Black is associated with power and sophistication, luxury and intimidation. Black is also connected with negativity, piety and knowledge.
Centuries ago, cavemen smeared soot mixed with animal fat or blood on cave walls, this must have been one of the first pigments ever used. Lamp Black, which was originally made from burnt soot from gas lamps, is today produced commercially, but the name remains the same. Still to this day black can be made by burning something whether it be vines, soot or bones! This material is then mixed with a binder, oil or compressed.
Black ink – Indian Ink is also made from a carbon-based material. The wood is burnt and the soot is collected from very hard woods, like Olive or Grape vines and mixed with gum-Arabic, this gives a deep black colour. This fluid can be thinned with water. It can be pressed into sticks or bars and is sometimes also called Chinese Ink. This has been manufactured in Europe since the 15th century and is still in use today.
Fun Fact: Did you know that black and lemon yellow make green?
Mixing your own black
Using black straight from a tube tends to punch a visual hole in your picture, while mixing your own black with the colours you are using on your palette creates harmony and the black is not as strong as a tube colour. This is called a chromatic black.
Mixing your own black is very easy, here are a few recipes:
Phthalo Blue and Burnt Umber
Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna
Ultramarine and Burnt Umber
Alizarine Crimson and Viridian Green
Burnt Umber and Dioxine Purple
Also the three primary colours red, yellow and blue and there must be lot more….
If you mix any of the above colours together, they will produce an almost black colour that when mixed with white gives you grey, which has a definite colour bias to it, this can be changed by adding one or more of the other colours. Manipulation is the name of the game!
When mixing your own black for painting, always make sure you mix enough as you hardly ever get the same colour twice!