View Full Version : Never use Black?

01-18-2011, 04:10 PM
I read in a book about painting in general that is better not to use black when painting and that there are alternatives to it.
Does the book means never to use black as a straight color in the picture or as a mixing darkening hue?
I have Payne s gray which is pretty dark and I also have Dioxazine Violet also dark and of course planning to get the Phthalo blue, should I avoid to buy the ivory black?

01-18-2011, 04:44 PM
Some people use black and some people don't--it's not written in stone. Ivory Black mixed with white makes a blue color anyway. Ivory black can be nice for mixing gray colors that some people use a lot. Ivory black can be mixed with some yellows makes a gorgeous green. I like having a tube of Ivory Black, but try not to use it too much. Most of the mixed dark colors make some great shades of black. I don't consider it as something you have to have, but as something handy to have on occassion.

01-18-2011, 04:48 PM
I think I should tell you that most people start out with a 6 - 9 tube palette. Mixing colors is good thing to learn, and more of your colors will complement each other with a smaller palette. There's a forum I believe its called "Color Theory & Mixing" or something close to that. But if you want to buy lots of colors to start with, that's okay too.

Lance Barwick
01-18-2011, 05:01 PM
It's my opinion that the advice is wrong; students should learn to use black, one of the most useful colors, and only stop using it as a conscious decision later to develop a certain color style. But one can't possible make an informed choice without actually using black.

Given that black seems to be a pretty commonly sold color, obviously lots of artists are using it.

My advice, however, is that you need to be cautious about simply adding black to a color to make it darker. This will also lower the chroma, so you usually need to add more color along with the black. But this is hardly a reason not to use black.

Also, Dioxazine Violet and Phthalo Blue are no way substitutes for black. Sure, they appear very dark, but they have super-strong tinting strengths and will make a big brightly colored mess if you use them full strength over wet paint to darken it. One needs to uses these colors very cautiously. If anything, Phthalo Blue is far worse for students than black. I couldn't learn how to mix natural greens and blues until I stopped using the phthalos. I'm only just starting to use them again now that I have more experience.

01-18-2011, 05:12 PM
I read in a book about painting in general that is better not to use black...

There's a higher percentage of rubbish published in art books that just about any other area of non-fiction.

Sargent used black, Manet used black, Vermeer used black, Rembrandt used black.....


01-18-2011, 05:25 PM
There is nothing wrong with using black provided it is the right colour for your colour and tonal range.

The advice to not use black is generally given by painters that prefer to mix their blacks from the primary colours. I suggest practicing mixing your blacks from the primary colours because once you can mix a black with them you will find the practice of mixing other colours is much easier. In the technique classes I've attended this was standard practice and the result is great because you will find blacks are never black, they tend to blue, red, green etc.

Whistler reportedly started all his colour mixes from black. A starting point that I've yet to develop the skill to work from. Perhaps he treated his mixes like CMYK print mixes?

gale Prosser Shuba
01-18-2011, 06:57 PM
I use black in moderation, but when a picture calls for a very dark area, black is fine. I love black.


01-18-2011, 11:30 PM
Black can look wrong when used straight, so my personal opinion would always be to mix some color into it. There are very few real life situations where there isn't some color being reflected into areas that are dark. Usually recommendations to avoid pure black are in landscape painting, where there is usually much more light being reflected around!

Using black and white to makes grays - and then mixing those grays into colors to neutralize or gray them down is a very successful and often recommended method.


01-19-2011, 08:54 AM
catspj's--personally I avoid using black about 90% of the time. The thing to remember is that color is relative. Each color in a painting relies on the other colors on the two-dimensional plane.

If you create a dark (black-like) color and place it next to a lighter value...the color will perhaps read as a darker variation of black.

Now, if you were to place this (black-like) color next to actual black it would appear lighter. If black is not present in your composition, then your darkest hue will serve as your black.

With those two points being made, you just have to carefully calculate how you adjust your tints, tones, and shades of your painting in relationship to one another. As many artists formerly have said, yes it is ok to use black. But the only reservation that I see is that it can easily overpower and destroy subtle hues that you have created. Darks that have been made from other colors variations are often much more intesting than those created with black (ie. Cobalt Blue/ Burnt Sienna). My system of color mixing relies on mixing opposing complements to create a greying effect. I feel the results are often much more interesting than with the addition of black. Now, if you need something, other than black, to deepen a color's value you'll just have to be slightly more tactful...this is a trickier matter.

In summation, ok to use black, but you can certainly live without it...and it's one less tube you have to buy!

www.chadnelsonart.com (http://www.chadnelsonart.com)

01-19-2011, 10:44 AM
You cannot mix black. A dark violet or brown is no more black than blue is yellow. If you want to accurately paint something that's black, like this plastic cap on the Sharpie marker in front of me, then you'll need a black to do it.

The statement you may hear that there is no black in nature is also a lie. If it were true we wouldn't have a black to begin with. It is true that black can go into a value range that is often beyond what you're actually seeing, but that doesn't mean you can't go there if you want to. It's just another color that people have to learn how to use.

Lance Barwick
01-19-2011, 11:48 AM
In summation, ok to use black, but you can certainly live without it...and it's one less tube you have to buy!

I couldn't live without black. If I could only paint with six tubes of paint, ivory black would be one of the tubes. In fact, Anders Zorn is said to have used only four colors, one of which was black.

Ivory black is also the least expensive color, so it's not much of a financial burden. It's certainly a heck of a lot less expensive than mixing your blacks from cobalt blue! In fact, whatever you use to mix black is going to be more expensive than just using a tube of black.

01-19-2011, 02:29 PM
Thanks everybody for your opinions and feedback.

01-21-2011, 03:37 PM
When an instructor in a workshop I was in suggested using black, I told her I was told not to use black. Her response was why not. If as an artist you feel that your painting needs black then use it. She went on to demonstrate that by painting a layer of black then painting in trees of various shades she added much more depth than using just varing shades of green. There was another painting of a black cat a layer of red, then black with blue highlights was used. Hope this helps.