What Colors Make Gray and How to Make Shades of Gray Color

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showing what colors make shades of gray paint palette

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Gray is a neutral color or what is called an ‘achromatic color’. Which literally means that it is a color without color. The color gray is considered to be so because it can technically be composed of just black and white. 

However, there are many other gray tones and shades of gray you can create by using different color mixtures. As you will see throughout this article below!

What colors to mix to make gray

To mix the color gray you can simply mix black with white. To make a lighter gray you would mix more white into the black or the reverse for a dark gray color.

You can mix a gray color by mixing black and white together.

You can also create your own black (dark mixture) to mix with white. In the first line of the color chart below, Ultramarine Blue is mixed with Cadmium Orange to create a dark color combination. This is then mixed with white to create a cool grey.

see what colors make gray in this color mixing chart
Mixing your own black to mix with white will produce different shades of gray.

In the second color mixture above, you’ll see Pthalo Green and Alizarin Crimson mixed together to create a rich black. And then when mixed with white, again creates a more cool gray color. However the kind of gray you get will also depend a lot on whether you have more Alizarin Crimson or Pthalo Green in your mixture.

Then the third line in the color chart above, shows Ultramarine Blue mixed with Burnt Umber. This color combination creates a dark brown/ black. The resulting color when mixed with white is a warmer grey that almost has a hint of purple.

How to make dark gray colors 

As mentioned earlier, to make a dark gray color you can do so by simply not adding as much white to a black color. However to create more interesting shades of dark gray… You can do so by mixing your own gray colors with the colors below.

dark shades of grey color chart
Using your own gray color mixtures, you can see what colors make different shades of dark gray.

Color mixtures to make dark gray

On the first line of the color chart above, you’ll see burnt umber mixed with your gray color mixture. As an earth tone color, burnt umber is a muted color that will both help you to darken your grey as well as keep it a muted grey color. It works very well to create a darker grey, especially if you are wanting to have a grey with a bit of a brownish hue to it.

Next color option (on the second line of the chart above) is to mix burnt umber with ultramarine blue and use this to create a darker grey. This color combination will not be nearly as brownish as when mixing pure burnt umber with grey. On the contrary, it will be turn into a dark bluish grey.

Last option listed in the above color chart, is to mix Alizarin Crimson and Pthalo Green with grey to create a dark grey. As mentioned before, Alizarin Crimson and Pthalo Green make for a rich color, and therefore create a rich dark grey color. Just be careful to not add too much Pthalo Green to the mixture as this will make your grey VERY green. Pthalo Green is one of the strongest colors on a painter’s palette.

What colors make light gray

Now that you know how to darken gray, the next most important thing is to learn how to mix a light grey. As might be obvious, the easiest way to make a light gray color, is to add white to your gray mixture. However, you can also add Cadmium Lemon Yellow to grey to lighten it.

You’ll get a very different grey depending on whether you mix white or Cadmium Lemon Yellow to it. Cadmium Lemon Yellow will make a warmer grey color than just mixing white with grey.

what colors make light grey color chart
You can make light gray by mixing White or Cadmium Lemon Yellow to a dark grey mixture.

How to mix light grayish-white colors

When lightening a gray with white it can often turn into a light blue or light green – like the colors on the far left side of the color chart below. However, there is a way to combat that situation. You do so by mixing your mixture’s complementary color into it, so that it will be more muted.

what colors make light shades of grey color
Since you are dealing with very light and subtle colors − mix just a very small amount of the complementary color with your light grayish color. As you do not want to overwhelm the color.

Mixing off-whites or grayish whites can be tricky because you are dealing with very subtle (and light) colors. However, it is very much a matter of simply working with complementary colors in order to properly mute them. This will ensure that the color will indeed look off-white, rather than a very light version of blue or green.

Begin by mixing in the smallest amounts at a time, if you need more you can always mix in more. However, if you put in too much it is much more difficult to go back and fix the issue of having too much orange or purple in your mixture. Lastly, you will probably want to add more white to your mixture, so as to create a real light off white. Unless, of course you need a darker off-white!

How to make warm and cool gray colors

A lot of grays you mix will likely look like cool grays, as blue is such a common color to use for mixing up a gray color. However, there are moments when you will need to mix very cool shades of gray…

You can find how to mix cool gray tones, as well as warm (along with almost every other color you may need help with) inside my complete Color Mixing Master Guide, here

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The Master Guide is my 150+ page PDF ebook, that takes you through important color theory principals and is filled with color mixing charts, as well as examples of colors being applied in paintings. ≫Learn more, here
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    10 thoughts on “What Colors Make Gray and How to Make Shades of Gray Color”

    1. Helena Saldanha

      Thank you for your interesting lesson.
      Some times we need different shades of gray and your lesson was very important
      Helena

    2. Gilberto Villalobos

      Muchas gracias Art Studio, está fantástico, fabuloso! una gran ayuda, orientación y apoyo, y a tí la creadora, millón de gracias de nuevo Elizabeth!

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