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The Grays

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What about the Grays?

What is a neutral gray?

This is very simple: a neutral gray is something intermediate between black and white. If black is no light at all, and white the maximum possible light for all three RGB colors, the neutral grays will be in between, i.e. a same level of the three RGB colors, between 0 and 255.

Red Green Blue Result Name
255 255 255   White
192 192 192   Light Neutral Gray
128 128 128   Med. Neutral Gray
64 64 64   Dark Neutral Gray
0 0 0   Black

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Colored grays

If the three RGB colors have not exactly the same value, the obtained gray will be a colored gray. The next two pictures show you several colored grays.

Fig. #15   Fig. #16
16 Colored Grays #1
16 Colored Grays #2

In fig. #15 you see some grays colored with red, green and blue. Fig. #16 shows the same grays colored with magenta, cyan and yellow.

For an easier comprehension of this sort of gradations, please look at the three tables below.

Red Green Blue Result Name
192 192 192   Light Neutral Gray
172 192 172   With 10% Green
153 192 153   With 20% Green
134 192 134   With 30% Green

In the first table, you’ll remark that the green value is always 192, and that the red and blue ones gradually decrease from 192 to 172, 153 and finally 134. The color at 192 gives the shade of the gray.

But these delicate shades are better seen on a black background, as in the following picture:

Greenish Grays

In the second table, you’ll see, in the colored grays, that there is always one color which remains at its original value of 128, the other two ones decreasing to 102. The color at 128 gives the shade of the gray.

Red Green Blue Result Name
128 128 128   Med. Neutral Gray
128 102 102   With 20% Red
102 128 102   With 20% Green
102 102 128   With 20% Blue

Better seen on a black background:

Grays colored with primaries

The third table shows a neutral gray at 153-153-153. In the colored grays, there are always two colors which remain at this original value of 153, the third ones decreasing to 102. The two colors at 153 give the shade of the gray, e.g. Red 153 + Blue 153 = Magenta, etc.

Red Green Blue Result Name
153 153 153   Another Neutral G.
153 102 153   With 33% Magenta
102 153 153   With 33% Cyan
153 153 102   With 33% Yellow

Better seen on a black background:

Grays colored with secondaries

It’s thus always the color (or the two colors) which has (have) the highest power — i.e. the highest number — that gives (give) the shade of the gray.

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The yellowish grays and blacks

A most interesting issue is the case of the yellow colored grays and blacks.

Olive Greens

In this image, you can see four dark “yellows”! Believe me or not, these “Olive Greens” are nothing else than yellow colored grays and blacks, as you can see in the following table:

Red Green Blue Result Name
170 170 0   Light Blackish
153 153 0   Dark Blackish
136 136 51   Yellowish
119 119 51   Dark Yellowish

This is what happens in the RGB additive system. But it’s the same thing with yellow, black and gray in the CMYB subtractive system. You can try these mixings with your oil colors: it works too! (Even with watercolors or acrylics.) You only need Cadmium Yellow Light, Mars Black — and just a little Titanium White for making grays. (No white needed with watercolors.)

Now, let’s go to the Browns.

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