Mixing greys in acrylic

I promised you a video on how to mix your own greys, sadly my camera has decided it no longer wants to record video and so I am having to resort to still images! Hopefully my descriptions and images will be enough, but feel free to ask me any questions if they are not!

So we’ll start with photo one…the colours I have used. I am using Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylics. These are not professional artist acrylics but are a good budget range.

Paints re-sized

Just in case you can’t read my writing, the colours are:-

  • Ultramarine Blue PB29
  • Cadmium Red PR112
  • Cadmium Yellow PY65
  • Cerulean Blue PB15:3, PBk11, PW6
  • Alizarin Crimson PR170, PV19
  • Lemon Yellow PY3
  • Lamp Black PBk6
  • Payne’s Grey PBk7, PBk9, PB29
  • Titanium White PW6

If you are wondering about the codes next to each colour, these are the pigment colour codes. I have included them for a very important reason. Different brands can often make a colour that is different to another brand even though it is called the same name. But you can rest assured that if you buy a paint colour by the pigment code, you will get the same colour, no matter what brand it is. For the colours that have more than one code, it is not a pure colour and so you will need to buy each individual code in order to make up that colour or a paint with all those exact codes.

Now we have got that out of the way, let us get down to mixing greys! There is the lazy way of mixing grey that I have included in the next photograph. You can mix Titanium White with either Lamp Black or Payne’s Grey and you will get a grey. Now I can hear you thinking, of course you will get grey from Payne’s Grey, it’s in the name right? Well, actually, Payne’s Grey is made up of Ultramarine (PB29) and Ivory Black (PBk9) in professional artist’s colours and, as with Galeria paints, also with Carbon Black (PBk7), no white.

As you can see from the photograph below, you can see the greys you can get by mixing Lamp Black with Titanium White and Payne’s Grey with Titanium White. Now while they make satisfactory greys, I personally feel that they lack something.


Now I am mixing greys using just two of each primary colour. There are more but we would be here for some time if I mixed using everyone! Most of the time, I only use Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow to mix my greys. It is possible to get a warm and a cool grey with just those colours. It is all about the balance of colours used.

To start mixing take a small amount of Cadmium Yellow first as it’s easier to add to without you wasting a lot of paint. Then add a tiny amount of Cadmium Red. You won’t need anywhere near the same amount as the yellow, as the red is much stronger than the yellow. You want to create a good orange before adding the blue. Then add a tiny amount of Ultramarine Blue. Add a little at a time as it’s better to have too little than too much, or it leads to paint wastage! Your mix will turn brown to begin with. You need to keep adding the blue until the paint changes from brown to almost black. If you are unsure whether you have got to that stage, then you can take a small amount out and add a little white to it. If it turns grey then you are at the right colour. Don’t add white to the whole mix as you want to keep that as your master mix, for when you want to darken a grey you are using.

As you can see from the photo above I did a warm and a cool grey mix. A cool grey has a blue bias, while a warm grey has either a yellow or red bias. Although I haven’t shown it in the photo, you can mix grey with a purple bias where you add more red and blue than you do yellow.

There are other blues, yellows and reds that you can mix with. I found that I got much closer to a black with the Ultramarine/Cadmium Red/Cadmium Yellow mix than I did with the Cerulean Blue/Alizarin Crimson/Lemon Yellow mix. I found with Cerulean it was much more like a brown mix but that could just be my mixing! It’s all about experimenting with your paints to see what they can do.

Please feel free to comment if you think I have missed anything or if you want to ask any questions!

Workshop 2

Remember in a previous post I mentioned a workshop where we had to mix our own greys? Well this is the result of said workshop. We had to do this with a pallet knife, which is fine when you’re just blocking in rectangular shapes but not so easy when you are trying to paint objects that are round or have any texture or pattern.

I spent most of the workshop mixing the greys so had very little time to actually paint the still life. But apparently I did an okay job, as my tutor was happy that I was able to accurately depict the correct tones of each area. Again my control freak would have preferred to have finished it but at least I got to use up all that grey paint on my masking tape painting!

I hope to be able to upload a video on how to mix greys soon. So watch this space!


