How to Mix Blue Gray Paint Colors for Your Painting

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cityscape by Corot with blue gray paint colors

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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!

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.

Here you can see how comparing and placing grays and blues next to one another helps to distinguish whether a color is a blue gray, just a blue or just a gray.

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.

In this painting by Francesco Guardi we can see how there are many different shades of gray blue colors.

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

black mixed with white will produce a gray color. When you mix gray with blue then you will get a blue gray color. You can adjust the amount of gray you mix into your blue. The less blue and more gray you have the more grayish the blue/ gray color will be.

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

Mixing complementary colors together will help to produce a muted/ grayish blue color

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

In this Paris city painting, Le Pont au Change, vu du quai de Gesvres by Corot we can see how blue and gray paint colors help to add a richness to the painting. It helps to give the painting a very specific kind of atmosphere

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

In this piece – A Grey Day – by Constable we can see how blue gray paint colors are used to great effect to create a moody sky in the 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

When you think of portrait paintings, blue gray paint colors probably don’t come to mind at first. However, as seen in the portrait painting by Velazquez above, you can see how they prove essential to the 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

Here we can see how there is a great range and variety of different shades of 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!

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    14 thoughts on “How to Mix Blue Gray Paint Colors for Your Painting”

    1. Hi Elisabeth.
      Thanks again. I am only using three colours at the moment until I can improve my painting; so this is another good one for me thanks to your advice.

      Kind regards.
      Mike

    2. Hello Elisabeth, thanks for giving me more to ponder! Love the greys in the sky and background in “The angels appearing to Abraham and Issac”A century or two ahead of his time I think.Might try some master studies of that one.

    3. Dear Prof. Elisabeth
      It’s always a pleasure to learn from your lessons! They are very interesting and usefull because the pedagogy is perfect. Thank you very much
      Helena

    4. Goodmorning Elisabeth,
      I’m painting right now the castle Eilean Doonan and I use blue/ grey color for the water and in the sky.
      Mixing grey and cobalt blue to get blue/ grey.

      I’m not finished yet, so I will also try the blue/Orange option.
      Again, thank you for your lessons.

      Kind regards,
      Frits Keulers

      1. Hi Frits, That is wonderful that you are painting the Eilean Doonan castle – it is a beautiful place! I think using blue/ orange for some of the colors will work really well. You are very welcome for the lessons 🙂

    5. I am working on the same thing watercolors a gray wash after it drys light washes over it tucker was doing them in 1840

    6. MURAT GUNEYLİGİL

      hi elisabeth
      how can ı get your “color mixing master guide” book from amazon…?
      and what will be the price ?
      lots of love
      MURAT GÜNEYLİGİL-TURKİSH ARTİST

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