In my last blog I talked about mixing greys with acrylics and oils. I also mentioned in passing how to gain the best results when mixing greys using water colours.
In this blog I will address water colours and add a few more ideas for you to experiment with.
The same principle applies to water colours as it does to other mediums. By mixing opposite colours on the colour wheel, each will effectively knock out each others intensity, creating a grey. How much you mix of either colour will change to temperature of the finished grey.
The great thing about mixing your own greys is that you can make a range of cool or warm greys, or greys that hint at one of the colours you have used to create it.
Water colour painters during the last two centuries have experimented with greys as they produce a better dark than black, which is often too dark or deadens any colour it mixes with if the wrong black is used. This brings the point of different blacks as well, so if you want to add it to your palette, check with your supplier for the best mixing black if you want to try blending it in with other colours.
Returning to the greys, you will find that there are a few premixed greys on the market and they will also mix with your blues or reds to produce wrmer and cooloer versions of either the grey if only a touch of colour is added, or a coller version of your colour if a touch of the grey is added to it. Please note that each premixed grey has a colour base to it. This means that a colour like Paynes Grey will have a blue base, and others like Davy’s Grey have a green base, so you need to consider this when mixing. Winsor & Newton also have a colour called ‘Neutral Tint’ which is a great colour to use instead of black, and mixes very well with most colours to produce tints and tones.
Remember that mixing with white with water colours will take away their natural translucent effect, so if you want to lighten your grey thin it out with water allowing the white of the paper to come through and lighten it. White is avoided by many water colour painters, and some think it should not be used at all. There are different ‘school’ of thinking about this, but the safest thing to do with a white with water colours is to leave it until the last thing and you have the painting fairly dry to just add a few highlights here and there. Even better would be to cool it off or warm it up with just a dash of colour that you have used elsewhere in the painting so that your highlights will relate to the rest of the composition.
If you would like to leave white areas in your painting another method is to us maskign fluid. This will require planning ahead so that you can mask out the white areas in advance, but I highly recommed using it, as it will guarantee crisp white areas when it is removed, after the painting is absolutely dry. You can also remove it as a layer of colour dries so that you can paint a wash over it. This leaves a clear and clean layer of colour in the area you have had masked. This is also another method of making sure that any grey you have mixed will stay the same tone as what you have mixed when it goes onto the painting.
To see more examples of how to mix a variety of greys visit the Winsor & Newton web site at:
Until next time, happy painting.