Color Consciousness: Greens

In the last post I told you that zinc yellow, cobalt blue, and fuchsia produced the most vibrant colors of any of the possible combinations of 3 Premo primaries.  At that point, you just had to take my word for it. In this post we will compare the three blues (turquoise, cobalt blue and ultramarine) mixed with each of the yellows (zinc yellow and cadmium yellow) to see if my observation holds true for the greens. (We will look at oranges and purples in future posts.)

Premo Blues with Zinc Yellow

In the image above, the blues are mixed with increasing amounts of zinc yellow.  On my screen (and I hope on yours) the bottom two strips are more vibrant than the top one. Both of them contain clear, gem-like greens, but the bottom strip is a bit paler than the middle strip. It also lacks the “true” blue we see in middle strip. The differences are due to the fact that turquoise (seen in the bottom strip) is lighter than cobalt blue and it has strong yellow undertones.  In a sense, turquoise is a blue that is already “part-way to green.” You might also notice that the turquoise strip turns to lime green before (with less added yellow) than the cobalt strip does. This is because turquoise is a “wimpy” blue compared to cobalt: It doesn’t have as much tinctorial power.  Somewhat surprising is the fact that ultramarine is also wimpier than cobalt blue. Even though ultramarine is darker than cobalt, cobalt has more tinctorial power.

Now lets look at the top strip (reproduced below).  Ultramarine has red undertones. This causes the greens to be deep and somewhat muddy.[This is not to say the greens aren’t beautiful, they are just not as pure (saturated) as the first set of greens.]  Whenever we add a third primary to a mixture of the two others, we reduce the purity (“desaturate” it).  The greens in this strip look somewhat “olivey” compared to those in the other strips.  If we wanted to make a mixture of cobalt blue and zinc yellow “olivey,” all we would have to do is add a tiny amount of red to a yellow-green.

Now lets look at the same blues mixed with cadmium yellow. All of the greens are a bit  muddy compared with those above. This is because cadmium yellow has red

Premo Blues with Cadmium Yellow

undertones, so whenever we add cadmium yellow to blue we are adding a little red at the same time. When we add cadmium yellow to ultramarine blue we are adding yellow with some red in it to a blue that also has some red in it and the mixture is even more desaturated (below).

Ultramarine mixed with Zinc Yellow (top) and Cadmium Yellow (bottom)

All of these colors are needed if we want to produce rich, sumptuous color combinations in our work. Lest you think I’m preferentially promoting saturated greens here are some desaturated greens I love.


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18 Responses to Color Consciousness: Greens

  1. I am really into mixing colors with clay. I especially love using greens, there is so much to play witb

  2. Good Tute. Thanks.

    Because I am somewhat color-blind I have to be careful (colors have to be very bright before I can see them). I have had to mix all my colors so that they do not not clash with each other. Unfortunately, Premo is discontinuing all three of my primaries: Blue Pearl (which is the same as Cobalt Blue, only shiney), Florescent Yellow and Florescent Pink. I have found they give me the truest, most vibrant colors. I like the greens, purples and even the oranges they make.
    I am not sure if I want to clay with the new colors. They aren’t very pretty to me.

    • clsdesigns says:

      Thanks, Byrd. I understand your feelings. I’m not sure I want to teach if Polyform doesn’t put zinc yellow and cobalt blue back on the shelves!

  3. Debbie Goodrow says:

    Thank you again. These tutes are so clear and informative. These would be incredibly helpful to anyone starting out in polymer clay…. and probably anyone working in any kind of color. This is very, very helpful, and visual, and makes instant sense when you see what you’re talking about.

  4. Hazel says:

    Another fascinating post 🙂 I’m so glad you showed exactly what you meant with the Skinner blends: it really helped show the difference in saturation.

  5. Tif B says:

    Hi, I’m a new clayer! This is an EXCELLENT demonstration for me of the difference between the two yellows and the three blues! I’ve bookmarked your site & been with you on FB for a while now. I appreciate your blog; thank you!

    The colors were discernibly different on my monitor. And reposting the strips you were talking about further down in the article was very helpful, too!

    Tif B
    Louisville, KY

  6. Linda C says:

    Thank you so much posting the color consciousness information. It is very eye opening to see the results of the blue and yellow blendings with the strips placed so close together. Wonderful post and I am looking forward to continued learning through your next color mixing.

  7. I’ve enjoyed reading this series of posts. They are so thoughtful and informative. Thanks for articulating what it is that we see. Your use of the skinner blends lays it out for us and makes sense of it all. Well done!

  8. Great post Carol! I hear you on the frustrations of trying to teach color mixing without Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow on the shelves. Although technically the two colors are still available in a couple of online stores, the fact that they are not available everywhere that Premo is sold (ie Michaels and other big box craft store), makes it so that the average consumer simply will not purchase them. Making it quite difficult for us instructors to deal with.

    Some time ago, I suggested that they make up ‘Artist’s Packs’ which contain small amounts of all the artist primaries. That way, even the less popular colors like cobalt and zinc yellow, would get sold right along with the other colors. Looks like they have now come out with Premo Accents sampler packs, but unfortunately cobalt and zinc yellow were not included. Hopefully with a little more pressure from all of us, we can see this changed. Otherwise, our color mixing hands will be frustratingly tied!

  9. miriam says:

    hola ,soy de argentina y no vi en toda la web algo parecido a lo tuyo ,mi consulta es muy dificil aprender sin un curso ? muy bello lo tuyo ,gracias

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