Why are greys important when painting with watercolour? Greys are the workhorse of many artists, used to create lines, shadows, details and light effects. While some painters use a basic grey (a mixture of black and white), most artists use complementary colour mixes or black pigmented paint modified with another colour to create greys with variations within them – just as grey appears in real life. Choosing whether you want a warm, cool or neutral grey can set the whole atmosphere of your painting. With that in mind Daniel Smith has collaborated with three artists to create six tube grey watercolours, each of which produces a unique effect, giving you a quick base to use by itself or to mix in with your normal watercolour palette.
- Daniel Smith New Grey Signature Series Watercolours:
- Alvaro’s Warm Grey and Cool Grey
- Jane Blundell’s Non-staining, Non-dulling Grey
- Joseph Zbukvic’s Neutral Grey, Warm Grey and Cool Grey
Daniel Smith have created a new signature series of colours including 6 greys, in collaboration with artists, to help encompass some of the infinite range of tones and allow artists to complete their perfect palette with premixed tubes.
These six new grey colours have been designed by three world-renowned artists so that there is a full range that artists can trust to choose from. The three artists who Daniel Smith worked with to develop these colours are Master Artist Alvaro Castagnet, Master Colourist Jane Blundell, and Master Artist Joseph Zbukvic.
Greys can be bold or subtle if mixed with careful consideration and insightful colour theory. Premixed greys are incredibly important when working plein air as they allow you to keep up with changing light and weather conditions. Alvaro has chosen his greys to work with plein air painting and to allow fast colour mixing within your colour palette.
You can see two of his mixing grids below (taken from the Daniel Smith blog) which show you how both Alvaro greys can modify and create a beautiful array of neutrals when mixed with the Daniel Smith essential watercolour set, giving you a sense of their versatility.
Alvaro’s greys are about, in his own words:
‘…magnetism, fury, energy…power. You know greys… create a feeling of danger, emotion, passion… mystery…evoke things that are unknown…darkness. I use these greys to create a painting that has a magnetism…energy, mystery, passion…something to discover, entering the unknown, darkness. Both of these colors have just this type of feel to me.’-Alvaro Castagnet
‘[A] terrific hue, very powerful, excellent to create strong and warm paintings. In monochrome this wonderful Grey is perfect to achieve a powerful atmosphere with amazing glow. This color is also perfect to add dramatic highlights and shadows.’-Alvaro Castagnet
This is a smooth, warm sift grey that tones down colours in mixes and adds a subtle warmth to them. It is semi-transparent and non-granulating (making it perfect for mixed washes), is low staining (preventing haloing) and has an excellent lightfastness. Pigments include: PBr 7, PB 29, PBk 6
“A very powerful and true hue, with no artificial look to it. Passionate and mysterious, great to evoke distant elements of any kind even the unknown…I love the hue.”
Fresco grey is a cool dark almost black in mass tone that can be drawn out to a cool misty wash . It mixes well, toning down and adding a coolness to certain colours. It is semi-transparent, granulating (allowing for dramatic effects), low staining and has an excellent lightfastness. The pigments include PB 29, PV 15, PW 6.
About Alvaro Castagnet
Alvaro was born in Montevideo, in Urguguay. He was encouraged from a young age by his father to pursue art, he studied first at the National School of Art in Montevideo under Professor Esteban Garino and then at the Fine Arts University under Miguel Angel Pareja. He lived in Australia for 20 years and has know returned to Montevideo. He has exhibited extensively over the last 30 years and has won several awards.
He has published several books: ‘Watercolor Painting with Passion’, ‘Painting with Passion – Beyond Technique’ and ‘Watercolour Masterclass’ books. He has also featured in innumerable art books, videos, DVDs and acclaimed international art publications. His main studio is located in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Artist and blogger Jane Blundell wanted to develop a grey that was non-staining (unlike those using Phthalo Blue) and that didn’t have the dulling effects of a grey which included a black pigment. It needed to be liftable and granulating to create stormy skies and soft shadows as well as being a neutral tint that could darken colours without changing their temperature.
