“Like emotions, colours are a reflection of life.” – Janice Glennaway (from Irene Osborne)
Most greens fall into the yellow spectrum following the colors of leaves, grass and other growing things of the natural world. These greens usually produce a nice mud color if mixed with red. The discovery of Viridian green changed that, creating a clear bluish green perfect for cooler uses and making a better glazing green. Mixed with alizarin crimson, viridian makes a beautiful grey, similar to Payne’s grey. Viridian next to red creates an energetic drama.
In the early nineteenth century, painters began looking for a less toxic green than the highly toxic emerald green. Painting Through the Ages states that viridian is Chromium oxide Dihydrate and was first patented in 1859 by Guignet of Paris. It quickly became a widely used color. So popular now it is even seen in the paint of cars as in the new Chevy Volt. For artists, viridian’s uses vary according to artist but remains very popular and a “must have” right next to alizarin crimson.
Golden Paints says viridian green has excellent permanency. And Gamblin says viridian is very good as a tint. Paintmaking.com and others state viridian is excellent for oil painters but not the best green for water-based media. Its transparent qualities and tinting ability do not hold up as well in acrylics, watercolor or gouache.
The writer of the website Paintmaking advises to pay attention to the quality of viridian as some manufacturers may not fully purify the pigment leaving problematic traces of borate and chromate. In the case of Viridian, apparently, you will get what you pay for so test the different brands. The quality is worth the price.
For oil painters, viridian makes a beautiful cool green for shade, water and other areas the yellowish greens would tend to heat up. Few artists use it straight, usually diluting it with titanium white, ultramarine or alizarin. Straight or mixed, viridian will grab attention, even in the shade.
For the daring, here is a guide to mixing your own viridian from Painting Through the Ages.
A color guide of the many beautiful mixes that can be made with viridian is demonstrated by Colorbay.com.
Wetcanvas.com has an excellent discussion (here) posted of artists explaining their uses of viridian green. Very informative!
Happy shady painting!