“Colors get the attention, but values do the work”

Portland Grey Value Studies by Ellie Wilson

It’s been raining a lot in Los Angeles, and our grey skies have inspired us, much like the grey skies of Portland inspired Robert Gamblin to formulate three Portland Greys – Light, Medium, and Deep. These three neutral greys were developed to help painters quickly adjust the value and chroma of colors. And until February 8th, Gamblin Artists Oil Colors are on sale for 40% off! That’s right – all the greys, and all the other colors, as well as mediums!  

Munsell Values

Portland Grey Deep, Medium, and Light are formulated at Munsell values 4, 6, and 8, respectively.

How are Portland neutral greys useful?

Out of the tube, these three values of grey can effectively be used to create preliminary value studies. Simplifying subject matter down to three values is an excellent way to organize complex compositions down to larger shapes, as illustrated in the work below by California artist Ellie Wilson.

Ibantik Lake, Ellie Wilson

Wilson explains, “The Portland Greys were used to create two close-up thumbnails in preparation for my painting Ibantik Lake. The Portland Greys are a key step for my process of creating a studio painting.” 

Color mixing with Portland neutral greys

In color mixing, these neutral greys give painters the ability to simultaneously adjust value and reduce the intensity of brighter colors for more natural color mixtures.

The inner circles of the color wheels below show the mixing effects of Portland Grey Light, Medium, and Deep on a palette of Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Orange, Alizarin Permanent, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Blue, and Sap Green.

Another tip for creating harmony in color mixing: consider using Portland Grey Light in place of white for low-light painting situations.

Colored Greys: Portland Warm Grey and Portland Cool Grey

Gamblin expanded their range of Portland Greys to include Portland Warm Grey and Portland Cool Grey, which tilt toward red and blue, respectively. With Titanium Buff added as a yellow-grey, they created a triad of muted primary colors. From these three muted primaries, you can mix a range of muted secondaries.

Formulated to work together, these colors give painters a range of colored greys for nuanced color mixing. Having a complete range of primary and secondary colored greys can be incredibly valuable for figurative and landscape painting. The compressed value range of these colors is helpful in creating atmospheric effects in paintings.

Remember, paintings with the wildest of color schemes can be held together with a strong value structure. And as the adage goes, “colors gets the attention, but values do the work.”