What colors make black? How to make black the easy way
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What colors make black? How to make black the easy way

What Colors Make Black

Have you ever wondered what colors make black? For the non-artist, figuring out how to make black might not seem particularly important. As the darkest point of the color wheel, black’s various hues can be difficult to distinguish if you don’t have a particularly keen eye.

However, as creatives and painters will know, the right type of black can make all the difference to a project. Not all blacks are created equal, and simply dipping your brush into the darkest shade you can find won’t always be the right choice.

Learning how to make black, by matching equal amounts of various colors on the color wheel, can help to enhance the overall impact of your next creation.

Let’s take a closer look at what colors make black.

What is black? Defining how to make black

The first step in creating the ideal shade of black for your needs is understanding what black actually is. Black is the darkest hue we can perceive, created by a complete absence of light. It’s essentially the opposite of white, which appears at the other end of the spectrum.

In color psychology, black has a multitude of potential meanings. It’s a shade we often associate with power, dignity, and strength, as well as elegance and style. Black can be mysterious and foreboding, but it can also be a symbol of sophistication and beauty.

For creatives, black is a powerful tool. It can bring contrast to an image, help to balance an image with shading, and deliver visual depth.

However, it can be very difficult to mix the right shade of black from scratch. As many creatives discover, there’s more to it than simply mixing all the colors you can find into a murky mess.

Though mixing your own color combination to create black can be complex, it’s also a powerful strategy for artists. When you mix a color, you have more control over everything from the color temperature to the unique components of the black shade.

What Colors Make Black

How to make the color black with primary colors

There are actually several color combinations which can work together to create black. Today, we’re going to be looking at different variations of black, from rich black, to cool black, and how you can build different colors on your palate.

One point to keep in mind is it’s very difficult to create true black or “perfect black” from scratch.

When you’re mixing colors, you’re likely to see a small amount of the most prominent shades in the palette shining through in your shade of black. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Being able to adjust the darker shade you use in your artworks means you can play with contrast and light theory more effectively to create a unique result.

Let’s start with perhaps the simplesst way to make black. This will be a good option if you don’t have a lot of different shade variations in your pallete to begin with.

Combined together, red, blue, and yellow come together to create a specific shade of black. The good thing about using three different colors in your creation, is you can make slight changes to how people will perceive your shade of black, by adjusting the ratio.

Mixing equal shades of blue, yellow, and red will give you a balanced black shade, You should get a reasonably dark shade if you use equal proportions.

However, if you want a warmer black, closer to a sort of blackish/brown, you can use more of the red shade in your mix. If you’re hoping for a cooler black, you can add a little extra blue.

Notably, when experimenting with these primary shades, you might find you need to work with different combinations to get the darkest black depending on the medium you’re using. Mixing with acrylic paint is a very different experience to mixing with watercolors.

What two colors make black?

Typically, you’ll need at least one secondary color in your collection to create the color black from two shades. Secondary colors contain more variety, which means they can blend together more easily to create various shades of black.

If you want to keep your mixture simple, there are actually a number of pairs of colors you can use to create a nice black.

Some of the most common options include:

What Colors Make Black

Blue + burnt sienna or orange

Starting with ultramarine blue as your base color, add burnt sienna in small portions until you get the ideal shade of black. Burnt sienna is a kind of brownish red shade which helps to negate some of the coolness of the blue, creating a warmer and earthier tone.

You can create a similar shade of black using blue and burnt umber if you don’t have burnt sienna. However, burnt umber is slightly cooler than it’s counterpart, which could mean you don’t get quite the same level of warmth.

Adding a little extra red could be a way to heat things up.

Another common way to create black using blue paint, is by adding orange. Generally, you’ll need a deep cobalt blue as your base color, mixed with equal parts of translucent orange.

These two colors create a slightly lighter black than some of the options on this list, which could make them a good choice if you’re looking to create shadow in your images.

Adding additional blue to your shade of black will create a dark color, while additional orange will add a slightly lighter tone to the mix.

What Colors Make Black

Purple + yellow or green

Mixing opposite colors on the color wheel is an excellent way to create multiple variations of black. For instance, you can combine purple and yellow to create a deep shade of rich black. Rather than mixing the two shades equally, you’ll need a larger portion of purple to yellow here.

