How to Make Gray Paint

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If you think that gray is simply a mixture of black and white, you won't be able to take advantage of the subtleties of this tricky decorating color. The color gray is considered a neutral color along with brown. It's basically the result of over-combining primary colors; when you do this to an extreme, you end up with black. Gray may be neutral, but it usually has a discernible hue produced by the colors used to mix it.

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Warm vs. Cool Grays

Before mixing gray for your walls or trim, consider the surrounding color scheme. The scheme is considered warm if the predominating colors in the decor are red, yellow, orange, or brown. It's considered a cool color if most of the colors are blue, green, or violet. You can mix your own gray in a warm or cool tone, depending on the colors you use, but it's best to combine warm gray with warm colors and cool gray with cool ones. Also consider how light you want the gray to be, because this helps determine the colors you should use to mix it as well as the best type of base to use.

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Mix Black and White for Neutral Gray

Adding black pigment to white paint makes a neutral gray that is neither cool nor warm, so you can use it anywhere. Here's how to mix black and white to make a neutral gray:

  1. Add black pigment or paint to white paint; have a color reference handy to tell you when you've achieved the proper mixture.
  2. Add the black in increments of a few drops at a time if you're looking for an off-white shade and in larger increments to get a deep gray.
  3. Stir thoroughly before comparing the color to your reference, and add more black as needed until you get the final shade.

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How to Make Gray With Primary Colors

When mixed together, the primary colors -- yellow, red, and blue -- produce gray or brown; if you mix them to produce gray, the predominating colors determine the tint of the final mixture and whether or not it's a cool or warm color. It helps to make a test batch in a small container, measuring the proportions of pigments you use. Once you've achieved the proper mixture, you can use the same proportions to mix an entire can of paint.

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Follow these tips to make gray paint:

  1. Start by mixing blue and red pigments in more-or-less equal proportions to produce purple. Use more blue to keep the mixture cool and more red if you want a warm color.
  2. Add yellow pigment to adjust the tone of the gray, as desired. The more yellow you use, the lighter the mixture will become.
  3. Keep a color chip nearby so you know when your color blends or matches it.
  4. Add white if the gray is too dark; use black pigment to create a darker shade if it's too light.

Tip

Mix the pigments in a clear paint base if you want to produce a deep gray, such as slate, or use a a white base to produce lighter, pastel grays.

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