Friday, February 4, 2011

Neutral Colors

Jane Davies here.
In the spirit of this month's theme - opposites - I first thought I would play around with opposite colors, color being my thing. Opposite, or complimentary colors, are those opposite each other on the color wheel, and they offer the greatest contrast in hue. But there are other kinds of opposites in color: value - light and dark colors - and saturation - brights and neutral (dull) colors. I am so drawn to big, fat, luscious saturated color, so I thought I'd go in the opposite direction and play with neutrals. Here area a few pages from my sketchbook in which I was just playing.

In this first one I used Turner's Yellow, Titan Buff, Raw Sienna (all Golden Fluid Acrylics), and Fawn (Jo Sonja's Artists' Colors), plus a little Titanium White.
In this one I used Baltic Blue and Baltic Green (Liquitex Soft-Body Acrylics) as well as Green Gold (Golden), with titanium white and some kind of gray.

This splash is made by spritzing the half-dry (tacky) paint with a spray bottle of water, then blotting it up with a paper towel .
I added black to my neutral mix here, and tried to use up all the remaining paint on the palette.
My next step it to introduce judicious quantities of very bright saturated colors into these paint sketches, see if I can be restrained enough not to slather screeching red all over the page. Here are a couple of notes on using neutral colors:

  • Using neutral colors can make your bright colors really glow (I'll post the results of my work with brights on these pages)
  • To make a color less bright, add a pinch of its opposite color. Look at this gradation of red to green: all of the colors in between are much less saturated than either the red or the green:
  • You can also add a touch of black or white, as you can see in this gradation of Pthalo Turquoise:
  • Adding a smidge of almost any color, especially a dull one, to a bright color will reduce its saturation.
Thanks for visiting. Keep posting your fabulous pages on the flickr site, OK?


  1. Thanks for sharing your play with saturation levels and neutrals. I, too, like highly saturated colors, but did not know to add an opposite color to reduce saturation. Thanks for the lesson! Your take on 'Opposites' remind me of what I thought of when I saw the theme 'Opposites'. I immediately thought of my kidlets' favorite colors. His is black, hers is "all the colors, except black and gray". :>

  2. I can't believe this. This is the 3rd blog I have seen this morning where I see people using neutrals. Now I know my black and white doodling is neutral but I have never been a fan of tans, golds, browns, etc. I like what you have done with these colors. I guess I am going to have to push myself to try different colors.

  3. I love these! The first three especially.

  4. This is a wonderful tutorial on using color and neutrals to their best effect... nice, Jill! :)


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