Part of the importance of this is the desire by artists to use a grey that maintains the colour harmony within a palette and artwork – this is often done by mixing ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, however, it’s unusual to get this as a convenience colour. You can see the “recipe” in Jane’s swatches taken from her informative blog below.
Jane has been mixing in individual pans and palettes for years and a couple of years ago Jane also approached Daniel Smith to make available in tube form to meet the demands of her students and followers for this grey mix. It is semi-transparent, granulating, low staining and has excellent lightfastness. The pigments included are PB 29, PBr 7.
You can see the range of colours in can create in these mixing grids done by Jane (taken from her blog) below.
Jane Blundell is a watercolour artist who is passionate about colour. She has been painting professionally for over 35 years and writes tutorials along with detailed paint descriptions on her website and blog. She teaches drawing and watercolour to artists online and at home in Australia. You can see her workshop listings here. She has written articles and pieces for several publications and has also published a book ‘The Ultimate Mixing Palette: a World of Colours’. She exhibits regularly and is a member of several art societies and institutions.
Joseph Zbukvic is known for his considerate use of greys in his watercolours:
‘I’m asked endlessly what grey I use..I actually make up my own using just about every colour on my palette….’ – Joseph Zbukvic
‘As my painting style progressed over the years, I eventually found myself using many shades of grey which I always mixed myself using numerous pigments on my palette. I was constantly asked by students and other artists, what they were and how to mix them. A question almost impossible to answer. This led me to develop the three greys in collaboration with Daniel Smith. I hope they bring success to everyone using them.’ – Joseph Zbukvic
Joseph recommends having a range of greys to cover different light conditions. Since light can be neutral, cool or warm he has created with Daniel Smith three greys to match each type of light. This allows you to modify other colours quickly to produce the right temperature and atmosphere throughout the piece.
They can also be used by themselves to create expressive cityscapes.
‘…perfect for those strong, New York type cityscapes. When undiluted it is basically black and can provide powerful monolithic shapes without looking chalky. It gives a look of charcoal drawing or old-fashioned photographs.’ – Joseph Zbukvic
Joseph Z’s Neutral Grey is a rich black, grey that is very dark in mass tone and has virtually no colour bias meaning you can tone down colours easily. It is semi transparent, granulating, low staining and has excellent lightfastness. It includes these pigments: PB 29, PBk 9, PBk 10.
‘…perfect for strong summer light when shadows have that rich warm glow. It’s particularly useful for painting late afternoon light effects with its pinkish glow when it’s diluted into lighter washes. It can capture that evening glow perfectly.’ – Joseph Zbukvic
Joseph Z’s Warm Grey is also very dark in mass tone but had a pinkish undertone in light washes, allowing it to tone down other colours while adding slight warmth. It is semi transparent, granulating, low staining and has excellent lightfastness. The pigments included are PY 43, PV 19, PBk 6.
‘…I designed this grey to use for those frosty morning and rainy winter day paintings. It has a lovely greenish sediment which is perfect for low light, early morning light effects. I think this is a must for anyone painting winter scenes.’ – Joseph Zbukvic
Joseph Z’s Cool Grey while very dark in mass tone has an unusual green violet tone, it tones down nicely other colours while adding a lush coolness. It is semi transparent, granulating, low staining and has excellent lightfastness. The pigments included are PB 36, PV 19, PBk 6.
Below are mixing grids to demonstrate the way each grey interacts with the Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolour Set and the range they can each produce.
Joseph Zbukvic works mainly plein air, painting on location. He is a famous watercolourist who is held in galleries and collections worldwide. His style is lyrical and while encompassing a broad range of subjects seeks to product atmospheric, sensitive paintings. His series of DVDs are informative and seek to show other artists how to achieve their own style through using Zbukvic’s methods and sensitivity to light and surroundings.