mixing a neutral - red and green?

edited April 9 in Color Mixing
A follow up from the no black/white discussion...I want to mix quite a large amount of neutral, obviously with some warm/cool variety.  The common choice is ultramarine/burnt umber.  I'm wondering if and when you might use other complementary combinations to get a strong neutral.  I was thinking of red/green.  There are of course lots of reds and greens, but together you will certainly get a neutral.  Any pitfalls?  Has anyone tried, for example, viridian plus alizarin?  Or say sap green plus cadmium red?  I've sometimes bunged some straight black into a mixed neutral to deepen it.  So, you go red-green-black, and then just various red-green combinations?  I have a particular scene I want to paint which is a forest in the gloaming.  It's quite dark, but what I see are reds and greens.  Curious to know what others are doing re neutral.
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Comments

  • Gamblin's Chromatic Black is a mix of:

    Pigment: Chlorinated and bromated phthalocyanine, quinacridone red (PG36, PV19)
    Gary_HeathA_Time_To_Paint
  • edited April 9
    I mix quinacridone crimson and phthalo green to get a black. And I vary the amount of each and mix with a little white to get warm, cool and neutral greys. You can also get a really dark black with quinacridone crimson and Ultramarine blue. It's really a very dark violet so, when you mix it with little yellow, you get some nice greys. I find these mixes very useful for landscapes with rocks and trees. Perhaps they'll work for you, @Gary_heath. But you still need to colour match to make sure you've mixed the right value, hue and chroma. 
    Gary_HeathRUESGAA_Time_To_Paint
  • I often mix Alizarin Crimson with Sap Green, or Australian Dark Leaf Green, or even Olive Green.  I then add either Zinc or Titanium White, or Unbleached Titanium White, or Naples yellow for different greys for rocks and tree trunks.

    My blacks have a combination of all or some of: Raw Umber, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine or Prussian Blue, sometimes adding Olive Green or Payne's Grey to the mix. 
    Gary_Heath
  • @tassieguy Interesting.  I like the sound of those mixes.  Must try them.
    @toujours  Fascinating.  I'm taking notes.  Seriously, I must try some of those combinations and was considering doing so only this morning.  I mean I don't what else to do with Prussian blue and olive and raw umber--I have these colours but never use them.
  • TedBTedB -
    edited April 24
    I usually use Burnt Umber and Paynes Gray rather than pigment-strength Red-Greens or Orange-Cyans/Blues.  I don't need "black", I typically just need a warm dark neutral and a cool dark neutral. 

    Radical Fundemunsellist. 
    Gary_Heath
  • I find transparent red oxide and ultra marine blue make a nice black.
    Gary_Heath
  • You said red and greens, so what works really well is Perylene Green which is sometimes called Perylene Black (PBk31) mixed with Benzimidazolone Brown (PBr25) and this makes a very nice semi-transparant dark black (slow drying too). However you can also use both of these paints on there own to create shadow greens and browns (which are dark oranges).

    tassieguyGary_Heath
  • edited April 30
    Gary . . . You're talking about neutrals while considering various combination of colors.  I think the combinations you mention would better be called grays.  Neutral, by it's very name, implies a pigment of no color.  You can produce some gorgeous grays using many different combinations of complimentary colors.  Alizarin and viridian will give you gorgeous grays.  Generally, grays made from compliments, will lean a little to the warm or cool side.
    Neutral, on the other hand, properly made, will show no bias toward warm or cool.  The easiest neutral to make is with ivory black, yellow ocher and white.   An easy way to mix it is by starting with black and white mixed to the value you desire,  Then, add small amounts of yellow ocher to kill the blue cast you get mixing ivory black and white.
    One of the major paint producers in this country was (don't know if they still are) producing 150 ml tubes of neutral gray in values of 2, 4, and 6 I believe.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  I bought a set but soon gave it up because, to my eye, it had a distinct blue cast, and they used titanium for their white.  To my eye, titanium white is chalky and opaque.  For the last 35 years, my white has been flake/cremnitz white, which is more transparent.  I have mixed my neutral every day for years.  I mix values 3, 5, and 7 which makes it easy to bump up or down a click or two to fill in the missing values.
    Gary_Heath
  • TedBTedB -
    edited May 18
    One of the major paint producers in this country was (don't know if they still are) producing 150 ml tubes of neutral gray in values of 2, 4, and 6 I believe.  

