By mixing your own black you get more than the saving of a tube of paint. Your chromatic black will allow you to shift your color temperature when you need it. The black that you mix can also adapt to the color harmony of your piece. What color to mix to make black? I will show you 5 recipes to help you add a new level of refinement to your work.
1-Decent chromatic black
Mixing Cadmium dark red and Viridian will make a decent black. By working the correct proportions, you will obtain a neutral tone that is black enough for most applications. This works especially well if your painting has a red-green color harmony.
2-Good chromatic black
Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue work well together to make a good black. The advantage of working with complementary colors to make black is that you can shift your black toward a warmer or cooler tone by dosing the two complementary colors.
By mixing colors, you never get an absolutely 100% dark black. The main reason is that you need all three primaries (or a secondary and its complimentary primary) in the right amounts to make black.
Necessarily, you will have to put some yellow into the mix and this is when we often start to get away from the darkest of blacks. Most yellows will lighten a mix. One solution is to put Burnt Umber as the “yellow”. Burnt Umber is more orange than yellow but since orange contains yellow and that “orange” is still very dark, it works well for that purpose.
3-Very good chromatic black
So, you can get a very good black by mixing Burnt Umber with a dark blue like Ultramarine Blue, both usually transparent colors. If you are using a different dark brown, look on the label for a transparent color, more on this below.
4-Excellent chromatic black
To truly get close to a pure black, you need to mix three colors
- Prussian blue, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna
- Prussian blue, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber
You can have a much deeper black by using transparent pigments. Since opaque pigments reflect more light, they appear lighter. Transparent colors, will let more light penetrate into the paint layers and get dispersed, so they appear darker. How to know if the colors are transparent?
Most labels will tell you with a little box:
Usually transparent colors:
Note: This varies a little from brands to brands and it does not apply to “Hues” which are different pigments that approximate the named colors.
Blues: Ultramarine blue, Phthalo blue, Prussian blue
Greens: Sap green, Phthalo greens, Viridian, Green Earth (Terra Verte)
Yellows: Transparent Earth Yellow, Indian Yellow, Transparent Gold Ochre
Oranges/Browns: Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna
Reds: Quinacridone Reds & Magenta, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Red Oxide (Rembrandt), Perylene Red, Permanent Rose, Magenta, Crimson Lake
Purples: Quinacridone Violet, Ultramarine Violet, Dioxazine Purple, Purple Lake
There are many ways to make a chromatic black:
1-Using the three primaries
- Red + blue + yellow
2-Using a primary and a secondary (and vice versa)
- Yellow and purple
- Blue and orange
- Red and green
3-Using a brown and a blue
- Burnt umber and Ultramarine Blue
4-Using a brown, a blue and a red
- Burnt sienna, Prussian blue, alizarin crimson
- Burnt umber, Prussian blue, alizarin crimson
The darkest blacks will be using all transparent colors, either from a brown and a blue or a brown, a blue and a red.
The best part of making your own black is that you discover how you can make them cooler or warmer. By shifting the temperature of your blacks and by choosing them according to the color harmony in your work, you add a level of refinement that will enhance the beauty of your work.
Check my other post on unique colors that cannot be made by mixing others