4 Ways to Get Gray

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4 Ways to Get Gray
4 Ways to Get Gray

Almost everyone identifies gray as a mix of black and white, but it is actually possible to achieve it by mixing complementary and primary colors as well. Once you understand the basics of color theory, you should be able to apply the same principles in many mediums of artistic expression.


Method 1 of 4: Using Color Theory

Step 1. Mix black and white

This way you can get the color defined as "neutral gray".

  • Neutral is the purest type of gray, because it has no hue or shade of color.
  • Equal parts black and white should create a mid-toned gray. With more black the color will be darker, while with more white, lighter.

Step 2. Mix equal parts of complementary colors

This will give you the color defined as "complementary gray".

  • The basic complementary colors are:

    • Red and green
    • Yellow and purple
    • Blue and orange
  • Mixing equal parts of any two complementary colors will result in a neutral gray, but you can give the color a slight hue by increasing the percentage of one complement to the other. Adding more red, yellow or orange will give you a "warm" gray, while green, purple or blue make it more "cool".

Step 3. Merge the three primary colors

You will get the "primary gray".

  • The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow.
  • Mixing the colors in equal parts will result in a neutral gray, but you can tone it by varying the percentages. Using more blue will make the tone cooler, while increasing the amount of yellow or red will create a warmer tone.

Method 2 of 4: Create Gray Paint

Make Gray Step 4
Make Gray Step 4

Step 1. Choose what kind of gray to create

It's easy to create neutral, complementary, and primary grays with paint, but the best solution depends on what colors you have and how you want to use the mix.

  • Neutral gray can be very useful for softening other colors without altering their hue. In general, it's best suited when you need a pure form of gray.
  • Complementary gray is useful if you want a gray with warm or cool tones.
  • Primary gray is suitable if you want to create shadows or combine it with a brighter color. Since it contains all three primary colors, it makes neighboring primary colors appear brighter.

Step 2. Mix the appropriate colors in equal quantities

Pour them onto a palette. Mix them well using a stick until you get a uniform mix.

  • In summary, your options are:

    • Black and white
    • Red and green
    • Purple and yellow
    • Orange and blue
    • Yellow, red and blue
  • By mixing the colors you should get the gray paint. If you used "pure" shades, the resulting gray should look rather neutral. If not, you will notice a slight color cast.

Step 3. Lighten or darken the color according to your preference

Examine the shade of gray you got. If it looks too light or dark, you can add black or white to alter it.

  • Add white to lighten the gray and black to darken it. Use small amounts of color to avoid altering the gray more than necessary.
  • Use black and white to alter the hue regardless of the type of gray (neutral, complementary, primary) you made. The other colors would give unwanted shades to gray.

Step 4. Get the desired shade

Examine the shade of gray you got. If it's too dull for you, you can spice it up by adding some color.

  • Add small amounts of color, no matter which one you decide to use. If you don't like the results, it will be easier to correct the small alterations.
  • If you've mixed a complementary or primary gray, add one of the colors you've already used. In other words, if you mixed blue and orange, you should keep adding only blue or orange (not red, yellow, green or purple).
  • If you've created neutral gray, you can still tone it with color. In fact, it is possible to mix almost any color with gray and get a lot of different shades.

Method 3 of 4: Create a Gray Icing

Make Gray Step 8
Make Gray Step 8

Step 1. Choose the type of gray

The neutral one is the easiest to make when working with icing, but you can still make the complementary or primary one.

  • Better to choose neutral gray if you want a pure shade, but you can consider the other two types if you want the color to have shades.
  • Since the most popular packages of liquid food coloring contain red, yellow, green and blue, you will need to create the primary gray (red, yellow, blue) or the complementary one (red and green) if you intend to use the standard dyes. However, if you buy special dye in gel or paste, you will be able to create the gray of your choice, because you will have more choices of colors.

Step 2. Pour the chosen colors into the white icing

Put the required amount of white icing in a glass bowl with a spoon. Gradually add the colors and mix until they combine evenly.

  • As a reminder, the color choices are:

    • Black and white (note: you don't have to add white food coloring, because the icing is already white)
    • Blue and orange
    • Yellow and purple
    • Red and green
    • Red, yellow and blue
  • Add the liquid food coloring by pouring it with the measuring cap of the bottle. Add those in gel or paste by dipping a toothpick in the color and then in the icing, in order to transfer the pigment.

Step 3. Add black to make the gray darker

If you like the shade of gray but would like a darker shade, mix small amounts of black into the frosting until you get the desired color.

  • You can darken the frosting with black food coloring regardless of the colors you used to get the gray.
  • Alternatively, you should be able to create a more vibrant shade by adding larger amounts of the original colors to the glaze. The higher concentration of color will make the gray brighter. However, it won't be easy, as you will need to add the colors in the exact proportions you used earlier to not alter the hue.

Step 4. Change the shade of gray if you wish

If the gray seems too flat, try adding small amounts of other colors to slightly alter the hue.

  • For neutral gray, you can change the hue using any other color.
  • For complementary and primary grays, you should change the hue by adding only the colors already used. For example, if you got gray with red, blue and yellow dye, you should only use those.

Method 4 of 4: Create Gray Polymer Clay

Make Gray Step 12
Make Gray Step 12

Step 1. Choose the gray you want to achieve

Using polymer clay you can create neutral, complementary or primary gray. Choose the one you prefer.

  • If you want to create a pure gray, without any shades, the neutral one is better.
  • However, if you want a gray with a hue, the primary and complementary ones simplify the process and require fewer materials.

Step 2. Take equal parts of the colors you have chosen

Knead them separately, then combine them.

  • The options are:

    • Black and white
    • Blue and orange
    • Green and red
    • Purple and yellow
    • Red, yellow and green
  • To knead the colors together, blend them and roll the clay ball in your hands, flattening and rolling until they blend. Continue until there are no single beads of color left. The colors should blend evenly into a gray.

Step 3. If you wish, make the color less intense

If you want to do this without changing the hue, add a pinch of translucent clay to the gray sphere.

  • Translucent clay has no color, so it won't change the hue of gray, it will simply make it duller and less vibrant.
  • When deciding how much translucent clay to use, consider that you shouldn't exceed one third of the gray ball.

Step 4. Lighten the shade if you wish

If you want lighter shades of gray, add a small amount of white to the existing sphere.

  • You can add white regardless of the colors used to get the original gray.
  • While technically you could darken the color by adding black, it can be difficult to mix black clay with other colors without ruining them. Darkening the neutral gray this way is much easier, because it already contains a black component.

Step 5. Consider changing the shade of the clay

Once you are satisfied with the saturation and brightness of the color, decide if you want to add a hue.

  • Change the shade of the clay by adding small amounts of a color.
  • You should be able to use the color of your choice if you have a neutral gray, while you should continue to use the ones you have already chosen if you have a primary or complementary gray.