    Williamsburg Oils makes tubed Neutral Grays 2, 4, 6 and 8 is the darkest.
    Gamblin's Portland Gray oils are 4, 6 and 8 is the lightest.
    (Williamsburg and Gamblin reverse their respective value-numbers.  Go figure!)

    I'm a strong believer in neutrals and grays....both tubed and palette-mixed.
    dencalGary_Heath
  • Claim 1:  There is no visual difference between a neutral and a gray of the same value, hue, and saturation (chroma).

    Claim 2: You can always mix any neutral or gray as long as it is strictly within the color mixing gamut spanned by all your pigments whether or not they are colorful, exclude grays, or include grays.


    Which of the above claims is true?

    :smiley:
  • I'm not sure about the answers to these questions, @CBG, but I'm guessing they  would depend on what is meant by the terms "neutral" and "gray".  :)
    Gary_Heath
  • edited May 19
    Ok, I'm going to use these terms with my own definitions to ask a broader question. I don't use the word 'neutral' but use verbs neutralise or grey interchangeably which mean to pull it towards grey. I call grey the centre of the colour wheel where you can no longer tell which colour it is. I was going to ask this separately and then saw this discussion. I'm not asking just about mixing grey or black.
    In nature there is almost no pure tube pigment colour - pure cadmium red or ultramarine or hansa yellow. The natural colours of the objects we see differ, it depends on colour of light, light hits an object in different parts and makes it darker, lighter, washed out, in shade, reflected light... and then there are atmospheric effects.So when we paint, we use approaches to neutralise the chroma towards grey, and warmer /cooler darker /lighter - either a little bit, or a lot. My question is...
    YOUR PREFERRED APPROACH(ES) TO NEUTRALISING A COLOUR?
    1. Complementary colours: To knock back chroma, a perfect complementary neutralises it - a little or a lot. This is the method I was taught and my preferred method.
    2. Mixing colours: Another approach we all use is rather than beginning with a tube green, we mix it, and the mix creates often more subdued greens and lots of natural variations. The best book I ever read on colour was 'Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green' Michael Wilcox. (He's correct. They don't. They leave green. If they were perfect pigments, which don't exist, it would go black. ;) ) It blew away everything I had been taught from childhood. I picked up his recommendation about pigments - which is a secondary thing in the book - and for years had a palette of white, then warm/cool versions of complementaries - Reds (cad red & alizarin); blues (French ultra/ prussian); yellows - and then the earth colours. Cool blue/ cool yellow mix makes a stronger green, but using the warm versions would be dull for reasons he explains. Nowadays I have tube colours of almost everything (inherited, bought for reason or experiment) - but I still will often mix a colour from 2-3 other colours, rather than beginning with tube colour and trying to dull it back. 
    3. Raw umber (or similar): I later discovered lots of artists use raw umber to neutralise. I confess to experimenting with this and do use it occasionally. Not too much though as I find it dull and drab so useful for certain situations.
    4. Start with grey: Read Ron Francis comment that mars black is one of the paints that is in most of his painting. That confused me so I contacted him for clarification. He said the other way to neutralise colour is to start with grey (white & mars black in his case) and tint it towards the colour you want. Advantages: fewer mixing disasters that waste paint; it works; as a bonus you are using less of your expensive pigments to achieve the same outcome. I do use this also now, sometimes. It's great when the colour is highly neutral to start from the grey. And it's easier to mix that original grey then pull it warmer or cooler with other pigments than mixing complementaries.
    5. Other? Maybe there are other ways.
    So I use four approaches, mainly the first two.
    tassieguyCBGGary_Heath
  • edited May 19
    I do pretty much the same, @Abstraction except for number 3, starting with grey.  But not in any systematic way. Perhaps I should be more rigorous in my approach to colour.  James Gurney has an interesting page where neutral grays at the center of the colour wheel are touched on and which has a picture of his 3D version of the colour wheel. It makes sense to me because colour is a 3D phenomenon - chroma, hue and value - and it seem logical to view it this way as per his colour wheel.  See here: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-hub-of-color-wheel.html 
  • Here is a chart using red and green mixed from full intensity to black and to white on a nine value gray scale + black and white. This of course is based on this red and green. Neutrals can be made using this procedure for all complimentary pairs. It also works with split complimentary pairs. For instance Red/Blue Green and Red / Yellow Green. 



