In the grey area – the colour grey in painting

Many have found themselves wondering about why, in the Schmincke assortment of products, there is an amazingly large palette of grey tones forming an integral part of the colour range of every single line of painting and drawing paints, colours and inks. This is not without good reason, as the (non-)colour grey plays an eminently essential role in painting.

The History of Art chronicles the prolific use of grey - as a "deliberate eschewal of colour" - a stylistic elementemployed in a wide range of artistic endeavours, already in Medieval times. This ranges from the illumination of books, through the painting of altarpieces, to the decoration of Lenten veils. Up to the present day, achromatic ("colourless") grey is assigned an important role, whether to heighten the impact of "chromatic" colours by contrast or afford monochrome depictions a new, expressive dimension, thanks to a wide and fascinatingly nuanced spectrum of tones of grey. Even today, "black & white" photographs and films expressly forswear the use of colour to achieve fascinatingly aesthetic effects. Ultimately, the countlesstones of grey open up endless possibilities in helping mixor tone down colours.

Grey conceived for use as a bona fide colour shade is available in the Schmincke assortment of products in nearly all possible variations, from neutral grey, to grey with a warm (e.g. reddish or violet) or cold (e.g. bluish or greenish) undertone. Often enough, contrary to popular belief, these grey tones are NOT simply gradations of black concocted through artless admixtures of white. They are, instead, complex compositions involving various colour pigments -with - or often even without - a single component of black. They are ideal, not only for use as a contrasting colour orfoil, but also for monochrome compositions - depending on the shade involved - for toning down specific colours (e.g. with Neutral grey or Neutral tint), for background washes, or as "sfumato", the fine grey mist that the Italian masters would lay upon portraits to soften the outlines (Sfumato).With this in mind, do permit the colour grey to leave the grey zone of your regard and enrich your palette to find use in your creative endeavours. Detailed information about the individual grey tones in terms of colour theory and use, in addition to the particular pigments involved, is available in the Schmincke Colour Charts.


Here is a small selection of tones from the broad palette of Schmincke grey tones (an excerpt):

Mixing grey tones