What Colors Make Gray? | Color Mixing with the Main Colors

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What Colors Make Gray? | Color Mixing with the Main Colors

Another option is to use a pair of complementary colors (one primary and one secondary), like blue and orange, green and red, or yellow and purple. These are just a few of the many combinations that are possible, but they are a great

It drizzled on and off while I painted Artramon House, Ireland (watercolor on paper, 14×16) en plein air. And, it was windy and chilly. The purple (French ultramarine and alizarin crimson) and yellow ochre combination, with the former being dominant to create the gray areas, worked well to catch the mood.
Learning how to utilize gray can breathe life into our artwork. But, to maintain the transparency of watercolor, we do not wish to add white to black to produce grey. And, while they’re lovely colours, using pre-mixed grays like Payne’s gray or Davy’s grey can seem flat if they’re overused in a painting. So, what to do?
Implementing this idea to our color choices helps us create more harmony and impact in our job. As an example, a bright color pops when neutrals surround it, while a dash of a trendy hue stands out among warm colors. Gray can be subtle or make a solid statement. What colours make grey? The colour isn’t straightforward, but we can benefit from its own complexities and evocative quality to create mood and atmosphere within a painting. I will learn more about the power of gray and clarify my paint mixes for mixing and using warm and cool grays.
Vibrant colors don’t sing without neutrals. Light does not shine without shadow. Large shapes only seem large when put alongside something smaller. Creating a harmonious connection of opposites–bright/neutral, light/ dark, positive/negative–at a painting is a balancing act. I try to highlight the dynamics of dichotomy by using this yinyang theory that two opposing components are a complete, with just one complementing the other.

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In my view, gray seems more intriguing when it is mixed from other colors. Bearing this in mind, it is important to choose paints that mix well. While the amount of ways of creating beautiful grays is endless, the simplest may be to combine the three primary colors–red, yellow and blue.


Harness the power, or embrace the subtlety, of this versatile hue by mixing your own variations using primary colors.

To capture the arid landscape of this island in southern Italy, I desired a variety of warm neutral colours for Sicilian Landscape I (watercolor on paper, 13×19). I utilized a viridian/ alizarin crimson combination for a base shade of grey. I included burnt sienna, burnt umber or yellow ochre to neutralize it even more.
I utilized Winsor orange with a hint of cobalt blue to create a warm grey during the painting.

Intrigued and inspired by the soft warm glow in this sky before sunset, I wanted orange to permeate Venice Market II (watercolor on paper, 23x17). I used Winsor orange with a hint of cobalt blue to create a warm gray throughout the painting.
Investigate grays, primarys, and each of the colors that inspire you with all the Savoir-Faire Four Elements of Watercolor Kit. You’ll have all the exceptional essentials for an inspiring exploration of your favorite medium! Order your kit today and paint alongside Keiko!
Watercolor artist Keiko Tanabe invites us into her studio to learn color mixing together with her. She reveals how subtle neutrals can be — even made out of primary colours — and answers that a favorite question: what colours create gray? Enjoy this movie of Keiko exploring the world around her and in work creating a lovely watercolor! Listen as she speaks through her process and generates magical minutes on the surface of her painting. Sponsored by Savoir-Faire.
• Raphaël SoftAqua No. 6, Raphaël kolinsky Series 8404 No. 14

Measure Two

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Step 5

Since the initial wash dries, I immediately add darker values of grays–comprised of burnt umber and French ultramarine–on both sides of the street.

Measure 6

• Cretacolor Graphite Aquarelle pencils

Starting place, especially as the majority of us possess these colors easy to get in our palette.


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Keiko Tanabe is a award-winning painter, writer and workshop instructor. She’s a founding member of the North American Watercolor Artists, a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, and a member of the American Watercolor Society and the American Impressionist Society, Inc..

Watch Keiko at the Easel


Measure 4

To specify important shapes and make contrast, I combine a solid, dark grey with French ultramarine, alizarin red and burnt umber.
A variation of Keiko’s supplies are available in the Savoir-Faire Four Components of Watercolor Kit.
To combine a fundamental gray, I use three main colors, like alizarin red for red, yellow ochre for French and yellow ultramarine for blue. The colour temperature can be made warmer by utilizing more alizarin crimson or cooler by using more French ultramarine. Basically, this method is just like using two complementary colors (one primary and one secondary) to combine grey: green and red, blue and orange, and purple and yellow.
After drawing on the makeup employing a 4B pencil, then I use diluted yellowish to employ an initial wash for the center of the road. I then encircle it with slightly darker shades of warmer, muted colours comprised of alizarin crimson, cobalt blue and burnt sienna.
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Measure 3

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I mix a neutral grey with cobalt blue, alizarin crimson and yellow ochre to paint a few clouds and the distant backdrop.

Step 7

I add little details and another significant wash of slightly cooler gray on the lower-right corner to unify and balance the painting.
As the initial wash dries, I immediately add even darker values of grays–comprised of burnt umber and French ultramarine–on both sides of the street.


To add more interest and realism to Kyoto in Dusk (watercolor on paper, 14×20), I include little dots of bright red, cobalt turquoise and lemon yellow to signify traffic lights and headlights.

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What Colors Make Gray? | Color Mixing with the Main ColorsAbout the Artist

• Sennelier French Artists’ Watercolors: French ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, bright red, lemon yellow, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, turquoise green
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Kyoto at Dusk by Keiko Tanabe
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