Mastering Colour 8: Creating beautiful greys with Munsell mouse complementary colours

The alternative complementary pairings generated by the Munsell wheel allow us to access an incredible range of beautifully sophisticated greys. Strategic placement of these specific greys adjacent to higher saturation colours can make your paintings feel richly coloured without being garish.


Use this lesson to learn to create a great variety of colours will take your colour mastery to a new level. Munsell believed his system offered a better representation of the balance of colours found in nature. The greys we can produce through his wheel are perfectly suited to paintings of natural subjects. By placing them in close proximity to their complementary colour we can accentuate the richness of both colours.

Contents: Slide talk, practical demonstration and skill building exercise.
Running time: 1 hr  33 mins
Time required for exercise: 1 hr

Materials List

Materials and equipment required:

One 9 x 12” board or A4 sheet of paper
2 x Pins
Printed image of colour wheel template if possible or a protractor
A small flat paint brush, around 1cm or ½ “ wide is ideal, a round brush would also be fine
A palette knife of any size and shape you like to use
Paper towel for cleaning/drying brushes
Plenty of clean water if you’re using acrylics or watercolours
Just one from each line of the following list of colours
• Titanium white
• Any bright greenish yellow – Cadmium lemon yellow, bright yellow lake, bismuth vanadate, Lemon yellow (not Michael Harding’s lemon yellow though – be sure to use his cadmium lemon!)
• An orangey yellow – Indian yellow red shade, cadmium golden yellow, cadmium yellow deep, gamboge, Yellow lake deep
• An orangey red – Cadmium red light, vermillion, possibly napthol red if it is an orangey shade
• A purplish red – Quinacridone pink, opera rose, permanent rose, alizarin claret, permanent alizarin, alizarin crimson, (or perhaps even magenta though that is a bit too purple really)
• A purplish blue – Ultramarine or cobalt blue
• A greenish blue – Phthalocyanine blue lake, phthalo blue green shade, Windsor blue, cerulean blue

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