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Black, the neutral colour of the night, darkness and elegance.


Black
Image by Mart Production on pexels.com

Black is the second achromatic colours considered a pure neutral colour. Black is the absence of light and, as white and grey, an achromatic colour because it doesn’t have an own hue.


In the RYB and CMY(K) colour mixing models the mixing of all primary colours generates a (chromatic) black.


Where does the colour name "black" come from?

The word “black” comes from the old German blakaz (burned) and the old English blæc (black, dark).


What does the colour black mean in psychology?

Black is the opposite of white and, in its negative meaning, it symbolizes darkness, night, evil, bad luck and death. It represents the deepest part of us that we have no knowledge of and that, at the same time, we fear. In a positive way it is considered a symbol of modernity, elegance, mystery, power and seriousness.


What are the most important black pigments?

The colour black was one of the very first colours to be used. In ancient times the main source for black pigments was charcoal. Later black pigments started to be produced by burning bones, grapevines (during Roman Empire) or from manganese oxide.

More recently the black is available also in synthetic form.


The most important pure black pigments, indicated with PBk in the “Colour of Art Pigment Database, are:


  • PBk6 Carbon Black, obtained by burnt wood or bones

  • PBk7 Lamp Black, obtained by oil lamps;

  • PBk8 Vine Black, obtained by desiccated grape vines and stems;

  • PBk9 Bone Black (also Ivory Black)

  • PBk11 Mars Black (or Black Iron Oxide) - the pigment was named after Mars, the God of war and patron of iron.


What are the most important shades of black?



Chromatic Black

Besides a black that is based on black pigments (PBk), there is another kind of black that is called Chromatic Black or simply “Dark” and is obtained by mixing all primaries (with the same temperature or colour bias) in the subtractive mixing model RYB.

This kind of black is a richer black compared to the pigment based one due to the fact that it contains all chromatic colours. The bias of chromatic black to a colour or another will depend on the quantity of each primary colour employed in the base.


The chromatic black is NOT the one sold in tubes.


The best chromatic black (also preferred by Claude Monet) was reached by mixing Alizarin Crimson and Viridian Green. Today the Viridian Green is substituted by either Phthalo Green BS or Hooker’s green.


Below some different methods to reach a chromatic black:


Mixing Primary Colours.

Start with one part of Phthalo Blue (green shade) PB15:3 with one part Primary Magenta PV19. To the resulting dark purple add a very small part of Hansa Yellow Opaque PY74 and another small part of Primary Magenta PV19. The resulting colour should be similar to the mars black containing the pigment PBk11 (red shade) but with a blue bias. To check and compare the bias of both colours mix them to white. (Watch more)


Purple-Black

  1. Mixing ½ part of Ultramarine Blue PB29 with one part Naphtol Red Light (PR112). The resulting colour (a purple-black) should be similar to the mars black containing the pigment PBk11 (red shade). To check the bias mix it to white.

  2. Mixing one part of Naphtol Red light (PR112) part Phthalo Green BS (PG7). The resulting colour should be similar to the mars black containing the pigment PBk11 (red shade). To check the bias mix it to white.

  3. Alizarin Crimson/Quinacridone Magenta + Phthalo Green/Hooker’s Green


Mixing Complementary Pigments

Another way to find complementary for pigments is to analyse the Artist’s Colour Wheel by Bruce McAvoy to see which pigments are complementary to each other (read also my previous post about the colour theory for painting).


Earth Colour Black (Warm and Cool Chromatic Black)

It is possible to create warm and cool blacks using blue pigments with red shades and brown pigments. (Watch more)


Ultramarine Blue(PB29) and Burnt Sienna (PBr7)

Start by mixing 1 Part Ultramarine Blue and one part of Burnt Sienna. You will get a black with a blue undertone, i.e. a cool chromatic black which can become warmer by slowly adding burnt sienna.


Prussian Blue (containing PBk9 and Phthalo Blue RS PB15:0) and Burnt Umber (PBr7)

Start by mixing 1 Part Prussian Blue and one part of Burnt Umber. You will get a black with a blue undertone, i.e. a cool chromatic black which can become warmer by slowly adding burnt umber.


Prussian Blue (containing black pigment PBk9 and Phthalo Blue RS PB15:0) and Burnt Sienna (PBr7)

Start by mixing 2 Part Prussian Blue and one part of Burnt Sienna. You will get a black with a blue undertone, i.e. a cool chromatic black which can become warmer by slowly adding burnt sienna.


Prussian Blue (containing black pigment PBk9 and Phthalo Blue RS PB15:0), Alizarin Crimson Hue (PR206/PR122/PG7) and Burnt Umber (PBr7)

Start by mixing 1 Part Prussian Blue and one part (small) of Burnt Umber. You will get a black with a blue undertone, i.e. a cool chromatic black which can become warmer by slowly adding alizarin crimson hue.


Final words.

This was my last post dedicated to the discovery of colours. Even though black seems to be a lifeless colour, it is a timeless one that in its chromatic version can become surprisingly colourful and a wonderful ally to give paintings depth. Is black your favourite colour?


Thank you for reading. If you like the post, leave a like, a comment and don't forget to follow my blog, Instagram and Threads and share the content on your social media.


I hope you enjoyed the serie and until my next post I wish you a great creative day!


Laura


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