Replacing a paint color

In a limited palette of just twenty colors, each one needs to be a “go to” hue. While adding fresh paint recently, I realized that Chromium Green was virtually untouched. It’s a strong, neutral green, but has a milky look to it that doesn’t really fit the way I paint. So, out it goes. But what to put in its place?

Rooting through my tackle box yielded 6 candidates: Rare Green Earth, Undersea, Olive, Pthalo Yellow/Green, Cobalt Turquoise and Pthalo Turquoise.

Sure, turquoise isn’t really a green, but I’m allowed artistic license!

After doing quick paint swatches and lifting tests, I painted a series of blended strips. Each green stayed in the same location as on the test chart for easy reference. I wet a small rectangle, dropped in the green, then added one of six colors that are used frequently:

Everything mixed well with Transparent Red Oxide
Raw Sienna gave some muddier blends, although it tempered Pthalo Y/G beautifully.
Cadmium Orange was another winner, looking great with everything but Pthalo Turquoise.
At this point, with Van Dyck Brown, I knew Rare Green Earth (top left) was out – it’s a finicky color I would lose patience with…
Cobalt Blue looked great across the board, and I love the sky colors created when it mixed with Cobalt Turquoise!
The final, deciding color was Imperial Purple – it usually blends enthusiastically, but turned into a bit of a muddle with Undersea…

As you can see, Pthalo Turquoise dropped out pretty quickly. Almost identical to Cobalt Turquoise, it lacked the granulation Cobalt gave. Rare Green Earth was next to go. It’s very grey, which was interesting, but it likes to sit where you put it and needs lots of coaxing to move. Undersea would probably have a home in a larger palette.

Oh, if I only had three spaces instead of one!!

The finalists came down to three: Olive, Pthalo Y/G and Cobalt Turquoise. Olive will go into the “working stash” and be used for horsey browns. Cobalt Turquoise will replace Chromium Green, and Pthalo Y/G will replace either New Gamboge or Quinacridone Gold. (Another round of testing ahead!)

I’m a firm believer that the better you know your colors, the more likely you are to get predictable results in watercolor. This entire testing process took about 90 minutes, and was a great way to get to know these six greens.