Key Discovery: Making Grays

One of the strangest discoveries I made was that it is the dirty grays that give a painting its beautiful color, and not the nice clean color you get directly out of the tube. This discovery took me a long time to make. It is only when your painting has a lot of gray mud in it that you can make your color accents really stand out. You can make grays in four main ways:

  • add black and/or white
  • mix two complements. For example, red and blue-green, yellow and purple-blue, purple and green-yellow, blue and yellow-orange.
  • use your leftover muds, or
  • buy a tube of gray and modify it

br_923_Via Garibaldi Venice_2008
In “Via Garibaldi, Venice” I used all of the above except for using bought tube grays. The main secret to this painting was to paint it using all of these muddy colors. When I added a touch of pure color to the figure on the right it really stood out beautifully against all of that mud! I painted this work out doors under direct sunlight. That is how to learn color and was a key part of the color learning program that I was taught.

To learn more about making grays 

To learn more about how to use grays to make your color pop, see the color lessons in workshop B of the Virtual Art Academy Apprentice Program.

Click the Join Now button to join as a Virtual Art Academy Apprentice Member and you will receive 4 lessons a month just like this one, including the associated assignments to help you practice and assimilate the information. Once you are an Apprentice Member, you will be able to upload your assignments to the VAA online campus and discuss them with other students from around the world. When you click the Join Now button, you will see the approximate pricing in your local currency. For customers in Europe: VAT will be added at the appropriate rate.

Copyright ©2017 Barry John Raybould. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise specified, these electronic materials are for your personal and non-commercial use, and you may not modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, reproduce, publish, license, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any information obtained from these materials without written permission from the author.


Use the following tool to translate this page into your local language:

Return to Top