Blue and gray are both calming colors that are soothing to look at. Yet, gray isn’t a color you’d usually think to mix with since it’s a combination of black and white, which are used to make tints and shades. However, mixing with gray is actually a common way to tone down vibrant colors.
So, what happens if you combine blue and gray? These two colors might not work well together in every color model, but they’re definitely unique.
What Color Do Blue and Gray Make in Paint?
If you swirl blue and gray paint together, you’ll get a blue-gray color. Depending on the type of gray and blue you choose, it could look like lead or steel gray.
Understanding the RYB Color Model
The RYB color model is commonly used for mixing physical color mediums, such as paint and pastels. It’s a subtractive color model, so when colors are mixed together, wavelengths are removed. Gray isn’t one of the main colors featured on the diagram, but it can be created by combining black and white.
On this color model, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Combinations of two primary colors can result in secondary colors like green, orange, and purple. If you mix an equal amount of all three primary colors together, you’ll usually get brown.
Making Blue-Gray Lighter or Darker
If you don’t like how the blue-gray turned out, there are ways to change it to make it fit what you’re imagining. Here are some tips to make a color look lighter or darker.
If you add white to a color, you’ll create a tint, which is a lighter version of a color. The more white you add, the paler your blue-gray will look. Starting out with a lighter gray or blue can also give you a lighter end result.
Adding gray to a color creates a tone. This makes the color less vibrant without changing the hue. Blue-gray is already toned down as it’s a combination of blue and gray.
Shades occur when you add black to a color, making it darker. A little black paint can go a long way, so only add a touch of it when creating a shade. Using navy or dark gray to start off with can make the mixture look darker.
Learn more about tints, tones, and shades.
Blue-Gray Color Meaning
Blue-gray doesn’t have many meanings on its own, but the color does define “livid,” which is a synonym for anger. It’s used to describe bruising since that’s the color that skin sometimes turns. In addition to these meanings, blue-gray also shares some similar symbolism to blue and gray.
Blue symbolizes loyalty, security, and responsibility. It gives off supportive, calming, and protective feelings. It has many positive meanings, such as confidence, peace, and honesty. Yet, it can also have some less inspiring meanings like passive, depressed, and predictable.
Gray is a color that means neutral, compromise, and control. It can make people feel stabilized, calm, and relaxed. It can also make us feel better due to its reliable, mature, and intellectual values. However, some might see it as pessimistic, indecisive, and unemotional.
Can You Make Gray and Blue Paint?
It’s easy to worry when you run out of paint, but if you need more gray or blue, you may be able to make it from scratch. Gray is made by using an equal amount of black and white. If you want a darker gray, add more black, but if you want a lighter version, extra white is needed.
Blue paint is a little trickier to make since blue is a primary color. Yet, if you look at CMYK, which is a subtractive color model used for ink, you’ll find your answer. According to that color model, you can create blue by mixing magenta and cyan. However, those aren’t common paint colors, so you’d be better off buying more blue paint.
What Color Do Blue and Gray Make in Lights?
Nothing will happen if you try to mix blue and gray lights because there’s no such thing as gray light. Black is the absence of detectable light, and gray is just a lighter version of black. That’s why you won’t find gray anywhere on the visible light spectrum or the RGB color model, which is a form of additive mixing used for lights and digital displays.
On the RGB color model, the primary colors are red, green, and blue. When mixing colored lights together, the results usually get lighter. The three primary colors mixed together at full brightness make white, which is much different from the brown that the RYB primary colors make.
So, it’s not possible to mix with gray lights, but we can still see gray objects. Why is that?
Why Do Gray Lights Not Exist?
If you look at the visible light spectrum and the RGB color model, you’ll see almost every bright color, but not dark colors like brown or gray. That’s because these colored lights cannot exist on their own. Instead, we can only perceive them based on context.
When our eyes perceive colors, they also rely on our brains to tell us what we’re looking at. So, our brains may adjust the colors we’re seeing to other colors that wouldn’t normally exist in light. For example, you might be able to make gray light by using a dimmer white light. However, it will only look gray if it’s next to a brighter white light. If our brains see a dimmer white light next to a brighter one, they may register the darker one as gray, even though it’s not gray at all.
So, if you ever see gray light, it’s because it’s a dimmed white light, and your brain is telling you that it’s gray. It’s a fascinating concept, but it makes mixing with gray lights too complicated to attempt.
How Do Our Eyes Perceive Color?
Even though our eyes work with our brains to fully understand the colors we’re looking at, our eyes still do a lot of work when perceiving color. The color we see an object as all depends on the wavelengths that reflect off it.
Each color on the visible light spectrum has unique wavelengths. On one end of the spectrum, red has long, stretched-out wavelengths, while the other end is violet, which has short wavelengths that occur more frequently. So, if we look at a red apple, all the colors with shorter wavelengths, such as violet, blue, and green, will be absorbed while red, which has the longest wavelengths, will reflect off the object. Thus, the apple will appear red to us.
Inside our eyes, we have “photosensors” that help us interpret these wavelengths. Cone cells are found in the center of the retina, and they allow us to see colors in bright lighting. Rod cells are more sensitive, so they can help us see colors in dim lights. Together, these cells help us see the colorful world around us.
Does Gray Exist in CMYK?
People often confuse the CMYK color model for being similar to RGB. CMYK is a form of subtractive mixing that’s used for printer ink. The primary colors on the CMYK color model are cyan, magenta, and yellow, while the secondary colors are red, green, and blue. Even though those are the same but opposite colors of RGB, the two models are very different. Colors like black, gray, and brown exist in CMYK even though they don’t exist in RGB.
In CMYK, the K stands for “key color,” which is black. That’s why printer ink comes with black in addition to the primary colors. Gray can be made in CMYK by using a little black. Then, if you mix blue and gray in CMYK, you’ll get blue-gray, just like you would in RYB.
Designing with Blue and Gray
When blue and gray are used together, they provide a calming and soothing effect. They might be used together in a somber painting or a relaxing office space. However, they could be considered too serious for most bedrooms and living rooms, unless other colors are added to the design.
Blue and gray go well with neutral colors like black, beige, and white, or dark colors like green and gold. Pastel versions of bright colors like purple or pink can make the design more positive and fun. Adding in shades and tints of blue can also bring the design to life.
If you use blue and gray by themselves, you’ll have more options for designs. Gray goes with almost any color, especially vibrant colors like red, purple, pink, or yellow. Adding brightly colored furniture items to an otherwise neutral room can make the space more interesting. Blue also works with most colors, including pink, green, red, purple, or pink.
Mixing with Gray Can Be Tricky
When you think about mixing colors, gray probably isn’t one of the first colors you think to use unless your goal is to tone down another color. That’s because gray can make paint mixtures dull, and gray can’t be used when mixing lights. However, it can still create some unique paint colors, especially when mixed with blue.
Color combinations can be confusing, but mixing a wide variety of colors is a great way to understand color theory. So, it can’t hurt to test out different mixtures in paints and lights. Some of the results might be intriguing.