Painting Great Greens!

Green is a color that students often take for granted.  When painting greens, many will default to just using the green in their paint set.  This results in paintings that lack depth and interest.  With some basic color mixing instruction, kids can paint a variety of greens and greatly improve their paintings at the same time!  

  • 9×12 white construction paper or watercolor paper
  • Watercolor set (I like the Prang OVL-8 set)
  • Watercolor brush (#8 – #12 round is good)
  • Water and container


1. The first step is to help kids “see like artists” by recognizing the vast array of greens that are all around us in nature.  Bring in plant and leaf samples, take a nature walk, examine the work of famous plein aire painters like Claude Monet, or simply look out the window!  Point out the subtle and not-so-subtle variations in the variety of greens that most people (not just kids!) may otherwise overlook.  The photo below is one example of the variety of greens you’ll find in nature: 

Imagine if you used only the green in your paint set to paint this picture!
2. Use a color wheel to show how green (a secondary color) is created by mixing yellow and blue (primary colors).  The color wheel will show how by varying the ratio of yellow to blue, you can change the green that results.  

3. Now, paint some greens!  Mix as many different greens as you can by varying the amounts of yellow and blue as you mix them together.  Each time you mix a new variation of green, paint a small swatch on your paper.  

4. Next, try adding yellow and/or blue in varying amounts to the green that’s already in your paint set, for an even greater variety of greens.  

5. Then, take your greens a step further by mixing a green and adding a tiny amount of black to it.  Do the same with red, orange, purple and brown.  (Just make sure that each new color still looks “green-ish“!)  The goal is to paint as many different greens as possible.  See who can paint the most greens!

6. Finally, use your new color mixing experience to paint a jungle (or other nature scene) using as many different greens as you can.  Notice how much more lively your paintings look when you use a variety of greens and not just the green in your paint set!

Even very young children can be taught to mix a range of greens that more accurately reflect the amazing variety of greens all around us.  Try this exercise with your students…. they (and you!) will never take greens for granted again!

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4 Responses to Painting Great Greens!

  1. Ms. 'Lavender' July 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    It is very hard to limit yourself to one color. However, art paired with my love of plants and ecosystems make this a very exciting possiblity. I loved the color swatches! I also added you to my homepage for future inspiration to the up coming school year. Thanks

  2. Cath July 27, 2011 at 5:23 am #

    What a simple, great idea! Thanks!

  3. Arts and Crafts for Kids July 28, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    That's a really genuine way of letting kids “see like an artist”! Very inspiring and easy to implement to your own set of kids :-)

  4. Amy September 1, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I took this and brought it into a color mixing lesson. It was a lot of fun. Thank you for the great idea.