Start with around 60% purple – usually a deep violet shade will work best – and 40% yellow (cadmium yellow is a popular choice). You can experiment with different shades of purple and yellow here to create specific tones.

Yellow ochre will create a warmer tone, while a cooler shade of purple, like dioxazine purple, is best for cool colors.

Another way to create black with purple is to combine dioxazine purple with pthalo green. Pthalo green is a fantastic base color for black, which we’ll come back to in a minute. Mixing green and purple together is a great way to create a very rich black, because both colors are dark.

Since pthalo green is quite a strong color, it’s best to be careful about how much green you mix in, as it can end up overpowering the purple. Consider mixing your colors then testing it on a piece of white paper to see if the green shows through.

What Colors Make Black

Green + red

Mixing green and red together can create a fantastic, deep black color. Pthalo green is a particularly popular base shade for learning how to make black. The shade is naturally very dark and rich, which is ideal for all kinds of black variations.

Mix pthalo green with alizarin crimson, and you can expect a very intense shade of black – perfect for showing the complete absence of light. Pthalo green and quinacridone red, on the other hand, creates a cooler, almost purplish-shade of black.

Unfortunately, because pthalo green and quinacridone red are transparent colors, it can be difficult to create grey shades with this color.

If you want to start with a slightly different shade of green, viridian can also work well with cadmium dark red to make a phenomenal shade of work. By mixing the proportions carefully, you can create a very smooth, neutral result.

What Colors Make Black

Brown + blue

Often, when trying to mix black without direction, a lot of people end up with a muddy brown color. This is because people often assume mixing more colors together will create a darker shade.

Fortunately, there are colors you can mix with brown to make black.

If you end up with an earthy shade of brown on your palette, simply start adding small amounts of ultramarine blue, or prussian blue. Ultramarine blue will create a very neutral shade of black, while prussian blue is a lot darker and cooler, making it ideal for a deeper shade of cool black.

If you make your black too cool, you can consider adding the very slightest touch of red into the mix but be careful not to muddy the mixture and end up with yet another shade of brown.

You’ll need to start slow with your combinations and add different shades gradually to make sure you get the right results here.

What colors do you mix to make black?

Variety is important in any artistic endeavour. The more you experiment with paint and various other mediums, the more you’ll realize only one shade of black is rarely enough to get the best results.

Learning how to mix primary and secondary colors to create your own black is the best way to make your images look more realistic.

The color black is more complex than most people realize. It’s easy to assume there’s only one shade of black, because many people struggle to perceive different shades in such a dark hue.

However, like any color, there are warm colors and cool colors hidden within the black spectrum.

As you explore the different ways to create black above, you’ll notice you get a lot of different shades depending on which paint colors you add to the mix.

Which colors make cool shades of black?

Cool shades of black are helpful when you want to create a sense of cold mystery in an image. Cold shades look great when mixed into paintings which depict dark nights, water scenes, and snowy landscapes.

They often blend well with an environment featuring a lot of dark green or blue colors.

The cold colors forming the base of most cool blacks include:

  • Ultramarine blue
  • Pthalo green
  • Dioxazine purple

If these colors form the largest percentage of your black shade, you’re likely to end up with a deeper, cooler shade of black. Remember, adding too much of a warm shade, like orange or crimson will send your color palette in the other direction.

The best way to get the right shade of black is to experiment with these common colors as your baseline, then add small portions of shades to your color mixture.

What colors make warm shades of black?

Warm shades of black can be ideal if you want to add a sense of richness to your painting. Warm blacks can make an image appear closer and cause certain shadows and components to appear in the foreground of an image.

Warm blacks are ideal for creating depth in an image.

Like cool blacks, warm blacks usually have a specific “base” color with a warmer tone.

Some of the warmer shades you can use to create black include:

  • Pyrrole orange
  • Quinacridone red
  • Alizarin crimson

Depending on your available paints, you can also experiment with all kinds of additional warm colors. For instance, lots of brown paint colors are excellent for creating warm shades of black, like rust and burnt umber.

You can also look into yellow and orange colors to create a lighter black effect.

What Colors Make Black

How to adjust the temperature of your black

As mentioned above, mixing black is not an easy process, even if you’re a very skilled and experienced artist. Usually, even if you know what colors make black using the methodologies above, you may find you need to add extra shades to the mix.

