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Any thoughts on when to use grey or the complement when desaturating a color. 


  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    @ph1 ; I use grey or the complement when my reference source that I am looking at calls for it and I'm mixing colors for a painting.  And, yes, it will require that you use complements when desaturating a color.  You can make a tint with white if it doesn't cloudy your colors too much and the value and color match your reference for the painting.

    When color is fully saturated, the color is considered in purest and truest form. So desaturation would be a lessening of that.  Using opposite colors or complementaries is your best option. But you have to know what colors you are desaturating. If it is a pure color, no problem. But if you only think the color you are desaturating is pure and it isn't, you will have to know what the biases are in the tube of color you are trying to desaturate and test several complements to get what you want.  If you are desaturating tertiaries, true tertiaries, here is the formula for desaturating those: Identify two tertiary colors that you are using on your palette. Then, go to the two opposite tertiary colors on the color wheel and select those two, and mix them with the first two. Now you have four colors mixed on your palette. Now ask yourself which of the primaries is missing from my four colors. Go to that missing primary on the color wheel and select its opposite/complement and mix it into your four colors. Now your have mixed five colors together and have made a lovely gray. Hope this is what you are asking and that it helps.  Summer
  • ph1

    Summer has nicely set out the uses of complements. I can only add that when a painted form recedes,away from the light it becomes darker and less saturated. Adding progressively, more complementary hues will effectively depict increasing shadow.

    A complementary greying can also be used to create a harmonious background color.

    Complementary colors can be used to make an eye popping contrast. To accentuate the red, put a green beside it.


  • You can desaturate to a certain extent with using earth colours. Say, Yellow Ochre to reduce the vibrancy of a mix that is primarily cadmium yellow. Or Iron Oxide Red, Burnt Umber, etc..
  • Oh, it's also a lot cheaper to use earth colours or a grey mixed from white and black than desaturating blues/purples with cadmium yellows and reds. :)
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    Don't be dismayed if you get mud.  Sometimes it is the perfect value and color.  Just remember how you achieved it so you can do it again. 
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    Desaturation is also a feature on cameras.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    Using earth colors in the same color family will darken but they aren't strictly complements which I think is what ph1 is asking.  They are adjacent to....  Gray isn't complementary either.  They will darken but you have to be careful colors don't become milky or cloudy.  I think that more people than not use adjacent earth colors and black and white tones to darken.  Why not use all darkening methods available to us if they satisfy the artists' eye and pocketbook.  
  • How is desaturation achieved on a camera @Summer?
  • SummerSummer -
    edited April 2018
    BOB73 said:
    How is desaturation achieved on a camera @Summer?
    Not my area of expertise yet but I'm working on it.  I only know it can be manipulated with filters and props and slider desaturation settings on some dslr cameras in their post processing programs and in other image processing programs and that one of the downsides are the artifacts that can occur in the process. 
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