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Incorporating Grays into your Palette

Incorporating Grays into your Palette
Specific palettes of color are passed down like a great recipe that it is handed down from one generation to the next. The pigments on my palette that I use, and share with my students goes back to Frank Vincent Dumond, instructor at the Art Students League who proposed the prismatic palette. I will elaborate on the prismatic palette in the future but a vital part of the palette is a string of neutral colors or grays. The purpose of this string from light to dark is that almost everything we can observe has three properties, hue, value, and chroma. The refers to the particular color on the spectrum. The Chroma is the intensity of that color in our mixture, and the value addresses the amount of gray that we observe in our subject. This can vary from a very light gray to a deep gray. The Dumond prismmatic palette is designed to lay out a mixture of nine values light to dark, which simplifies the mixing process saving us a lot of extra mixing. For many years I would pre-mix each of the nine values and tube them up, and then squeeze them out as needed. Pre-tubing grays and specific colors are still a valuable strategy in painting but if this may seem a little to much work, here's a good alternative:
Squeeze out some white at the top left hand corner of your palette and the approximately 8-10 inches, squeeze out some black, (black is high tinting so you don't need a lot). With a palette knife, spread some of the white right to the edge of the black, then mix the two creating a dark gray. Mix the gray into the spread of white so you have a progression of dark to light. Now you have a fresh mix of grays to paint with. Obviously your subject matter and canvas size will dictate how much you should mix, but you can always mix more as you need it.

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