Once you’ve mixed your shade of black using a blue, orange, or green base, you can experiment with getting the best colors by adding a little bit of other hues.

Here’s how to adjust the shade of black to suit your needs:

Making your black cooler

To make your black seem cooler, you simply add more of the cool colors mentioned above. Cooler blacks are excellent for the background of an image, if you want to make a black object seem far away.

Add small portions of ultramarine blue, dioxazine purple, and pthalo green to the mix to create this illusion of distance, then test your black.

You can mix your black on a white surface and see how the cooler shade works with other colors in your palette to determine if you need to continue with your color mixing.

Remember, it’s always best to start slowly when you’re mixing shades. Add too much of one color and you might need to start again to get your black just right.

Making your black warmer

To make your black warmer, and bring it into the foreground of your paper, you can add various warmer shades, like oranges and reds. It’s best to avoid yellow for the most part as this light color can easily transform your black into a brown color.

Alizarin crimson is probably the best color to add to your black if you want to create richer shades of black. Quinacridone red is a lot warmer however, if you want to create a different shade.

Adding too much red to your blacks can make it difficult to transform this black into various shades of grey in future, however. Keep this in mind when you’re mixing.

What Colors Make Black

How to make black paint darker

One of the most difficult tasks when you’re mixing black paint, is figuring out how to make the shade darker. It’s easy to make dark paint look lighter by adding light and warm shades, like yellow and softer oranges.

Generally, you shouldn’t just add white, as this will make your black seem grey or may bring out some of the colors within your mixture.

A tiny amount of white may be suitable if you want to create a spectrum of black hues with a slightly grey tinge in some areas. However, you will need to be very careful with the amount of white you use.

To make a black paint darker, there’s no specific technique that works for everyone. It all depends on the primary method you use to make your black. If you’re using the method of mixing primary colors, you can use darker shades of red, and blue, to create a deeper shade of black.

When you’re mixing paint using red and green, adding greener will help the shade to appear darker. Similarly, adding more of the darker blue shades to a combination of orange and blue will also lead to a deeper darker black.

Usually, you can achieve the darkest shade of black by sticking with extremely dark hues. Prussian blue and burnt umber, or ultramarine blue and a burnt shade of brown can build a beautifully dark black shade.

Experiment slowly until you find the solution that works for you.

What colors make black: FAQ

Figuring out what colors make black can seem complex at first, particularly if you’re new to the world of making your own shades.

Here are some quick questions and answers to help you…

What colors do you mix to make black?

There are various colors which can combine together to make black. Red, yellow, and blue can all combine to create a primary shade of black. Alternatively, you can experiment with shades of red, blue, green, and purple.

How do you make black paint without black?

You don’t need a black tube of paint to create black. As we showed you above, there are a huge range of options you can try. Red oxide and ultramarine blue will produce a black very similar to the shade you’ll usually get from black paint.

You can also try experimenting with cooler reds like alizarin crimson.

What is the easiest way to make black?

This all depends on the available colors you have on your palette. If you’re starting with basic shades, it’s probably easiest to make black using primary colors like yellow, red, and blue paint.

Combining complementary colors like blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and purple can be another excellent way to enhance your black shades.

Is black the absence of color?

The color black isn’t actually an absence of color, but an absence of light. There are numerous shades which can combine together to make black, creating different tones and effects.

Learning how to make black

The question “what colors make black?” is one with many potential answers. As you should have seen in the examples above, black is a very versatile shade, and one you can make with a range of different shades.

You can design your own shade of black with everything from primary colors to secondary and tertiary colors, depending on your available palette.

Learning how to make the color black with a variety of shades is one of the best ways to make sure you always have the exact colors you need to bring your creative projects to life. You could even try creating a wide variety of blacks to have on-hand for your next art piece.

Good luck creating the perfect shade of black.

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Stephen Peate
Creative director
Stephen Peate
Creative director
As Fabrik’s creative director, Stephen oversees complex branding programmes. He advises our clients on their tone of voice, creates logos and visual identities and crafts names for companies, products and services. Writing for Brand Fabrik Stephen reflects his love for logo design and visual identity.

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