    Gary_Heath
  • CBGCBG -
    edited May 20
    @KingstonFineArt

    I was wondering if I wanted to mix a green which was the perfect compliment of the red in Geneva's standard palette (ie. to make a pure grey when combined), would it be a green on the cool side? 


    I know this depends a lot on the kind of red, certainly if both the red and green were cool that would lead to a cool neutral instead of a real gray (in the same way your warm red and warm green lead to a warm neutral rather than gray). 

    But if I wanted to make the colors (I guess green and purple) which obey the simple guideline's of the color theory of Mark's videos I'm wondering what "kind" of green and what "kind" of purple, just work?
  • @CBG
    Gray suggests a lack of color. Just black and white. The natural world around us is neutral not gray. Neutral as in chromatic grays. Color value.  Several paint companies sell sets of chromatic grays.

    Here is violet (R&B) mixed with split compliment YellowGreen some pretty nice "grays"


    Here is Orange and blue compliment mix. OOO some excellent "grays"

    dencal
  • edited May 21
    Interesting discussion.  To me, "neutral" means colours mixed in such a way as they appear to be without colour--i.e. black or grey.  Mark Carder talks of mixing "a black" with ultramarine and burnt umber.  But it's not black, strictly speaking.  Well, maybe it's technically possible to get a black with those two colours, but actually, you are going to make a neutral, i.e. it will be either slightly warm or cool.  The difference between that and black will become apparent if you paint two swatches of each beside one another.
    A grey on the other hand simply has no colour, as pointed out by KingstoneFineArt.  It can only be made by mixing black and white.  Sure, many neutrals will appear to be grey, but again they will be cool or warm, so not true grey.  Some artists' paintings have been described as "black" when in fact they never used black, e.g. Francisco Goya and Ad Reinhardt.
    Of course, who am I to say?  One artist's "neutral"  is another's "black".  The difference really becomes semantic.
    My interest was in knowing what you were all doing in terms of a go-to neutral mix.  For Mark Carder, it is ultramarine blue plus burnt umber.  I'm interested in the possibilities of red/green combinations.  I know one artist who said you should not mix alizarin with viridian, which I thought was odd. Among the suggestions above, I can imagine quinacridone crimson plus ultramarine blue or pthtalo green working well.
    Grey is another topic altogether.  But I found having a string of grey on the side of the palette very useful for--to use the verb--neutralising colours :)
    CBG
  • @Gary_Heath

    I totally agree.

    One thing perhaps to note...  greying down a red using a grey you made mixing green and red... is  in part adding more red... and hence using up more green than necessary - greying down red directly with the green which does the trick (made from yellow and blue) or just directly with blue and yellow in the right proportions... gets you there more directly and uses less paint in the end.


    Another thing to remember about so called "pure greys"... unless the piece is in a gallery, viewing conditions will almost always be slightly warm or cool (natural lighting changes during the day, wall color and floors color can have a large effect, light bulbs still are used to light up rooms at night), and hence the warm or cool neutrals might accidentally appear as pure gray, or very warm or very cool from time to time, and the same will happen to the so called pure grays.  They will almost never appear perfectly gray, but IMHO it does not matter much. 

    Like you say, neutral appears to be without color.  IMHO appearances are everything.


    How you get there with your paint will depend upon what is important to you, use of time, conserving money/paint, pleasure of the process, convenience or ease of the process, etc.
  • You're leaving out the value part of the equation. All color has a value component.

    In the case of the red and green compliment you aren't graying but neutralizing to a grayish brown. Red mixed to a split compliment blue green or yellow green return different similar families of 'grays'.

    I recommend 'John Sloan on Drawing and Painting' from Dover Books. Chapter seven in particular for his take on color and mixing. The language is early 20th Century. He was one of the most influential painters and teachers of the 20th century. Pay particular attention to his color mixing techniques and his shortcuts to neutrals using earth colors. Which by the co-incidence of his influences is how I used color in my watercolor paintings for 20 years.

