How to Make Black: Color Mixing Guide

 Hey there, Happy Artists! Today we're gonna talk about how to make black...and why you'd even want to!

Our Starting Palette

The colors we're going to use to mix black paint are titanium white, naphthol red, ultramarine blue, and hansa yellow light.

It doesn't really matter what kinds of paint you use. I'm an oil painter, but you can use acrylics. I use naphthol red, but you could use cadmium red. It really doesn't matter--these are just the ones that I use because they're non-toxic pigments.

So it may sound crazy that we're gonna make black out of red, blue, and yellow. It sounds crazy, but when these three come together, it really does turn into black--like magic!

The reason these three colors will turn into black is because paints are subtractive colors. That means the more you put them together, the less light they're gonna reflect, and also the duller they'll become. And what's the darkest dullest color there is? That's black.

Mixing Black

To make black, you'll put in equal strengths of red, yellow, and blue.

Now I don't mean equal amounts. Some of these paints are very bossy, so you may have to hold back on one, especially this red in my case.

But what I want is equal redness, blueness, and yellowness in the mixture.

Testing your black


So you mix these three colors together, and then it's so dark that you need a way to test it. The way we're going to test it is to mix in white.

So we'll take away a little of the black from the mixture, and then mix in some white, and after that you lookIf we've mixed a true black right away, then this mixture should be gray.

Take a look at the color, and decide what color you need to mix into it to push it more towards a colorless color.

So is it too purple? Is it too orange? Looking at mine, the color looks a bit too purple, so what I need to do to turn it towards gray is to mix in a bit of the complementary color which is yellow.

If you want to know more about this idea of complementary colors and colorless colors, download my free video, How to Make Your Paintings Pop, which talks all about this.

Back to mixing the color black: we're going to cycle through this process, adding touches of color, and then adding in white until the mixture looks grey.

And there we go! Now we've ended up with a colorless color, and that means that this dark color is a true black.

This can take a little bit of trial and error, but nudging your colors around by mixing in primaries is an incredible way to get better at seeing and mixing color!

So from this I'll mix together a seven-point value scale of lights and darks, for some good practice in seeing values.

Why Mix the Color Black?

But why you would want to mix black? Why not just use a tube if you want black?

There are a lot of reasons!

Number one, you may not have a tube of black handy. It's good to have enough control and knowledge of your paints to be able to make whatever color you need in a pinch.

But more importantly, this technique teaches you to be stronger at mixing and seeing color which is one of the most important skills a painter can have. 

It helps you to understand where colors come from. Most of us would think, when we want to make a color darker, we should mix in some black...

But that's the last thing you want to do!

Black will always pull the color out of your mixture. When you start to mix your own black, as well as all of your dark colors, you can make dark tones that are still colorful.

They'll also for sure look harmonious with the other colors in the painting.

So try it out for yourself! Mixing black, and then also mixing a value scale of black to white, is a great step towards becoming a color master. Thanks for reading, Happy Painting Everyone!

Watch my free video, How to Make Your Paintings Pop, to become even more of a color master!

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