Painting with only two colors! How to work with greys?

acrylic paint on paper

Introduction: Acrylic Paint on Paper

While filling in your sketchbooks, you might have faced difficulty multiple times – where you are at a shortage of colors and you are left with few choices for painting on paper.

Working with two colors while rendering your acrylic paint on paper can be difficult but not entirely impossible. Sketch pads should be the ideal place to let your ideas and imagination run amok, and a shortage of colors should not act as an impediment!

So let’s take a deep dive into working with only two colors and brightening up your sketching pad with the available resources at hand.


The primary characteristics of colors:

Acrylic paint on paper-1

Acrylic paint on paper-1

When working with colors on your drawing sketchbook, you should be well-acquainted with their inherent characteristics. Let’s do a quick rundown before proceeding to paint with two colors and create greys.

Primary colours:

These colors are primary and cannot be mixed. Instead, they give rise to more colors when added in various proportions.


Secondary colors:

These colors are derived by mixing primary colors in different proportions. Orange, purple, green, etc., are secondary colors that you can use while rendering acrylic paint on paper.


Tertiary colors:

These colors form the intermediate stages between primary colors and secondary colors. While mixing primary colors to derive secondary colors, you will get tertiary colors like red-purple and blue-purple, yellow-green and blue-green.


Analogous colors:

Analogous colors are close to each other on the color wheel. For example, the analogous shades of red are purple and orange.


Complementary colors:

Complementary colors are diametrically opposite on the color wheel and cannot be mixed because of high contrast. For example, the complementary shade of blue is orange, and red is green.

Each of these colors mentioned above has three characteristics in essential. Understanding these characteristics will help you while painting on paper and applying these colors in varying proportions to obtain the desired effect.



Hue essentially points to the origin of the definite color and its family. The hue of color could be either red, yellow, blue, orange, purple, or green.



The value of color points to how dark or light the texture of the color is. This is highly important while acrylic painting on paper, as it is essential to obtain the right amount of value to indicate the depth, shade, luminance, and other factors that will make your painting life-like.



Chroma essentially points out the intensity of the color and indicates how bright or dull it is.


How can mixing those rich greys work wonders on your drawing sketchbook?

Acrylic paint on paper-2

Acrylic paint on paper-2

When you are ready with the paper for painting with acrylics by your side and want to recreate a natural phenomenon, you should clearly understand the basics of color intensity. The colors available to us online or from stores are hard as muted or soothing as naturally found. Nature has adorned the surroundings with its own set of colors that profoundly impact our minds and souls with their charm and radiance.

However, while painting on paper, you will understand that artificial colors are more intense than natural ones. Hence, when doing acrylic painting on paper, you should constantly modify your colors and mix greys with your fundamental set of colors to make them more natural, harmonious, and visually pleasing.

As a result, you will have an A4 sketchbook adorned with the most vibrant shades that imitate nature and will please everyone who takes a look!

At Ayush Paper, you will get unlimited access to premium stationery, including a sketchbook for acrylic painting, paper for acrylic paint, and other excellent paper variants that you can use to create a personalized sketchbook.

Ayush Paper boasts of a plethora of sketchbooks online and quality notebooks that ensure incredible shading effect, shimmering effect, no feathering, no bleed-through, no see-through, acceptable dry times on wet inks, and can take moisture exposure as well. Grab the best quality at the lowest prices!


Why do you need greys?

Greys are some of the most delicate instruments to tone down or knock down the intensity of colors, and this improves the value of the colors and gives the painting structure and depth. Every color you are using while painting on paper has its highest saturation point or intensity, and you can effectively use greys to tone that down.

But can you ‘grey down’ a color with another? Is there any hack available?

Yes, there is!

You need to use a complementary color. For example, if you want to make a blue less intense, you can add orange and create ‘greyed blue.’ When you continue adding greys, the depth and, consequently, the value of the color increases.


Using two colors to obtain greys:

When putting acrylic paint on paper or your drawing sketchbook, you can try the following strategies to obtain greys and offer enhanced depth and value to your creations.


Creating grey with white and black:

This is the least favored method by artists, as it leads to a bland, flat shade of grey rather than a rich mix with several color biases. You can add white and black in varied proportions to obtain grey. However, you will be only restricted to these two colors and have a lesser range of greys to work with.


Creating grey with orange and blue:

Although this is harder than the method mentioned above, it creates rich mixes of grey with multiple undertones of color that can easily be adapted to each painting and matched with the other colors. You can use cadmium orange with varied shades of blue like ultramarine or cobalt and modify their proportions constantly to get the shade of grey you want.


Creating grey with red and green:

This is similar to the above, where you add phthalo green with cadmium red or naphthol crimson and increase the amounts of white to get the rich variant of grey that will adorn the paintings in your sketching pad.


Creating grey with purple and yellow:

Since purple and yellow are complementary colors, you can add them in ideal proportions to get a decent quality of black. Once you obtain that, increase the white to get the variant of grey that suits your needs. However, you might need to add yellow in varying amounts to correct the black obtained.


Creating grey by mixing brown with earth colors:

This is another tried-and-tested method where you use Vandyke brown/raw umber/burnt sienna or other brown variants with moderate to generous amounts of cobalt blue or ultramarine blue to obtain grey. Brown in itself is a ‘greyed down’ variant of red or orange. So you will get rich shades of grey using this method. You can make the grey lighter by adding decent amounts of white.


Final thoughts

Working with two colors while creating a flurry of things on your sketchbooks can be pretty limiting. However, the human mind is boundless, and hence it has found out the remedies that let it break out of those limitations! Following the above directions and improvising on your own will enable you to use your paper for painting with acrylics more constructively and continue your creative journey.

Home | Acrylic Paint on Paper | Ask Ayush Paper

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Main Menu