Color Spotlight: Sap Green

Daniel Smith – Sap Green

Sap Green isn’t one pigment, but is an informal name for any number of muted green mixes that are meant to make natural-looking foliage greens. As opposed to Hooker’s Green, which is more of a middle green, Sap Green tends to be a bit more on the yellow side. Some formulations are yellow-green, and others are muted ochre-green. Sap Greens can therefore vary a lot from brand to brand. I’ll start by reviewing the Daniel Smith one and then compare to some other brands.

Experiment Results

Formula: Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7) + Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) + Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48).

Note that PY150 + PO48 = Quin Gold, so you can approximate this color by mixing Phthalo Green Blue Shade + Quin Gold.

Gradient: Dark olive in masstone, through shades of muted yellow-green.

Granulation: Medium granulating.

Transparency: Transparent.

Glazing: Glazes to a very dark olive.

Color Mixes: Many shades of brownish green. With reds, becomes brown. With blues, makes a more middle green.

Comparison to Other Brands

Every Sap Green I’ve tried has been quite different because each brand has their own special mix.

From left: Mission Gold Sap Green; Daniel Smith Sap Green; Holbein Sap Green; Da Vinci Sap Green

Mission Gold – Sap Green

Mission Gold – Hooker’s Green (left) vs. Sap Green (right)

Formula: Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36) + Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150)

Interestingly, Mission Gold’s Hooker’s Green is more muted than its Sap Green; typically Hooker’s Green is brighter.

The Sap Green is a bright, yellowy green with no granulation and a high dispersal rate. Similar to some formulations of Phthalo Yellow Green or Green Gold.

Like many Mission Gold colors, I found both of these had a tendency to pool and get shiny in the masstone, with Sap Green being more volatile.

Holbein – Sap Green

Holbein – Sap Green

Formula: Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7) + Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) + Quinacridone Magenta (PR122)

Another bright, transparent, non-granulating yellow-green. Slightly more muted than Mission Gold’s version because of the addition of a magenta for muting.

Da Vinci – Sap Green

Da Vinci – Sap Green

Formula: Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7) + synthetic Yellow Iron Oxide (PY42)

The most granulating and muted option I tried, and also one of the most difficult to handle with a poor gradient, accidental puddling, and a weak tinting strength with little variation between masstone and dilute. In hue, it is more brownish than Daniel Smith’s variety.

Winsor & Newton – Permanent Sap Green (PG36, PY110)

Winsor & Newton – Permanent Sap Green (PG36, PY110)

Formula: Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36) + Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110)

This mix is how I’d most likely whip up this color on my own palette, since I have both of these colors, so it’s at best an unnecessary convenience color for me. But I was disappointed that I didn’t find it even as nice as my home mix of these pigments. The tinting strength is just bizarrely low, which I find puzzling because both its component parts are pretty high tinting.

Da Vinci – Denise’s Green (PY129, PB60)

Da Vinci – Denise’s Green (PY129, PB60)

Formula: Rich Green Gold (PY129) + Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

It’s not called Sap Green, but this green mix holds a similar palette role as a naturalistic, somewhat dull green. It also happens to be made using a combination I really like. I did find some of its behavior odd here, like the way it pushed itself away from the dry ink in my transparency test bar. Like many DV colors, it gets a bit shiny in masstone.

What Others Say

Sap green pigment was originally made from the juice of green buckthorn berries, and was totally fugitive. While it is easy to mix your own sap green, a well chosen version that you like can be useful in the palette as a starting point.

Jane Blundell

Liz Steel used Daniel Smith Sap Green as a convenience green for many years, but is lukewarm about it.

I’m not 100% convinced that Daniel Smith Sap Green is the best option [for a convenience green] but it’s the best I’ve found to date. The hue is okay (tube greens always seem to be a little artificial looking) but my major frustration with this paint is its dispersiveness caused by the PY150. Exploding sap green is sometimes nice, but often I have to carefully choose the order of my washes to avoid murky results (ie. when painting red flowers, I will paint the green leaves first as sap green going into the red isn’t pretty). 

Liz Steel

Spoiler: she later switched to a homebrew green mix of Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Medium and Schmincke French Ultramarine. (Another tip from Liz, if the reason you use a convenience green is to keep your yellow clean, you could just add another pan of yellow – clean and dirty.)

My Review of Sap Green

I don’t think I really need this color. The yellower versions (Holbein, Mission Gold) are extremely easy to approximate with any yellow or Rich Green Gold plus any Phthalo Green or Blue. As for the more muted versions (Daniel Smith, Da Vinci), I simply dislike Da Vinci, and the Daniel Smith is easy to mix with Quin Gold and Phthalo Green, two colors I already use on my palette. Basically mixing any Phthalo Green with any yellow-orange/sienna/ochre/gold type of color should do it.

In terms of a convenience green, I don’t think these shades are the ones I want often enough to justify their own dedicated slot / saving me the mixing time. I typically want bluer greens for my natural landscape, so Hooker’s Green might be a better match.

On my palette? No.

Favorite version: If I were going to pick one, I’d probably go with Holbein as a nice spring green option, or Daniel Smith for a more muted hue.

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