Workshop 1

Every week, on my painting module, we have a two hour workshop. Sometimes it is a practical session where our tutor attempts to teach us something! These sessions are not about producing a finished painting, which is a good thing because I never managed to complete anything in the two hours! This particular workshop was about using coloured grounds. That is, painting your support with a background colour before you begin. This can be beneficial in a number of ways. One, getting rid of all that white can make it less scary to put colour on it! Two, it can add interest to your painting if allowed to show through or to be the background and three, it can change how a colour interacts with the colours around it.  


This particular workshop was about how colours interact with each other and how they can change when painted over certain colours. If you look at the photograph above you can see that the yellow almost disappears on the yellow background, while it appears cooler on the green background.

Colour relationships can also be important when you want to try glazing in your painting. Choosing the right colour for your glaze can make all the difference to the atmosphere of your painting. In another workshop we mixed different greens and then painted them over various different colours. Some colours made the green appear warm, some appeared cool and some almost disappeared completely.

WP_20170316_002 (2)

When considering a colour for glazing, always make sure that you are using a colour that is transparent. Opaque colours won’t allow the under colour to show through. Most good quality paints will say on them whether they are transparent (t), semi-transparent (s) or opaque (o). I am not an expert at glazing, in fact, I am practically a beginner too, but I am passing on what little I know to you all! If you want to learn more there is a great article on Artists & Illustrators magazine’s website artistsandillustrators.co.uk/…/how-to-layer-colours-5-glazing-essentials and there are some great videos on Youtube of course!


Artists I admire. Part 2.

I thought I would tell you about another artist that I admire. Her work is so beautiful and she happens to be a lovely lady too.

I first met Valerie Land when she came to tutor a session for Tywyn Art Group. She always made the day so enjoyable with plenty of laughs. She made everything look so easy but our measly efforts were never anywhere near the quality of her work.

She mainly works with watercolour and gouache, though uses other media too. Her shore paintings are stunning, as is all her work. In fact I can’t quite find the words to do her work justice so I will finish this little post with some of her work.

You can see more of her work at valerieland.co.uk

f1_winter_barn_ Valerie Land

Winter Barn – Mixed Media – 50cm x 50cm

mermaids_necklace_ Valerie Land

Mermaid’s Necklace – Gouache – 30cm x 30cm

f1_secret_garden_Valerie Land

The Secret Garden – Gouache and watercolour – 29cm x 29cm

Images courtesy of Valerie’s website. All images are subject to copyright. Used with the kind permission of Valerie.

Studies in tonal greys.


After my success with the masking tape I decided to do some further studies in grey. I wanted to concentrate on the forms and tones rather than obsessing over my colour mixing skills (they need some work!). I mixed my own greys as this can give an added dimension to your paintings. I will do a separate post on mixing greys.

All three paintings were created using a pallet knife and a paintbrush. Some things are difficult to do with a pallet knife alone, like curves. Although the pallet knife is great for creating textures as with the tables in the vase paintings. Textures can help add interest to a painting. I achieved this by creating layers with the pallet knife.

‘Vase in Grey’ is on an A4 acrylic board. ‘Two Vases in Grey’ and ‘Three of a kind’ are both on A3 boards. All in acrylics. I did have alternative titles but my tutor suggested not to give them titles that would limit how viewers would see them. Well, he actually said, not to give them titles but I couldn’t bring myself to leave them untitled! But I won’t bore you with a discussion on the merits of titling your work, just now!


Getting out of my comfort zone.

Up until I started at university I had barely touched a pallet knife, except when I wanted to create texture. But I’m a control freak when it comes to my paintings, I obsess over detail. That’s fine if you’ve got all the time in the world to finish a painting, but in uni, you don’t have months to do one painting!

It was the day of my ‘happy accident’, just after we had a workshop with a pallet knife and I had all that left-over grey paint! Well, to cut a short story even shorter, my tutor suggested using a pallet knife for my next painting. That way I wouldn’t be able to obsess with tiny little details using tiny little brushes!

Another first for me was painting on a canvas. Before uni, I had always painted on paper only, now I’m using boards and canvasses. Okay they may be small ones but it’s a start! And the results? Here they are….

Both paintings are done with acrylic on 12″ square canvasses.

