what colors make black

What Colors Make Black? – A Guide on How to Make Black Paint

Black is perhaps the most underrated and least-discussed color. In fact, scientifically, black is not a color at all, but an absence of light. When it comes to mixing colors, some will suggest skipping the faff and buying a tube of black paint, but many of the most prominent painters throughout history and today prefer to mix their own black shades. The variation available when you mix your own black paint is astounding, so let us dive right into how to make black paint!



How to Mix Black Paint in a Nutshell

Method 1: Create black paint by combining red, blue, and yellow in equal proportions.

alizarin crimson ultramarine blue and yellow ochre makes black

Method 2: Use pairs of complementary colors such as red and green, blue and orange, or purple and yellow to produce black.

Method 3: Combine blue with brown to formulate black; if the result skews too brown, incorporate additional dark blue to achieve the desired black tone.

blue and burnt umber makes black


Mixing Recipes for 25 Shades of Black Color

Shade NameMixing Recipe
Black Eel2 parts Ivory Black, <1 part Payne’s Grey
Black Leather Jacket2 parts Mars Black, <1 part Forest Green
Black Truffle2 parts Ivory Black, <1 part Burnt Umber
Black Steel2 parts Carbon Black, <1 part Prussian Blue
Blue Charcoal2 parts Lamp Black, <1 part Ultramarine Blue
Charleston Green2 parts Ivory Black, <1 part Phthalo Green
Dark Sienna1 part Burnt Sienna, <1 part Mars Black
Ebony2 parts Mars Black, <1 part Ultramarine Blue
Gunmetal2 parts Ivory Black, <1 part Metallic Silver
Iridium2 parts Carbon Black, <1 part Titanium White
Oil2 parts Ivory Black, <1 part Yellow Ochre
Onyx2 parts Ivory Black, <1 part Phthalo Green
Army Uniform2 parts Mars Black, <1 part Olive Drab
Basalt Black2 parts Lamp Black, <1 part Cobalt Blue
Black Cat2 parts Carbon Black, <1 part Sapphire Blue



How to Make Black with the Primary Colors

The primary shade method for creating black involves using the three primary colors: blue, red, and yellow. By mixing equal parts of these hues, you can produce a black shade suitable for various paint mediums such as watercolor, acrylic, and oil. To adjust the resulting black’s hue, you can use lighter shades of the primary colors for a softer black that may appear almost brown.

Modifying the equal parts ratio by adding more blue will result in a cooler black, whereas increasing the red will yield a warmer tone.


How to Make Black with Printing Primaries

Printing primaries, consisting of Hansa Yellow, Phthalo Blue, and Quinacridone Magenta, can be mixed to create a black shade that closely resembles pure black. Hansa Yellow offers a bright, warm tone, while Phthalo Blue provides a cooler hue, and Quinacridone Magenta adds a muted yet somewhat vibrant maroon.

To mix black, start by blending the magenta and blue to form a warm, vibrant purple. Then, gradually add Hansa Yellow, the complement of purple, to neutralize the purple and result in a deep black hue.

Different Colors That Make Black

The black shade that you get from this equal parts ratio is one of the closest shades to pure black that you can mix yourself. 


How to Make Black with Other Primary Shades

If you are looking for a slightly more brown shade of black, then you can use the following primary shades:

  • Yellow Ochre
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ultramarine Blue

In comparison to the printing primaries, these colors are slightly less vibrant. Yellow ochre is a little darker than Hansa yellow and already leans towards brown. Ultramarine blue is a little darker than Phthalo blue and leans a little more towards purple, making it warmer. Alizarin crimson is a lovely deep burgundy shade that also leans a little more towards purple, making it a cool red.

Begin, as with the last method, by combining the red and blue shades to create a purple. This purple is going to be quite dark. You can then add the yellow ochre to the purple mix to cancel it out and create your black paint.

As a result of the slightly more brown-yellow shade, this black has hints of brown, making it perfect for adding shadows and dimension to an object in your painting. 



How to Make Black with a Blue Base

While you could happily spend your artistic career making black from the primary colors, there is so much more variety on offer. Blue, one of these primary shades, makes a fantastic base color for making a deep and cool black color. The exact shades of black you can make with this method depend on the exact shade of blue you use, and the other colors you choose to add into the mix.

Here, we are going to outline two different methods for how to make black with a blue base, but we encourage you to take this knowledge and keep experimenting to see how many unique black shades you can make!

Colors That Make Black


How to Make Black with Phthalo Blue and Cadmium Orange

If you are wanting a light shade of black, that is almost like a dark grey color, then this is the method for you! With these two colors, you can create a light black without using any white.

The magic of this color combination lies in the mutual complementation of these two shades. Because each of these shades is so bright and vibrant, they neutralize each other very well. The vibrant Pthalo blue cancels out the vibrancy of the Cadmium orange, and vice versa. The final shade is a neutral and slightly brown light black color. This black is perfect for those looking to add shadow or those who do not want a very dark shade of black.


How to Make Black with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber

If you want a much darker and cooler black shade, then this is the perfect combination of colors. This black shade would be perfect for a dark night sky or the depths of the ocean. Both of the component colors can be used extensively in color mixing to cool down and darken other colors.

Ideally, you want to use equal parts of each of these shades so that they cancel each other out perfectly, leaving you with a rich black shade. You can, however, experiment with altering the ratio of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine blue to create different shades of black.

Adding more blue will make your black even cooler, while more Umber will have the opposite effect and make your black a little browner.



