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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > Summer 17 > Colour versus neutral

Colour versus neutral

Paul Talbot-Greaves shows you how to create and use neutrals to provide contrast and depth in your work. Each month he invites you to complete a painting challenge that you can submit online for appraisal


When I refer to colour I am talking about highly saturated, bright colours, like the vibrant colours seen in a prism, such as permanent rose, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, viridian and so on. Create a painting with only these colours, using no mixing, and you will achieve an overly vibrant effect, with no depth or contrast. It’s useful to know that you can neutralise a saturated colour but you cannot create highly saturated colours from neutrals. To appear natural looking, bright colours need an element of neutral somewhere in the painting to generate shadows and shade. Most paints are comprised of bright, saturated colours from which neutrals can be made. In terms of looking at the landscape and translating it into paint, the bright, saturated colours are those generally depicted by bright sunlight. Neutrals are depicted by shadows and shades.

Paul Talbot-Greaves has been painting for over 20 years and teaches watercolour and acrylic painting in his home county of west Yorkshire. He also runs workshops and demonstrates to art societies throughout the north. Paul can be contacted by email: or through his website:

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About The Artist

Welcome to our summer issue packed with ideas and tips for painting outside, including Paul Weaver's demonstration showing how to capture the spirit of the seaside in watercolour. Watercolourists will also love Paul Talbot-Greaves' focus on how to use neutral and dark colours to add impact to your paintings, Julie Collins' advice on using ultramarine blue, and our review of the fabulous exhibition of John Singer Sargent's watercolours at Dulwich Picture Gallery. There are inspirational features on mastering perspective, capturing a likeness of a family member in oils, painting the figure alla prima, how to create movement in wildlife paintings in acrylics, and why you should consider the use of digital technology to support your traditional painting methods. Our artists also share their views on the new Winsor & Newton professional canvases and Jaxell's extra fine pastels, while our cover artist, Eileen Cooper OBE, RA talks about her own work, as well as the organisation and decision making behind this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. All this and much more to inspire a summer of successful drawing and painting!