lack 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!
Table of Contents
- 1 An Exploration of the Color Black
- 2 How to Make Black Paint
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
An Exploration of the Color Black
Before we can get into the juicy part of this color mixing tutorial, it is important to have a broad understanding of black, how we perceive it, what it can mean, and why you should mix your own.
Black is Not a Color
Unlike all of the other colors of the rainbow, black is not technically a color. When we look at color scientifically and bear with us, each color that we can see with our eyes is a specific wavelength of visible light. Objects do not actually have any intrinsic color themselves, but the way that light interacts with them causes these specific wavelengths to bounce back into our eyes while others are absorbed by the object’s surface.
For example, a dainty blue flower absorbs most of the visible light wavelengths, but it reflects blue light back into our eyes, so we see the flower as blue.
The reason why black is so special is that it is not a wavelength of light, but the complete absence of any light. When we look at a black surface, there is no light being reflected back into our eyes because the surface is absorbing all the wavelengths of visible light. It can be confusing to think about this when we are talking about creating black paint, particularly because we do so by combining other colors.
Using Black in Your Work
Although technically not a color, black is an essential part of any painting or illustration. Black can be used in several ways, as a background color, to add dimension, or to add a particular mood or meaning to your designs. Just like any other color, there are several meanings and emotions that black can impart to your work, including a sense of mystery, sophistication, and mourning.
Associated with all things supernatural and otherworldly, black is a great color to use if you want to create a slightly uncomfortable or mysterious mood in your work.
We will go into more detail with regards to the different types of black you can use later, but the darker and cooler your black, the more mystery you can infuse into your designs. The color black is typically associated with the unknown, think a deep dark black pit or the endlessly dark night sky. Often, this association with the unknown can lead to black being associated with evil and death.
Black is the color of mourning. It is a long-standing human tradition throughout many cultures for a widow to wear nothing but black for an extended period of time following her husband’s death. The association between black and death goes even further, with almost all depictions of death, like the hooded figure with a scythe, being presented in black. As the opposite of the purity of white, black is often demonized and used to represent the negative side of everything, from race to morals or the “black sheep” of the family who does not fit in with the rest.
Although black has these potentially negative connotations, it is also one of the most sophisticated colors.
“Black tie events” are often the most classy and require the utmost sophistication and elegance. The concept of a “little black dress” as being one of the sexiest and elegant items of clothing for a person to wear also highlights this meaning of black. As a visually slimming color, black is one of the most popular colors in the fashion industry and interior design.
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.
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!
How to Make Black Paint
When it comes to the question of what colors make black, there are three main methods that give the best results. Within each of these methods, however, there are several tricks that you can use to subtly adjust your black shade so that you end up with the perfect black hue for your work. The first method for how to make black is to combine all three primary colors. The second method uses blue as a base color, and the third uses green.
If this is your first time mixing black paint, then we recommend grabbing a page of your sketchbook to create a record of these methods. For each method, you can draw a square for each component color and one for the black shade. These records can be helpful in the future.
How to Make Black with the Primary Colors
The first method we are going to discuss with regards to colors that make black is the primary shade method. For this method, all you are going to need is the three primary hues. These shades are blue, red, and yellow. This simple method requires equal amounts of each of these colors to produce a nice black shade. You can use this method with any paint medium, including watercolor, acrylic, and oil painting mediums.
While black is the darkest color we have, you can easily create different hues. The way that you can alter the shade of black is by using different shades of your primary colors.
Using lighter hues of your primary colors will create a lighter black shade that is almost brown. You can also alter the exact shade of your black by disregarding the equal parts ratio. A little bluer will make your black shade cooler, while a touch redder will do the opposite.
How to Make Black with Printing Primaries
Printing primaries are the primary shades used by printers. They make a great black, that is almost a pure black shade when combined. These three colors are:
- Hansa Yellow
- Phthalo Blue
- Quinacridone Magenta
The Hansa yellow is incredibly bright and quite a warm shade. Phthalo blue is also a bright shade of blue and leans a little more to the cooler side of the color temperature spectrum. Lastly, the Quinacridone magenta is a fairly muted, almost maroon shade of red, but it still retains a hint of vibrancy.
So, how do you make black with these three shades? We find the best way is to begin by mixing the magenta with the blue paint to create a nice warm and vibrant purple shade. You can then begin to add your yellow. Because yellow is the complementing shade to purple, it will cancel out the purple in this mixture leaving you with a lovely dark black hue.
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!
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 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.
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 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
Now that we have come to the end of our tutorial on colors that can make black shades, we really hope that you feel more empowered to mix your own shades of black. The world of color is filled with unlimited possibilities, and black is just as variable as other colors.
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.