Beautiful Watercolour Greys and Neutrals

andrew hodgson

Watercolour Greys and Neutrals

Greys or neutrals were probably my least favourite of all watercolour mixes – grey = dull = mud, or so  I thought!

One day I was playing around with my paints , concentrating on trying to create the effect of bark on a silver birch tree, I mixed a couple of colours willy nilly for the back ground and accidentally produced an absolutely beautiful translucent grey.

Not only was the grey beautiful but it made the birch trees jump out producing a wondeful illusion of depth.
Wow i thought!  – no longer was grey an ugly colour, but a beautiful colour and extremely useful.
lumious grey
greys left

The Perfect Surrounding

I began to study grey –

outside in nature and in other artists work – and I found it everywhere.
I used to look at a distant hillside and wonder what colour it was. It was probably a grey.
So how do we make grey?
Easy – we mix the three primaries together, a little blue , a little yellow and a little red.
When we mix two complimentary colours together (opposites on the colour wheel) we are mixing the three primaries:
red & green (because green is made of blue and yellow)
blue & orange (because orange is made of red and yellow)
yellow and violet (because violet is made from red and blue)

A Luminous Grey you can see through.

1. Make sure you are using transparent pigments not opaque.

2. If you you are using three different pigments ; ie a blue, a yellow and a red, make sure that it is biased/leaning  towards one of the primaries, not equally mixed. ie slighly blueish grey, slightly redish grey or laening towards yellow = a slighly yellowish grey.

3. The scan on the right shows the 6 greys with their complimentary colours in the centre of the squares.

For example the top left square is a grey leaning towards blue  and in the centre of blues complimentary colour of cadmium orange. To show you the maximum contrast you could have by placing an octanic colour against a luminous grey.

The Large Grey Squares are all RMG (Rose Madder Genuine) +CB ( Cobalt Blue) + HYM (Hansa Yellow Medium) mixes.

The colours are abreviated as  –

  • CO=cadmium orange
  • QC = Quinachradone Gold
  • HYM = Hansa Yellow Medium
  • Pth bl =  Pthalo Blue
  • VI = Viridian
  • LR = Light Red
greys watercolour

Mud Glorious Mud!

Great Little Video from Angela Fehr on American Watercolor Weekly ,showing the mixing of complimentary colours.

greys and neutrals

Essential reading

Brilliant article from American Watercolour, with Dan Marshall explaining the beauty and importance of neutrals.