In antiquity, green was available to artists in the form of natural green earth and minerals such as malachite. The ancient greeks created Verdigris by exposing copper to acetic acid and scraping off the green crust that formed. Verdigris remained one of the most widely used green pigments until the 19th Century, when Emerald Green, Cobalt Green, and Viridian were discovered. All three pigments were integral to the palettes of the Impressionists. A spectrum of greens can be mixed with various blue and yellow pigments, but a single pigment green can be useful nevertheless – they can be used as a starting point for mixing others greens, or to neutralise strong reds.
Here is a guide to the green pigments used in artist paints today according to the Pigment Colour Index, identified by the prefix PG. Find out more about the Colour Index and why it is useful to artists in this post.
Each swatch is an example of an artist paint that uses that particular pigment, and the actual colour may vary. You can click on each swatch to go to the paint that is pictured.
PG 7 – Phthalocyanine Green
Colour Description: Cool green with blue undertones
Phthalo Green pigment absorbs more blue light than Phthalo Blue (PB 15), and this is achieved by chlorinating copper phthalocyanine pigment. It is a velvety colour with very deep, blue undertones. Try mixing it with Pyrrole Red (PR 254, PR 255, or PR264) to make a chromatic black, or with a lemon yellow (like PY 175) to make bright spring-greens.
PG 17 – Chromium Oxide Green
Colour Description: Dense yellow-green
Chromium Oxide Green was first produced in 1798. It is a dense, opaque, and slighty dull pigment, but it can be an interesting colour to use in underpainting for portraits, as well as for depicting foliage in botanical work. When mixed with lots of Titanium White (PW 6) it makes a pale lemon colour.
PG 18 – Viridian
Colour Description: Cool green with blue undertones
Viridian can be found in the paintings of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, and continues to be a popular pigment today. It is relatively dark-valued when used straight from the tube, and can be used to make some dark mixtures. Viridian’s blue hue is revealed in glazes and in tints with white, where it makes a sky-blue. Try mixing it with Alizarin Crimson (PR 83) for a deep black, or with Raw Sienna (PBr 7) for rich, natural greens. You can find out more about Viridian and its mixing possibilities here.
PG 19 – Cobalt Green Pale
Colour Description: Ranges from a blue-toned, almost turquoise green, to a yellow-green
Discovered in 1780 by Swedish chemist Sven Rinman and as a result, it is sometimes known as Rinman’s Green. The more zinc oxide that is present in the formulation, the paler the pigment. Find out more about Cobalt pigments in this article.
PG 23 – Green Earth
Colour Description: Ranges from a blue-shade green, to a yellow-shade green
Transparency/Opacity: Transparent to semi-transparent
Also known as Terre Verte, natural green earths contain silica clay and green minerals. Like the other earth pigments, they have been used since prehistoric times. Most Terre Verte and green earth pigments are very delicate with a low tinting strength that makes them unassertive in mixtures, but they are characterful pigments in their own right and can be used to neutralise red and orange pigments, or in underpaintings for portraits (a technique known as verdaccio, which can help create life-like flesh tones).
PG 26 – Cobalt Green
Colour Description: Ranges from turquoise blue to dark forest greens
PG26 (cobalt chrome oxide) is the deepest variety of Cobalt Green. It is a muted, low tinting colour that is highly granulating in watercolour. Try mixing it with Unbleached Titanium White (PW 6:1) to make soft yellow-greens. Find out more about Cobalt pigments in this article.
PG 36 – Phthalocyanine Green Yellow Shade
Colour Description: Bright green with yellow undertones
Usually a little more expensive than the other Phthalo pigments, Phthalo Green Yellow Shade is made by treating copper phthalocyanine with bromine. It is unique among Phthalo pigments in that it has a very yellow undertone. It makes an interesting addition to a landscape palette when mixed with earth colours and makes some deep blacks when mixed with red. Find out more about Phthalo pigments in this article.
PG 50 – Cobalt Green
Colour Description: Ranges from a bright teal blue to a yellowish-green
When it comes to PG 50, there is a lot of variation in the colour and handling characteristics between different paint manufacturers. The teal blue variety is a particularly useful pigment – it has a high tinting strength and opacity and is a versatile mixer. Try combining it with Perinone Orange (PO 36) or Burnt Sienna (PBr 7) to make a range of greens for landscape painting.
This post is part of an ongoing series about the Pigment Colour Index.
- White Pigments (Codes beginning PW)
- Yellow Pigments (Codes beginning PY)
- Orange Pigments (Codes beginning PO)
- Red Pigments (Codes beginning PR)
- Violet Pigments (Codes beginning PV)
- Blue Pigments (Codes beginning PB)
You can also read our Pigment Stories series to find out about the history behind some widely used pigments.