Exploring Color Using Grisaille Under-painting

I recently wanted to explore how different watercolor pigments look when painted over different values of permanent gray ink. So I decided to create some color charts that would be helpful when using a grisaille under-painting in my sketches.

Painting Light, Medium, and Dark Value Charts

The first thing I needed to do to create my color charts was paint light, medium, and dark value columns on each of my charts using a diluted permanent ink.

I used the method I learned from Steven Reddy for making my paint dilutions. I used two 15 ml artist jars to make the dilutions. For the lighter solution, I filled one jar all the way up and added 4 drops of the india ink. For the darker solution, I filled the jar halfway and added 4 drops of the india ink.

1 1/2″ H x 1″ Diameter

Ink Dilutions


Darkest Value

Next, I began to paint the values on the charts. Above is the darkest value. I used the jar with the darker solution for this column. I waited for this column to dry before painting the next column.

For the following chart, I used the lighter solution. I painted the third column using this solution once, let it dry, and then painted it again.

Medium & Dark

For the lightest value column, I painted the lighter solution one time and let it dry.

Light, Medium, Dark

Adding Color

Next, it was time for the fun part: adding color. Since all of my boxes touched each other, it was easy to paint one color all the way across instead of having to paint each box. Here is how I began:

Painting Color Across

Completed Color Charts

Below are my completed color charts. The first column in each chart is the pure color on the paper. The last three columns are painted over the light, medium, and dark values of the gray ink.

Please stay tuned for my post next week. I will be showing a value painting of pears in ink and then the same value painting with added watercolor. In other words, it will be a sketch using a grisaille under-painting. Be sure to sign up to receive my emails. If you haven’t seen my previous post on using a grisaille under-painting, you can view it here.

Pinks & Reds

Yellows & Orange

One Reply to “Exploring Color Using Grisaille Under-painting”

  1. Pingback: Watercolor Sketch of Pears with a Grisaille Under-Painting – Sketching and Painting the Moments