How To Paint Brighter Colors with Grays

When painting, outside or inside, a bright or sunlit object, we tend to think in terms of stronger or more saturated color, or color straight from the tube to make it stand out more.  In reality we need to think just the opposite.  When we’re painting an object in a landscape or still life that seems stronger in color it’s always more effective to desaturate or neutralize the colors around the bright object to make it standout. For example, a mountain being lit by the setting sun will look intense and full of sunlight only if I reduce the saturation of the surrounding sky, trees and foreground with grayer, cooler color.  With a limited palette of red, yellow, blue and white, I can pick one color and add a small amount of the two remaining primaries or just one, add as much white as I need to achieve the right volue, then make sure the surrounding areas use enough of all three primary colors to become neutral or gray.  These gray colors need a predominant color but enough of the other two primaries to really knock them down in intensity.

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.
Powered by ConvertKit