During the first half of the 19th century, the new color Chromium oxide green began to be used in art. A French paint manufacturer, Pannetier, made the paint according to a secret recipe.

Somewhat later it was discovered that if the pigment Chromium oxide green was heated strongly and then reacted with water, it absorbed water molecules and changed color got other properties, this became the pigment viridian, or in Swedish, and several other languages: emerald green (Emerald green shall not to be confused with the Emerald green which is a very toxic color that is no longer used but whose name lives on in various color mixtures).

Both colors are still available as watercolor paint, the first is sold under the name Chromium oxide green and the other has the name Viridian.

chromium oxide green Phthal green viridian
A comparison of chromium oxide green, on the left. Phthal green Blue Shade in the middle and viridian on the right.

Viridian is a color that probably needs to be mixed with others before it becomes useful. Unmixed, it is a very pure green that it looks unnatural. With a little yellow in the viridian, you can get the most beautiful natural green colors, With a little cold red color you soften the aggressive tone, the color becomes calmer with red. With the help of a cold red and a yellow, you can mix everything from light Sap Green to dark Hooker’s green.

viridian + ultramarine violet.
If you read about color theory, one of the “truths” is that it is not possible to mix to a primary color of other colors. That may not be entirely true, like this beautiful blue color that can be mixed with viridian and ultramarine violet.

The name viridian comes from the Latin name for green: viridis. The color is bluish green and it granulates. Since the pigment is expensive, it is sometimes falsified in cheaper colors, often with phthal green blue shade, so it is important to be careful when you buy the color so that it really is viridian and not a cheap replacement. Some manufacturers “improve” the color by mixing in another pigment.

Examples of cheap colors with fake pigment:

WINSOR & NEWTON : COTMAN PG7 (Phthal green BS)
SHINHAN PG7 (Phthal green BS)
Daler-Rowney Aquafine PG7 (Phthal green BS)
Daler-Rowney Artists Watercolour PB36, PG7 ( Cerulean blue + (Phthal green BS))

Examples of colors that are mixed but contain viridian

SENNELIER PG18, PG7 (viridian + (Phthal green BS))
OLD HOLLAND: VIRIDIAN GREEN LIGHT PG18, PY3 (viridian+Arylide yellow)
OLD HOLLAND: VIRIDIAN GREEN DEEP PB29, PG18 (French Ultramarine+viridian)

Examples of manufacturers using real pigment:

WINSOR & NEWTON PG18 (Viridian)
BLOCKX PG18 (Viridian)
DANIEL SMITH PG18 (Viridian)
SCHMINCKE PG18 (Viridian)
M. GRAHAM PG18 (Viridian)
LUKAS PG18 (Viridian)
MAIMERIBLU PG18 (Viridian)
HOLBEIN PG18 (Viridian)

Viridian is very similar to phthalogreen blue tone but has completely different properties, Viridian granulates, phthalo does not. Viridian is not staining, phthalo is very staining and it dries with a hard edge. Viridian has a slightly softer appearance than phthalo, it is not as loud green. You who do not like the angry green tone in phthalate green but want a color with a little more character, and is calmer, maybe viridian is worth trying.

viridian + Quinacridone Rose can be mixed to a nice gray color.
The complementary color to viridian is a cold red, here Quinacridone Rose, they can be mixed to a nice gray color.


Pigment: PG18
Lightfastness: Excellent
Transparency: The color is transparent
Staining: No
Granules: Yes, quite strongly

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2 years ago

I’m trying to reduce colors in my palette, but the more I read, the harder that gets! Lol! I know this is subjective, but, in general, what do you think would be the best (less redundant) way to go?:

Viridian + Phthalo Green ys
Phthalo Green bs + Phthalo Green bs


Reply to  Debra
1 year ago

Don’t reduce colors in your palette. Have more palettes!

Seriously, though… Viridian never fades no matter how diluted. Phthalo greens fade.

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