How to Make Black with a Green Base

Maybe you have noticed that when you use white to lighten a store-bought tube of black paint, the grey can take on a slightly green tinge. The reason behind this process is because many commercial black paints are based on green pigments.

The key to making a beautiful dark black shade with a green base is, to begin with, a dark green. For all of our methods, we are using Phthalo green because it is a rich, cool, and very dark shade of green. We will be combining this green with purple, and two different shades of red to create a variety of black shades.

How to Make Black Yourself


How to Make Black with Alizarin Crimson and Phthalo Green

In the primary color method, we used Alizarin crimson to make black. In essence, this method is the same as the primary color method, except you are condensing the yellow and blue into a single color. Just like blue and orange, red and green are each other’s complementing hues.

The most important part of using this set of colors that make black is the darkness of both the Phthalo green and the Alizarin crimson. Combine equal parts of each color and test your final shade of black on a piece of white paper.

This lovely and vibrant black shade has a hint of brown, but it is almost entirely masked by the darkness. 


How to Make Black with Phthalo Green and Quinacridone Red

Again, the choice of red for this method is going to seem familiar because we used it in one of the primary methods. The result of this combination of colors is what we call transparent black because both of the component colors are transparent colors. As a result of this transparency, it is unlikely that you would be able to lighten this black into a neutral grey.

It will take a little patience to get this black mixture perfect, but the result is well worth the effort. This transparent shade of black is a very cool temperature and is also very close to the pure black you can buy in a tube.

What Two Colors Make Black


How to Make Black with Dioxazine Purple and Phthalo Green

While the previous two color combinations may have made sense to you because they were fundamentally a combination of all the primary shades, the combination of purple and green may be a little more surprising. The magic of this combination lies in the darkness of the Pthalo green and Dioxazine purple.

Mix equal parts of each of these colors together and then test your black on a piece of paper. Because the green shade is such a forceful color, it may overpower the purple and you may have to add a little more purple to balance it out.

The black shade that you can create from these two colors is a beautiful, rich, and velvety dark color. 



Adjusting the Temperature of Your Black

The three overarching methods that we have outlined in this article can be used to create a wide range of different black shades. Some of the black colors we have created are cooler and some are warmer, depending on the component colors. After you have mixed your shade of black, you can adjust the temperature a little more if that is what you desire.

How to Make Black Paint


How to Make Black Warmer

There are several colors that you can add to your black shade to make them a little warmer. We strongly caution that you only add a touch of these colors to your black at a time, as they can easily overpower the other component shades and you will no longer have black. Here are some of our favorite shades to use to warm up your black hues:

  • Cadmium Orange
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Quinacridone Red


How to Make Black Cooler

Just as you can make your black warmer, you can also easily make it cooler by adding a small amount of cooler shades. These are some of the colors that you can use to cool down any black shade:

  • Dioxazine Purple
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Phthalo Green
  • Phthalo Blue



Using Black in Your Work

Black, while not technically a color, plays a crucial role in art and design, serving various functions from backgrounds to adding depth and conveying mood. It is often associated with mystery, sophistication, and mourning. Black’s connection to the supernatural and the unknown makes it ideal for creating an eerie or enigmatic atmosphere in creative works.

The darker and cooler the shade of black, the more it can evoke a sense of mystery, similar to the darkness of a pit or the night sky.

The color is also traditionally linked to mourning and death, evident in cultural practices like widows wearing black and common depictions of death in black attire. Despite these somber associations, black is simultaneously considered a sophisticated color, emblematic of elegance in “black tie events” and fashion with the iconic “little black dress.”

Its slimming visual effect also makes it a favored choice in fashion and interior design, showcasing its versatile and multifaceted nature.


How to Make Black



Why You Should Mix Your Own Black

Although most black shades tend to look the same, just like with any other color, there are different black shades and tones that you can create. It is because of this potential for variation that we believe every artist should know how to mix their own black.

Some artists may tell you that mixing your own black is too much hard work and that it is easier to simply buy it in a tube, but we strongly believe that the variability in black shades is a wonderful way to make your work unique and full of life.

What Are the Colors That Make Black

Now, we have to be honest with you here. It is unlikely that you will be able to mix pure black by hand, but this does not mean you will not be able to get close to the perfect shade. The black that you can create with your own hands will always be more vibrant and dynamic. Using your own black shades can help you put the vision in your mind’s eye onto the canvas with more precision and depth. When mixing by hand, you can create blacks that are very light or extremely dark. You can also make your black shade warmer or cooler by adjusting the ratios of your composite colors.

We are excited to share the different methods that you can use to mix your own black shades, so let us dive right in! 



Frequently Asked Questions


What Two Colors Make Black?

There are several different ways that you can make black from a range of colors. When it comes to what 2 colors make black, you have the option of using a dark green shade, like Phthalo green, combined with a red shade, like Alizarin crimson. You can also use a combination of a blue color, like Ultramarine blue, and an orange shade, like Cadmium orange.


How to Make Black Paint?

Say goodbye to the one-note tubes of black paint that you can buy at the shop. You can easily make your own black paint at home by combining a range of different colors. You can use a mixture of the primary shades, or use green or blue as a base.


Cite this Article

Charlene, Lewis, “What Colors Make Black? – A Guide on How to Make Black Paint.” Art in Context. June 24, 2021. URL: https://artincontext.org/what-colors-make-black/

Lewis, C. (2021, 24 June). What Colors Make Black? – A Guide on How to Make Black Paint. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/what-colors-make-black/

Lewis, Charlene. “What Colors Make Black? – A Guide on How to Make Black Paint.” Art in Context, June 24, 2021. https://artincontext.org/what-colors-make-black/.

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