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Landscape Painting In Spring: Tips For Using Green

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Pastel painting of a field with yellow flowers, distant mountains, and a gray-blue sky with white and gray clouds.

Oh to to be an artist in springtime! With the world newly green again, it can be both a thrilling and challenging time for landscape painters. Spring-greens are fleeting, add in the fickle weather and there's really not much time for studying this unique color palette before it morphs into the lush deep-greens of summer. Often leaning towards acid-yellow, the greens of spring can be bright and it's easy for them to appear unnatural. So here are my top tips for using green effectively when painting the spring landscape.

1. Balance your palette: Temper brighter yellow-greens with cooler colors like violet, purple, blue, blue-green, brown, and cool versions of red. These colors are found in the spring landscape, it's just easy to overlook them in the midst of all that green, so remember to use them!

2. Keep your distance: Warm colors come forward and cool colors move backward. it can be challenging to create a sense of depth in spring paintings because there's so much yellow-green in the landscape. To ensure you have depth, use a variety of yellow-greens: ones with more yellow for the foreground, and ones with more blue for the background. (For more tips about warm and cool colors, check out this post: What Is Color Temperature?)

3. Don't forget about gray: Gray might be a color most often associated with winter landscapes, but faraway spring-greens can often have a gray tone. So added gray over, under, or near green can help keep those bright hues in check.

4. Acidic-green is different from acid green: There are lots of shades of yellow-green, stay away from anything that approaches the neon family. It can help to think about selecting colors that have more yellow or olive notes, rather than a light or minty cast.

5. Don't get too bright: The first greens to emerge are often still surrounded by cooler, duller winter colors, so it can be easy to perceive them as being very bright. Try selecting colors that are a little duller than you think they should be and save the brightest colors for just a few finishing touches.

Vertical painting showing back-lit trees. The background foliage glows yellow-green.

The best way to understand spring greens is to observe them. Paint plein air, bring some greens outside and make a swatch pallet of the colors you see, or simply take a few moments to study the colors whenever you're outside.

Happy painting and happy spring!

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