Phthalo Green in a Landscape

Days 60-63 / 100 of my #100daychallenge.

Let’s talk about phthalo green, particularly in a landscape.

In my opinion, using phthalo green in a landscape is one of the fastest ways to make a landscape look fake. It’s such a beautiful color, but it’s incredibly (insanely?) vivid. If you observe nature carefully, you quickly notice that phthalo green is not found quite so often. Certain plants, tropical waters, and bird feathers come to mind.

Let me just show you what I mean. I’ve been experimenting recently with adding phthalo green into my limited palette, just to explore this unfamiliar color.

Above is a Ghibli inspired landscape (recognize it from Princess Mononoke?) therefore I was going for that almost-fantasy feel. Phthalo green worked perfectly to help me achieve that sort of otherworldly effect. In a normal (real) forest you wouldn’t find quite so much intense emerald green everywhere. But it was needed for capturing this Ghibli world more accurately.

So how about painting a regular landscape? The painting below is a local view of the Scottish highlands in summer. Green fields at sunset. As soon as I add phthalo green, it takes us to another world (see photo on the left). On the right, I color-corrected it to be a bit more yellow and even just that tiny amount of correction helped bring it back to earth (but still not quite).

My last example is a painting where I used phthalo green in the distant elements, following the rules of atmospheric perspective.

Example of phthalo green in a landscape
Example of phthalo green in a landscape

The results are more “down to earth” but still…that POP of color in the distant trees is hella distracting. Yea, I said it.

In conclusion…I recommend that you only use phthalo green in a landscape as follows:

  • sparingly
  • for very specific foliage (like more tropical) or certain objects like bird feathers
  • when you want a bit of “fantasy” in your landscape.

What are your thoughts?

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I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

4 thoughts on “Phthalo Green in a Landscape

  1. Yeah, as a “must have” color, I *hate* phthalo green.

    That said, I have it in my primary palette, simply because it’s such an amazing color to mix with… a tiny bit goes a very long way. If you want something similar, there’s always viridian — though it hardens to a small rock if you squeeze some into an empty half-pan.

    Daniel Smith has some excellent single pigment greens in their PrimaTek line, you may want to check them out as well.

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