Silver is such a useful color, especially when painting silver objects and giving a metallic sheen to other colors. However, mixing silver color with its reflective properties can be tricky.
Silver color can be created by mixing a blob of titanium white with a dash of blue and a dash of black color. To add a metallic sheen mix with an equal part of the pearlescent medium, iridescent medium, or mix with mica powder with a metallic sheen.
You can use iridescent or pearlescent mediums straight out of the tube to create metallic sheens as well. It will create transparent, metallic tinting on top of other colors.
How do you make the color silver with paint?
Silver color can be made by mixing colors and adding a reflecting element to the mixture. Simply mix a blob of white with a dash of blue and black to make the gray tone of silver color. To give the reflective properties or a metallic sheen mix an equal part of a pearlescent medium or iridescent medium. You can also mix in mica powder itself to add sheen.
Caution: when using mica powder in any paint wear a mask and gloves to protect from fine powder particles
What two colors make silver?
The two colors that make silver will be black and white. After making the grey tone, mix with pearlescent or iridescent medium for the metallic sheen or reflective properties. A little blue can be mixed in to make the silver color cooler and more interesting.
You may need to silver color to paint a reflective metallic surface. In this case, you do not need the real silver color. Instead, the refections are painted separately using black, white, and grey colors to create an illusion of reflections in the metallic objects. Also, paint the reflections of surrounding materials with their colors.
You can make silver color with any art medium such as acrylic, oil, and watercolor paints. These will be discussed in detail below.
My color mixing guide
For your convenience, I have mixed silver colors using titanium white, ultramarine blue, and black color. All of these are acrylic colors. Blue is used to add a cooler undertone to the silver color. you can see me mixing silver with these paints in the above video.
In the video first I mix titanium white with pearlescent acrylic medium. Then I mix in a little blue color and then a dash of black color. Since the gray color, I mixed has a darker value I lighten it with more titanium white and mix more pearlescent medium with it. This way I was able to create a semi-opaque silver color.
I painted swatches of mixed colors along the process until I get the silver color I want. The following image shows you those color swatches of silver color paint.
What is silver?
Silver is a relatively soft shiny material. Its shine can be reduced when sulfur compounds in silver react with air and process black silver sulfides. Silver metal is used in jewelry and cutlery where the luster of silver metal is needed. Silver is one of the best light reflectors.
There are numerous other uses of silver like making batteries, electrical contacts, making mirrors, and dental alloys. The silver paint with actual silver metal is used in printed circuits. As silver is such as good light reflector it is one of the first metals used in mirrors.
Silver is a precious metal just like gold. Hence silver color is associated with wealth. Also, it represents success, prosperity, elegance, and glamour.
So, you might wonder how silver shines just like other metals. Its shininess is a built-in property, in other words how the metal atoms are made and their electron movements. Silver can reflect most of the visible light it receives but not all. That’s why it is seen as silvery or a little dark and not white. Other metals also reflect most of the visible light it receives but not all. That’s why most metals look silvery.
Silver as a color
The most accurate way of creating silver is by using some silver metal particles in the paint to create the exact silver reflection and color. However, then the paint would become so expensive due to the price of silver metal.
Instead what acrylic paint manufacturers have done when making silver or similar metallic colors is use inexpensive mica pigments or other metals with similar reflective properties. Below I have included a table of silver colors or similar metallic colors of Golden acrylic paints with their chemical composition. This will help you understand what goes into your silver metallic paints.
|Golden paint name||Pigment/ chemical composition|
|Iridescent Silver (Fine)||Titanium Dioxide coated Mica particles / Nearly Pure Amorphous Carbon|
|Iridescent Stainless Steel (fine)||Iron, Chromium, Nickel|
|Iridescent Pearl (Fine)||Titanium Dioxide coated Mica particles|
|Pearl Mica Flake (Small)||Natural Mica Flakes|
As you can see in Golden acrylic paints, mica is used to give reflective properties. Specifically, mica is coated in titanium dioxide which is what we call titanium white in paint. Then carbon black is used to make the paint a little darker. This mimics the silver metal appearance perfectly.
Making silver by color mixing
Now that we know how manufacturers make silver color we can mix our silver paint. Just as in silver paint itself, what we have to mix are titanium white, mica powder, and black color. You can choose carbon black as the black color.
First, you need to make a gray color. This can be a light gray color (hex #C0C0C0) as shown below. To make gray mix titanium white with a dash of carbon black. Any other black color will work if you do not have carbon black.
Silver color, Hex #C0C0C0
However carbon black has a cool undertone, unlike some other black colors. To mimic this cool undertone you can mix in a dash of blue color with the black you use if you happen to use a warm black color.
