Grey Watercolor

Grey Watercolor

Since the 18th century, Grey has been a vital aspect of watercolour painting. Grey is simply the combination of all three primaries: red, yellow and blue. It will, therefore, “darken” any colour which it is applied on top of it - creating a shadow effect.

A watercolour artist will paint the shadows with their grey mixture before applying their colours on top. Note: I call it shadows, but the correct term would be mid tones.


Payne’s Gray
Possibly one of the most well known types of grey mixes is Paynes gray.
Paynes grey is originally a mixture of Prussian blue, yellow ochre and crimson lake.

Named after William Payne, who painted watercolours in the late 18th century.

“Having thus prepared a vigorous light and shade, Payne tinted his distance, middle distance and foreground with colour, retouching and deepening the shadows in front to give power to his work”

William Payne would fill in the mid tones with his grey mixture, thus adding “vigorous light and shade”, then he added the colour.

This technique allows for tonal depth in the painting, and mitigates any feeling of “flatness” that one could get from using single colours.


Back to blog