The green bowl I am really happy with. I love the colour and am pleased with the texture of the bowl. The broken pot was not planned to be as it is, and my control freak doesn’t like it! It was incomplete when I took it to a group critique session. It was meant to be a cream and blue miniature Chinese bowl but everyone said they liked it as it was and that I should leave it alone. So my tutor said just to add the shadows and leave it. But to me it will always look incomplete. My inner control freak doesn’t like unfinished pieces. But there is one thing I am learning from my time at university, that each painting is a learning experience and it’s not always the end result but what you learn in the process. Now if I can get my inner control freak to get that, I would be much more relaxed with my work!

My happy accident.


I had been at university for a few weeks before I produced anything that I was remotely proud of and I wasn’t really trying! I had completed a workshop where we had to mix our own grey and I still haven’t learned how to mix paint without having a large amount of paint left over!

So there I was with all this magnificent grey paint that I couldn’t bear to throw away. I had a couple of hours before I needed to go home so thought what can I do with this paint? I looked around for something simple to paint and there was my roll of masking tape on top of one of my boards, that I had painted with a background colour earlier, but damaged so had decided it wouldn’t do for a REAL painting.

So I grabbed a pallet knife and got going. I concentrated on the tones and how they related to the tones around them, not thinking of what the item actually was until the end. I kept going until I had used up most of the paint that I had left over and voila! There it was, probably the best painting I had done up until then!

Everyone who passed said they liked it, that it had something! What this? This, using-up-paint-I-couldn’t-bear-to-throw-away-on-a-scrap-piece-of-board thing? So it seems I do my best work when I don’t care about the result! I guess I learned that day that art can surprise you and you achieve far more when you’re relaxed and going with the flow! 😁

Artists I admire. Part 1.

There is one artist who always makes me think about her work long after I have visited her exhibitions. That artist is Shani Rhys James. She was born in Australia but emigrated to Wales as a child. I have visited several of her exhibitions and have also been fortunate to visit a private collector’s home and viewed her paintings up close. Her paintings are often autobiographical and always incredibly powerful.


HEAD NO. 1 (2003) 

Image courtesy of http://www.walesartsreview.org/in-conversation-with-shani-rhys-james/

When I look into those eyes I can not help but feel that they are boring into my very soul. They are not comfortable viewing yet I feel strangely drawn to them.


Green Chrysanthemum. Image © Shani Rhys James/courtesy of Martin Tinney Gallery

Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/entries/27f7be61-fbf0-3b1d-8da7-3fcd952ba960

Shani also paints flowers. But these are not fluffy, chocolate box flowers. You really have to get up close to them to appreciate the thick impasto painting where you can see the actual finger marks or pallet knife strokes dug deep into the paint.

If you would like to see her work in real life then visit The Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff from 2nd March 2017 – 1st April 2017 where her new exhibition I Paint Therefore I Am will be held. Further information is available from http://www.artwales.com/exhibition-mtg-en.php?locationID=213

Her website can be found at http://shanirhysjames.com

Many thanks to Shani herself for permission to include her amazing work on my blog.

Previous still lifes.


 390mm x 545mm – Still Life by Candlelight – acrylic on paper.

I thought it would be a good idea to post some of my old work so you can compare it with my new stuff.  These were done on the various courses I did while studying for the Certificate of Higher Education.


240mm x 290mm – Still Life with Wine and Fruit – acrylic on paper


295mm x 517mm – Still Life with Red Tablecloth – pastel on paper.

The beginning.

In 2008, with my children growing up, I decided the time was right to get back to my art. I felt a little rusty after all those years of not creating and so I looked around for any courses in my local area. One day I happened upon an open day for Tywyn Art Group and walked through the door and introduced myself. The rest, as they say, is history. I became a member of the group and it was through them that I found out about Lifelong Learning at Aberystwyth University.

I began a watercolour course with them and I was hooked. I loved the learning environment and, through my tutor, I was encouraged to apply to study for a Certificate of Higher Education in Art & Design (equivalent to the 1st year of a degree). In the six years I spent working towards the certificate I learned an incredible amount and gained some much-needed self-confidence. Gaining the certificate meant I qualified for entry to Aberystwyth University and thanks to the Welsh Government and Student Finance I was able to afford to continue on to gain my degree. So that’s how we get to today. I am now a fully enrolled student studying for a BA in Fine Art with Art History. I am proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams!Continue reading “The beginning.”