Color Spotlight: Daniel Smith Serpentine Genuine

Daniel Smith Serpentine Genuine: Gradient, opacity & glazing, color mixes

Serpentine is a Primatek color, meaning it is make from the actual rock Serpentine. A granulating, earthy yellow-green with sienna flecks.

Experiment Results

Gradient: A very smooth granulating gradient. The color doesn’t get very dark, but it does go from a vibrant avocado to a pale, muted lime wash. At each one of these steps, although particularly in the midtone, you can see flecks of orange-brown granulation; to me, this makes the overall color look a bit grayish, but it’s a nice touch if you want muted and/or you’re painting something like moss on a sandstone rock.

Opacity: Slight dusting on the line. I’d agree with semi-transparent.

Glazing: A much deeper olive in glaze.

Comparison to Other Colors

Rich Green Gold

Rich Green Gold vs. Serpentine

Dry on the palette, Serpentine looks similar to Rich Green Gold, but painted out, you can see that Rich Green Gold is much yellower. Rich Green Gold is sort of a green-toned yellow ochre, while Serpentine is firmly in green territory.

In terms of mixes, Rich Green Gold adds a yellowy glow to its mixes, whereas Serpentine tends to mute them. Other than that, they follow the same basic yellow-green rules.

Other Primatek Greens (Green Apatite, Jadeite)

From left: Serpentine, Green Apatite, Jadeite

The most direct comparisons are to other Primatek granulating greens, like Jadeite and Green Apatite. Both are darker with a wider range of values; Green Apatite is an olive/sap green, and Jadeite is a cooler (blue-toned) forest green.

For both Jadeite and Green Apatite, I liked the unmixed colors better, but I found them both much trickier to mix. In both, the granulation has a tendency to separate and turn gray/black in mixes, especially when diluted. (High-pigment mixes look better.) At worst, its mixes look to me like if you ran a black crayon over the base color.

I initially avoided Serpentine because of its different-color granulation which I expected would make it behave similarly, but, surprisingly, Serpentine makes pretty, well-behaved mixes with nicely-mixed granulation! Dr. Oto Kano describes Serpentine as a “chameleon” with granulation that turns the color of whatever its mixing, which is exactly right. Mixed Serpentine looks more uniform compared to the separated mixes of Jadeite and Green Apatite.

Color Mixes

Lemon Yellow

Winsor Lemon (PY175) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Arches CP

This is one of those where I feel like the boldness of the one and the mutedness of the other do not mix nicely. I feel like I need to decide if I have a bold or a muted palette.

Rich Green Gold

DV Green Gold (PY129) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Arches

These are somewhat similar colors in hue but quite different in properties, and the mix is a juicy granulating yellow-green that reminds me of pickle brine.

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

Serpentine + MANS
DS Serpentine Genuine + DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7)

MANS is a nice way to tilt the Serpentine even more tan/brown for even dryer grass look.

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Wonder Forest paper

I like this gradient, which looks to me like a green meadow fading into dirt.

Transparent Red Oxide

Serpentine + Transparent Red Oxide
DS Serpentine Genuine + DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) on Canson XL

Range of browns. A touch of TRO turns the Serpentine into an avocado color.

Quin Rose

Serpentine + Quin Rose
DS Serpentine Genuine + Da Vinci Red Rose Deep (PV19) on Canson XL paper

Similar to Rich Green Gold, Serpentine behaves simultaneously as a green and a gold; a touch of PV19 tints the green more into a gold/orange area, and the mix is a sort of earthy coral brown.

Dioxazine Violet

Da Vinci Violet (PV23) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Canson XL

These are nearly complementary and make very muted dark browns, but they’re not my favorite browns. I find this to be a muddy mix.

Indanthrone Blue

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Arches

Indanthrone is a suitable color for adding dark shadows to Serpentine’s one-stroke meadow.

Ultramarine Blue

HO Ultramarine Deep (PB29) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Arches

Muted, granulating blue-greens; more sage than teal in balance.

Cobalt Blue

Serpentine + Cobalt Blue
DS Serpentine Genuine + DV Cobalt Blue (PB28) on Canson XL

Similar to Ultramarine mixes.

Phthalo Green

DS Serpentine Genuine + DV Phthalo Green (PG7) on Stilman & Birn Alpha

Nice granulating mixes in deep, saturated middle greens that are nicely in between the blueness of PGBS and yellowness of Serpentine. In juicy mixes, the Serpentine granulation is turned darker green by the Phthalo Green. The dilute mixes show more of the brownish granulation of dilute Serpentine.


Viridian + Serpentine
DV Viridian (PG18) + DS Serpentine Genuine on Arches

These are a similar hue and appearance to the Phthalo Green mixes, but with more complex granulation and lower tinting strength, which I guess is what you’d expect!

What Others Say

Wonderful for grassy meadows, with lovely flecks of brown in the green wash.

Jane Blundell

It is a wonderful mixing color with a very unexpected resultant palette that is soft and gentle.

Dr. Oto Kano

My Review

An interesting color that I actually like quite a lot unmixed. There aren’t a lot of single-pigment yellow-greens, and this one has cool flecks of brown/red-gold granulation. I don’t find this a convenience color for foliage where I live, but it’s perfect for a one-stroke grassy meadow, especially in summer when the grass is somewhat sun-bleached.

I was primarily interested in painting this cloud, but I’m really happy with the grass on the lower right, which is just two strokes of unmixed Serpentine.

As a mixer, it’s not my favorite, because it’s rather weak and tends to be subsumed by whatever it mixes. (This may be due to the fact that I favor very strong colors like Phthalos in my palette.) It does lend a bit of granulation to its mixes, even with non-granulating colors. I like it best with other greens. The mixes with blues and with warm colors tend to dull and brownish.

I don’t use this all that often, but for one-stroke grassy fields, it’s just amazing.

On my palette? Yes, but I go back and forth between back-burnering it to a B-team.

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