Gray blue paint colors can add a great amount of interest to a painting, precisely because they are neither fully blue or fully gray. They occupy a middle ground between the two, and as a result can be used to great effect in a painting. They might not be an obvious color at first, but they are absolutely essential and important!
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Is it gray or blue gray?
First, it’s important to know how to tell if a color is more gray or blue. Since colors are relative we can best tell what color something is by comparing it to something else.
It can be helpful to hold the color up next to a true gray or blue and see which one it resembles more. Find an item that is ‘true gray’ or very blue and place it next to your color as a comparison.
However, what is most important is to paint a color as you see it. Sometimes colors look different when you get up close than when you see them from further away. You should always paint from the vantage point of where you are standing at your easel.
So, even if a color looks gray up close but blue gray when viewing it from a distance at your easel you should mix a blue gray. A blue wall or object behind you could reflect onto the area your are painting, making it more of a blue gray color than a gray.
How to mix blue gray paint colors
Technically gray is a neutral or ‘achromatic’ color. Meaning that it is without color as it can be made with just black and white. However, when dealing with a multitude of different shades of gray. You can run across a wide range of gray colors that lean towards different colors. When you run into cool gray colors you start to see lots of blue gray.
Mixing black and white
To mix gray blue colors it’s important to have a good understanding of both gray and blue. Start with a ‘true gray’ or gray that is made by mixing black and white in equal parts. From here you can start to add small amounts of blue paint until you arrive at the desired shade. The exact ratio of gray to blue will depend on the kind of blue gray paint color you are trying to achieve.
Complementary color method
You can also mix the complementary colors orange and blue together to create blue gray colors. This method is a bit more advanced but can be useful if you want to create more variety in your gray blue colors. Adding orange to blue neutralizes the blue making it ‘less blue’ and more of a grayish blue.
You can mix up a more specific kind of gray when using complementary colors as you have a greater range to work with. You just need to be aware to not mix in too much orange, as then you will start to get a warm orangey gray color instead of blue gray.
Some gray blue colors will have more gray than blue while others will be the reverse. It’s important to experiment and mix a variety of colors until you find the perfect gray blue for your painting.
As with any color, adding white will lighten the overall tone. So, if you want to create a light gray blue color you can simply add white to your mixture until it is at the desired value.
Blue gray paint colors in a painting
Mixing blue gray paint colors is useful for any kind of painting. It is important to mix grayish blue colors whenever needed. As creating those toned down colors helps to make the painting more powerful. Making the brighter colors stand out much more than they ever would on their own.
Gray blue colors in landscape painting
When it comes to landscape painting, blue gray colors play an essential role. You will always use blue gray color mixtures for an overcast and stormy sky. Depending on how dark or stormy the sky is, dark or light gray blue colors can be used to great effect as a sky color.
You can also use gray blue colors in the shadows of a landscape painting. Mixing gray and blue together can give you a range of different grayish blue colors that can be used to create beautiful shadows.
Gray blue paint colors in portrait painting
Portraits are full of muted tones and in certain situations you will also need to use blue gray colors. Notice in the portrait above by Velazquez, how blue gray colors can be found in different parts of the head.
Blue gray is a more unexpected color that you would not think to find in a human face. However it can work perfectly to create subtlety and depth. Mixing gray and blue together, can give you a range of different grayish blue colors that can be used to create beautiful shadows.
Seeing and using blue gray paint colors
Blue gray colors are not always obvious at first, but they serve an essential purpose. They are often parts of shadows or subtle shifts in colors, that help add to the complexity of your painting.
So, mix up blue and gray paint colors whenever you encounter them. And watch how mastering these subtleties, take your painting to the next level. Keep your eyes open for them as you paint and practice mixing them up.
The more you do it, the better you will become at seeing and using blue gray colors in your paintings!