    You may also find the book under the title  'The Gist of Art'.
    Gary_Heath
  • You're leaving out the value part of the equation. All color has a value component.

    In the case of the red and green compliment you aren't graying but neutralizing to a grayish brown. Red mixed to a split compliment blue green or yellow green return different similar families of 'grays'.

    I recommend 'John Sloan on Drawing and Painting' from Dover Books. Chapter seven in particular for his take on color and mixing. The language is early 20th Century. He was one of the most influential painters and teachers of the 20th century. Pay particular attention to his color mixing techniques and his shortcuts to neutrals using earth colors. Which by the co-incidence of his influences is how I used color in my watercolor paintings for 20 years.

    You may also find the book under the title  'The Gist of Art'.
    I agree.  Value is always present. One cannot leave it out, it is always there.

    If one uses a palette with no “gray” out of the tube, is it impossible to mix a gray? or to gray out a color?
  • @CBG
    Look at the grays made in these color tables. The grays in the orange/blue (to the blue side are cloud grays. The colors of nature around us made are made from the basic spectrum with a few exceptions.

    Grays are warm, cool or neutral. There are earth blacks that are in the middle. 

    I use earthy color to help with the neutralizing. Yellow ochre the real stuff. Transpaent red oxide for it's transparency. Burnt Sienna for it close proximity to neutral red. I even use a touch of black sometimes but not often.
  • edited May 21
    @CBG
    Look at the grays made in these color tables. The grays in the orange/blue (to the blue side are cloud grays. The colors of nature around us made are made from the basic spectrum with a few exceptions.

    Grays are warm, cool or neutral. There are earth blacks that are in the middle. 


    Aha, so you are using both "gray" and "black" to mean something with colour in it.  Which is quite typical for artists, and different from my own definitions of "gray", "neutral" and "black".  To be fair, your grays are better described as "gray", rather than "neutral".  Neutral is what you might call "black".  :|  And that's a neutral smiley apparently.   
  • @Richard_P

    One of the advantages of not using a limited palette?  
  • This post and thread is another of the many reminders for me of how great this forum is with all the input advice and discussions.

     :) 
    CBG
  • I agree, @MichaelD. :)

    In the article posted above by @Richard_P, it says that mixing with grey reduces chroma without changing the value. That's interesting. It makes sense but I'd never thought of it like that. Presumably, the author means a grey of the same value as the original colour that one wants to desaturate. 
    Up until now I've always just used coloured greys made from white and the chromatic blacks I mix. I'm going to experiment by mixing seven values of grey using Ivory, Carbon or Mars black and titanium white and use these greys to get the  values, saturation/chroma and hue I want. If it works it might save me some time, effort and paint.   :)
    MichaelDGary_Heath
  • edited May 22
    Thats great @tassieguy

    Let me know how that goes with those greys.

    I may adopt it  :)
  • Rob

    I suspect the blacks will suck the life out of the values.

    Denis
  • edited May 22
    I hope not, Denis. I'll be using a grey (made with Ivory black and Titanium white) of the same value as the colour I want to desaturate. So, unless there's something I'm missing, it should only change the chroma and not the values. Not sure about how it will effect hue. That's why I want to experiment with it. But if it doesn't work the way I'm hoping I'll just continue to use my old system of greying colours with their complementaries (and white if needed). 
    dencal
  • As per the diagram the more chroma the original colour the more the value can change. But, it should be less than mixing with a grey made of transparent pigments (or using a complementary colour).

    In my experience, greys made with different blacks and white all work similarly. I always want opacity for paint coverage and to reduce value change so I prefer Mars Black if possible as it's very opaque.
  • dencal said:
    Rob

    I suspect the blacks will suck the life out of the values.