Now add mica particles to the paint to give that metallic sheen. You can mix the light gray color with pearlescent or iridescent medium. As said before these mediums have mica particles with an acrylic polymer binder.
As you mix gray with these mediums the paint will look transparent. If you want opaque silver color you may have to add several layers of transparent silver color or just glaze the iridescent or pearlescent medium above the light gray color you mixed.
Changing the value and temperature of the silver color
You can change the value of a mixed silver color by changing the amount of black and white mixed in it. If you mix more white you will get a color of lighter value. If you mix more black you will get a color of darker value.
If you want to make the silver color warm, you can mix in a bit of warmer color like orange, red, or anything in that warm color range. If you want to make a cooler silver color you can mix a dash of blue color with silver color. The warmness or darkness will be determined by the third color you mix in to make silver. Also, the silver color temperature may change according to the temperature of the black color used.
Titanium white is a purely neutral color with just white. Black is different than that. There are differences between black colors even though not visible at the first sight. In acrylic art, the main four black colors you will meet are marred black, carbon black, ivory black, and bone black.
Carbon black is the most neutral black. Mars black, ivory black, and bone black have a warm brown undertone and are warmer black colors. So if you want warm silver color you can use any of the black colors. But if you want a cooler black color the best choice would be carbon black with some ultramarine blue.
How to make silver paint without black?
Silver paint can be made without black if you can make a grey color without using black color. This is possible. We can make gray by mixing complementary colors. Then mix that gray with some white and metallic powder to create reflective silver color.
Here I will remind you what are complementary colors. Green-red, blue-orange, and purple-yellow are the complementary colors. If you have these colors and mixing any two of them can make a gray color. When mixing gray. the right balance between warm and cool colors is important. Two complementary colors need to be mixed in equal strengths to make a gray color. Otherwise, the gray could be warmer or cooler than neutral.
You can mix in some white to check if it is a true gray color from time to time when mixing the complementary colors. Once you created a light gray color then mix in some metallic powder like mica or a medium like iridescent or pearlescence which contain mica powder.
Making silver colors using different mediums
In this article, I have mostly talked about how to make silver color using acrylic paint. In this section, I will explain to you mixing silver colors using some other mediums.
Mixing silver colors using watercolors
You can get silver and other metallic watercolor paints from a brand like Arteza. If that is not an option you can mix silver watercolor paint by yourself as follows.
When you are making metallic watercolors you will have to do it from scratch and not by just mixing watercolor paints with mica powder. Instead, you will have to make a watercolor binder which is gum arabic first and then mix it with mica powder to create a silver color.
If you are interested in making your silver watercolor paint then you can watch this video. It explains the process in great detail.
Mixing silver colors using colored pencils
With colored pencils, there is no way of creating silver color that I know of. The most possible reliable way is to get a silver color pencil from the metallic rage of any brand you prefer.
Mixing silver colors using oil paint
Making silver color using oil colors is similar to that of acrylic paints. Start with iridescent oil white color. Then you can mix in a little titanium white and add a dash of carbon black. Mix the colors until you get the light gray silver color with shimmer.
To thin the mixed silver color you can mix it with solvents, artist’s oils, or mediums such as Liquin. This way you can create nice iridescent silver glazes. You can also buy a silver oil color from Winsor and Newton. Your favorite oil paint brand might be offering a metallic range and it is worth checking out.
How to paint silver without silver color paint?
Now you might be surprised that artists do not use metallic colors when painting metal objects. Instead, they use black, white, and gray to create the illusion of metal on the canvas. Then they add the distorted reflective images in the surroundings that we see on the metal object.
When you are painting a silver or metallic object first observe the colors you see on the object. See where the darks, highlights, greys, and reflections are. The reflections of the surroundings you see on the silver objects are not true colors of the object but are grayed-out versions of the true colors.
When you are painting a highly reflective metal there will be some abrupt changes from highlights to shadows or darker tones. If you can capture these different elements of metal objects you will be able to paint a reflective object well. This video will help you paint a silver object with further guidance.
I have written a whole article about acrylic paint color mixing charts. You can learn a lot about mixing all the primary and secondary colors there. There is a free downloadable color mixing chart and a grid as well.
Silver color can be easily mixed using black, white, and maybe blue color. This will create a light gray color base of silver. To add the metal reflective property mix some mica powder, iridescent or pearlescent medium with the light gray color. However, you will not need silver paint to paint a silver metal object. In that case, you will need to learn how to paint metal reflections using white, grey, black, and the colors of other items surrounding it.