Plein Air Painting-Before You Mix GREENS For Plein Air Landscapes | READ THIS!

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

Written ByTerry Ouimet

Plein Air Oil Painter, specializing in mountain landscapes

Blog | Uncategorized

October 6, 2021


Hey there PAINTERS!


Are your plein air landscape greens looking like a bad St Patricks Day party?

Painting summer greens can be so exhilarating, but turn into a muddy mess of pea green soup if we are not careful!

Here are couple good tips to make your plein air landscape greens have more depth and interest.


Tip #1  Simultaneous Contrast

Say what? I know, but this is so important. This color theory observation states that for any given color the eye simultaneously requires the complimentary color and generates it spontaneously in your brain if it is not present. (credit: Itten) In English, our eyes like to see the complimentary color of whatever color we are looking at. 

This is a very real optical sensation in the eye of the beholder and we can use this crucial information to make our plein air landscape paintings more beautiful! 

How you ask? Easy. Painting green trees? Look for reds or purples in the shadows of the trees. Don’t just paint boring dark earthtone colors for shadows. Give the viewers eye what it wants, the complimentary color! It’s there anyway according to color theorists so paint it. 

Try this experiment at home like the photo below in one of my YouTube videos, or watch me explain it in the video

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

If you stare long enough at the small gray square inside the green square, it will start to appear a reddish color. (Complimentary color of green) And the gray square surrounded by the red square will itself appear greenish due to simultaneous contrast. 

How cool is that? The gray squares actually take on new colors. 

So, let’s look for oppportunities to put complimentary colors side by side in our plein air landscape paintings, its’s what your viewers want.


Tip#2  Atmospheric Windows


I like to look out at the landscape and pretend there are 3 clear glass atmospheric windows or curtains coming down from the sky to the ground. One in the foreground, middleground and back ground.

When you mix your greens, consider the foreground, middleground and back ground and what those greens should look like through “Atmospheric Windows.”  The back ground atmospheric window will show different colors and values than the foreground window.

A big mistake that beginner plein air painters make is painting your backround greens to dark and vibrant for example. Your foreground greens should have the most color, vibrancy or chroma and be the darkest. They will be your warmest and coolest greens.

Your greens in the middle ground should be your middle values and temperature, not to dark or light, not to warm or cool-but more in the middle.

As you lead your viewers eye to the background of your painting, those greens should be cooler in temperature and lighter and value.

All of this can help you show atmospheric depth and interest in your plein air landscape paintings. I think if you take tihs approach and have a plan for your greens, your plein air paintings will read properly and look more beautiful!

Here is the link the the full video on YouTube; Before You Mix GREENS For Plein Air Landscapes | WATCH THIS!




I hope these tips will help you create more beautiful landscape oil paintings.

If you would like to watch my YouTube videos plein air painting in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado, click here below.

Learning Plein Air YouTube channel

Learning Plein air YouTube Channel

Consider subscribing to the channel if you want to join our rapidly growing community of beginner plein air oil painters, we would love to have you!


I’ll see you up in the mountains.

Terry Ouimet


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