    Denis
    Only if you do it wrong.. :p

    This sums if up better than I can and matches my experience:
    http://www.huevaluechroma.com/063.php



  • CBG said:
    @Richard_P

    One of the advantages of not using a limited palette?  
    Yes, because Mars Black is more opaque and slightly lower in value than Ultramarine+Burnt Umber
    CBG
  • tassieguy said:
    Up until now I've always just used coloured greys made from white and the chromatic blacks I mix. I'm going to experiment by mixing seven values of grey using Ivory, Carbon or Mars black and titanium white and use these greys to get the  values, saturation/chroma and hue I want. If it works it might save me some time, effort and paint.   :)
    I don't know carbon black, but Mark & others recommend against using pure ivory black under other layers because of its pigment size because of tendency to crack. I don't know if this applies when it is mixed with other pigments such as titanium. It may be this mitigates it and I expect it should at structural level. Does anyone know? Mars black does not have this problem as it's a fine artificial pigment, so I use it for this grey technique, which I picked up from Ron Francis. I often at the start of a session mix up a mars black/titanium gray in a series from dark to light and draw on it at will. I find it helps me pull back overall chroma in the painting, easily, which then helps my colours to shout. Sometimes I dip my blue or green brush into the grey without mixing and am surprised it just works. I like Mark's advice about dirty colours - if you want to accentuate colour, start with the dirty, neutralised colours first.
    Some suggest if we want to use pure ivory black, use it as a final layer which avoids the problem.
  • Agreed. In oils Mars Black is rock solid as it's an Iron Oxide, the only disadvantage for the DMP method is it's a fast dryer compared to carbon blacks. This makes it good if you do an underpainting though.
  • I don't remember Mark ever using a black. A dark value mix of color yes. 
  • Yes, he uses Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber in his DMP palette to make a black. Burnt Umber is also a fast dryer (due to the Manganese content) so needs more clove oil to slow the oxidization process down.
  • edited May 23
    @Abstraction and @Richard_P,  I'm getting a bit confused. I want to experiment with desaturating colour using premixed greys. I want to mix 7 values of grey using a tube black and titanium white. Which black should I use? Ivory, Mars or Carbon?  I am not clear on the pros and cons of each black pigment.  You guys seem to know more about this than me so I'd appreciate any advice you can give.  :)
  • If you are not bothered about drying time then I'd say Mars Black. It's cheap, opaque, lightfast and has no drying issues unless carbon blacks.
  • Thanks, @Richard_P. Mars is what I'll try, then. I don't mind fast drying. I already have tubes of Ivory and a transparent Carbon Black (PBk8) but I need to go to the art store anyway so will pick up a tube of Mars black. I'll run my experiment with Mars and, depending on the results, might also run the same experiment using the other blacks to see how they compare in terms of changes in value and hue that occur when the greys are used to desaturate colours. I'm hoping it will be effective and cheaper to desaturate this way than using expensive complementary colours to desaturate each other.  :)
    Gary_Heath
  • In my experience, it's a lot cheaper and easier :)
    tassieguyGary_Heath
  • Cheers, @Richard_P.

    It's funny how I had this fixed idea that using black would suck the colour our of a landscape painting. It's what I had read and it sort of made sense. But sucking the colour out, as in desaturating/neutralizing a colour, is precisely what I want in certain circumstances and what I get when I neutralize using complementary colours. But if this can be achieved as efficiently and more economically with greys made from black and white, without altering hue and value too much,  then it would be just dumb stubbornness not to try it.  I think it could work as long as we are not relying solely on tube blacks to darken values - in shadows for example.   If we wanted a dark red shadow we would not just mix Cadmium red with black. You would use a pure dark red pigment such as Quinacridone crimson. That way you get the darkness but preserve the redness. My thinking is that greys made with black would only be used where you want to desaturate and not merely to darken a colour. This would be instead of using an expensive complementary, say Cadmium red, to desaturate a powerful green.

