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Nothing is Black and White with Payne’s Gray

16 thoughts on “Nothing is Black and White with Payne’s Gray”

    • Thank you for letting us know that you enjoyed this article, Millie! I am fortunate to have been able to play with around 30! mixes before I arrived at these offerings. The biggest surprise for me was how dark of a mix is achievable using Yellow Ochre as a component. I’m sure you’ll have a grand time!
      – Mike

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  1. It’s very interesting to read about the background and subsequent pigments that were (are) used to create Payne’s Gray. It was also curious that most of the formulations have a cool tint when he actually wanted a neutral gray.

    I spent many years as a film and video colorist and learned quickly that a true neutral gray looks warm to most people. It wasn’t until I added some form of blue that clients would think it was “neutral.”

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comments, Daniel.
      The neutral tints that are less lilac-toned are achievable with the first 4 recipes. We use this mix in QoR for our Neutral Tint and the Indigo color as well. The GOLDEN and Williamsburg Neutral Grays were designed to be Acromatic and we use our spectrometer when making each batch to assure they are actually neutral. Most people will see them as “too warm” but as you state, it is measurably accurate.
      – Mike

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  2. Thanks for another fascinating art/paint-related article. I recently bought M. Graham Brand’s Oil Payne’s Gray. And it was no good for my uses. When thinned with solvent it would turn into blue! I wound up washing with blue instead of an awesome dark gray like I wanted. Oops.

    M. Graham’s version of Payne’s Gray, at least at that time, was Thalo Blue and Carbon Black. I’ve heard Thalo Blue has powerful tinting strength, but week covering strength, so I guess thinnned the blue overpowers the black destroying the color. This color now is supposedly formulated with Ultramarine Blue instead.

    I think the only reason the Ultramarine and Black mixture is the most popular is simply because it’s the cheapest to make, and those who would complain about it instead would be the types to mix up their own.

    Reply
    • Hello Dave,
      The blue and black mixes are very common and your reasoning for Ultramarine Blue with Blacks’ popularity is valid. I would also add that 2 color blends are by far easier to color match compared to a tri-color mixture. The non-black blends were fun to mix with many surprises. The mix we have in QoR’s Payne’s Gray is also used to create our Indigo and Neutral Tint, so it has a great range.
      – Mike

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  3. I was introduced to paynes grey by my watercolor instructor in art school a long time ago. Since that day, none of my palettes has been without it (them).
    I remember that the instructor called it the watercolorist’s “black” because it stubbornly maintained a transparency that the other watercolors demanded.
    The different recipes explained why the slight warm-cool not quite violet hue of that first W-N watercolor tube has not always been present in the many other paynes greys I’ve used. It is truly a remarkable color and thanks for taking us down this rabbit hole.
    Can’t wait to jump into the next one with you.

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  4. Enjoyed learning about the forgotten creator of such a useful color. Thank you for this excellent info, so well written and laid out.

    Nina

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    • Nina.
      Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your reply! Hopefully we’ll be able to continue finding factual tidbits about William Payne so his legacy can continue on!
      – Mike

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    • Thank you for your comments, Jon.
      I did visit Jane Blundell’s Blogspot while researching this article. This blend is a favorite for many artists. Cathy Jennings, our in house watercolor and paper maven, makes a blend of Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Pyrrole Orange that is truly amazing to see!
      – Mike Townsend

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    • Delila,
      Thank you for your kind words and you are most welcome! I was pleasantly surprised with the range of the tri colors similar to what Payne mixed.
      – Mike

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  5. Interesting article thank you! I have always assumed that Paynes Grey was a mix of Ivory Black, Ultramarine Blue, and Raw umber. That is a mix I use anyway and it produces a nice warm blue-grey colour. It seems like the commonality in the various tints, is essentially black with blue and a warmer colour.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Martin!
      It is great to hear from you. It’s been a while since the days of “Groop”. I hope you are doing well!
      – Mike

      Reply

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