respect and the prophet Muhammad.
  5. In Irish culture, green is considered lucky – think of the ‘Luck of the Irish’ and the four-leaf clover.

These historical and cultural facts provide fascinating insights into the role and perception of green throughout history and across different cultures.

Expert Tips

When you’re working from a green reference, start your mixture with yellow first before adding any blue. Otherwise it can turn very dark and murky.” – Cass Art Mixing Greens Tutorial

I overlay a series of transparent glazes using complementary colors like crimson red over my leaf greens. This pops them with lively variation.” – Artist Sarah Sands in an interview with Artists Network

Keep pairs of analogous hues like viridian green and emerald green on your palette. Mixing within analogous ranges allows you to create clean secondary greens.” ― Samantha Strier, Color Mixing Recipes

When my minty or aqua greens look artificial, I shift them by introducing raw umber or raw sienna to enter an earthier, naturalistic green territory.” – Artist Stan Prokopenko, blog post

To give dull evergreen colors vibrancy, I floats glazes of deep transparent violet or violet blue over my oil green mixtures. This harmonizes them instantly.” – Michelle Morris


In conclusion, this article has delved into the fascinating world of color, specifically focusing on the various shades of green. We’ve explored the psychological effects of different shades of green, their significance in art and design, and the history and cultural symbolism attached to this vibrant color.

From understanding its dominance in nature to exploring its usage in art and interior design, we’ve seen how green can evoke a range of emotions and create different atmospheres. Whether it’s a bright, rejuvenating spring green, a tranquil olive green, or a bold, fertile dark green, the spectrum is wide and full of potential for creativity.

We’ve also had the privilege of hearing from experts in color theory, art, and interior design, providing us with deeper insights into the practical application and impact of green. Furthermore, we’ve taken a trip back in time to learn about the evolution of pigments and the historical use of green in art, as well as its symbolism across various cultures.

With all this newfound knowledge, I encourage you, dear readers, to experiment with color mixing. Try your hand at creating your unique shades of green. Remember, color is subjective and personal, so don’t be afraid to create a shade that speaks to you. Whether you’re an artist working on a new piece, a designer planning a space, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of color, let the world of green inspire you. Happy mixing!

Related: What Colors Make Gold?

how to blend green shades


What are your go-to pigments or paints for mixing a wide range of natural-looking greens?

You love cadmium yellow, sap green, and earth tones for mixing greens.

What color mixing “rules” do you often break when blending greens for vibrant painting effects?

You bend the guideline against black to get very deep forest hues.

How has your green mixing process evolved over the years as new pigments become available?

New greens like viridian vastly widened your range, though you mix classic emerald with azure and lemon yellow.

What unexpected color combinations have you discovered that yield rich, complex greens?

Without thinking, you once mixed yellow ochre and Prussian blue to make unbelievable grays!

How do you tweak your mixed greens using temperature, transparency, or complementary colors?

You glazed oranges over your greens to strengthen them.
Cooling with black, violets also helps.

When teaching color theory, what key lessons around mixing greens do students struggle with the most?

Most students overmix greens into a bland, dull brown. Learning restraint when adding complements takes practice.

What inspires the unique green palettes we see in your landscape or botanical paintings?

The uniqueness of each leaf and plants’ vein inspire me to capture nature’s variety through custom color mixing.

How important is understanding historical pigment properties and palettes to your modern color mixing process?

Studying masters like Monet, Cezanne showed me the magical greens possible even within a limited historical palette.

What advice haven’t we covered about mingling yellows and blues that you find critical for aspiring artists?

It’s vital to understand yellow and blue pigment intensity levels in order to predict the resulting green. More intense inputs equals more intense green.

If limited to only 5 pigments for foliage greens, which would make your palette and why?

With only 5 pigments, your go-to set would be cadmium yellow, sap green, payne’s gray, yellow ochre, and thalo blue.