    Anyway, I'll post an update on how the experiments go.  :)
    AbstractionGary_Heath
  • Yes, please update us :)
  • Yes, I primarily use mars black for this and I only use it as one of a suite of options. It's a warm black, and quite strong. Used pure (or to be more accurate close to pure) I don't like the way it dries and catches the light. Interested in your findings. Ivory black totally replaces blue in zorn palette - so used for darkening and cooling and... blue. I don't have ivory but use lamp black in the same way sometimes for cooler greys. I do need to research to confirm if these carbon blacks in a mix are ok. I suspect so. The carbon blacks have high oil content, mars black doesn't because of finer pigment size - so I figure the oil is sorted out in the mix and like mortar the carbon particles are helped by other pigments.
    If you ever want to use pure black - and i know that's not your approach - then ivory or lamp black used as a final layer is supposed to be ok and not (as?) susceptible to cracking. Having said that, my #1 black now is phthalo green, quinacridone magenta & transp gold oxide - because on my current painting, with its elusive causes of all my darks fading - which has been a nightmare, it stays dark.
    Good to see how the experiment works for you. :)
    tassieguyGary_Heath
  • @tassieguy Langridge carbon black is a beast. Very dense and strong covering power. It also makes neutral greys (at least to my eye) when mixed with white. And wonderful greens when mixed with yellow. I tend not to use it much though for anything but mixing green, as I find it a bit hard to handle. 
  • edited May 24
    Thanks, @Roxy.

    I have a tube of Carbon black. Unopened.  I've never used black. I'll experiment with Carbon as well as Ivory and Mars to see how they work as neutralizers.  The blacks might also be useful for making greens, and if I find they don't do the job of desaturating colours as well as hoped, that's what I'll use them for.  :)  
  • TedB said:
    One of the major paint producers in this country was (don't know if they still are) producing 150 ml tubes of neutral gray in values of 2, 4, and 6 I believe.  

    Williamsburg Oils makes tubed Neutral Grays 2, 4, 6 and 8 is the darkest.
    Gamblin's Portland Gray oils are 4, 6 and 8 is the lightest.
    (Williamsburg and Gamblin reverse their respective value-numbers.  Go figure!)

    I'm a strong believer in neutrals and grays....both tubed and palette-mixed.
    I care about pigments and sinking-in more than most here, so if the following is not a concern, please ignore. Gamblin's entire Portland Gray series, as of December 2021, contain zinc oxide PW4. (I emailed Gamblin to verify.) I mix my own grays from PW1, PW6, and PBk11. I tube value 5 and use as it is very convenient to have at hand. It is temperature neutral enough for me. This is very easy to do.

    I do not use any lamp, vine, or bone black as I don't want to have to learn how to use them without interfering with the paint film integrity or the very slow drying time. I have some ivory black just in case I ever need a darker black than PBk11 mars, but so far - 40 years - it hasn't come up. I use PBk11 in all paintings. (BTW, some very highly rated oil paint companies use or used to use junk pigments to make specialty colors. I always email to verify pigments if I think it is questionable.) 

    I stay away from natural umbers and siennas as I don't want sinking-in from the high manganese content. I have no desire to learn how to correct sinking-in by adding resin or varnishing. I prefer to avoid the problem. 

    I suspect that there is no clear advantage to mixing a black or gray from complementary colors, or from just using black or gray. It is just a process of what each painter prefers. 
    Abstraction
  • All this discussion of using grays seems counter to the color theory of Mark Carder. I find it baffling myself. I think that black certainly has a big place in paint mixing. But not as being discussed. Color intensity can be easily managed without introducing non-chromatic paints. Value can be managed very well with a White and a dark full intensity color like Ultramarine mix or Violet.

    The idea that there may be savings is an elusion. Be honest, all we do is spend money on paint ;)

  • All this discussion of using grays seems counter to the color theory of Mark Carder. I find it baffling myself. I think that black certainly has a big place in paint mixing. But not as being discussed. Color intensity can be easily managed without introducing non-chromatic paints. Value can be managed very well with a White and a dark full intensity color like Ultramarine mix or Violet.

    The idea that there may be savings is an elusion. Be honest, all we do is spend money on paint ;)

    Again, opacity. Mars black is more opaque than a mix of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue so if you are painting in one layer wet in wet it helps 
  • edited May 25
    @[email protected] said:

    "All this discussion of using grays seems counter to the color theory of Mark Carder. I find it baffling myself."

    Well, we are not obliged to follow Mark in every detail of his method. As he says, once you understand and can use his method, take what is useful to you and go your own way. If we can make use of neutral greys made with black and white, the art police won't find out and come to arrest us for doing so. And, if it works as I hope, it can clearly be more economical than using expensive pigments to neutralize each other.
    Richard_PGary_Heath
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