Chromatic Black

If an artist does not want to use black in a painting, an interesting and easy way to substitute black paint is to create a color that is almost as dark as black. These colors are usually called chromatic black.  Complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel) can be combined together like, violet and yellow, or red and green, or blue and orange. These are easy colors to mix, but they are not always the most interesting.

Almost any combination of two dark colors, one warm, the other cool, will produce a dark, usually attractive color. Ultramarine and burnt umber, Prussian blue and burnt sienna, or almost any dark blues with earth red-browns will give interesting results. You can get a blue-black by mixing thalo blue and cadmium red light. The kind of dark color you get depends on the ratio of each color paint that is mixed. Golden Paint provides an interesting way to experiment with colors electronically.

Mixing your own variations, creates a color that is dark, but still adds tone and mood and consistency to your painting. For this painting I wanted a rich strong “black”, so I mixed thalo green with alizarin crimson.

Ann Hart Marquis-Late Bloomers-Chromatic blackc

Late Bloomers, acrylic on paper, 11 x 11 x inches, 2015.

However, according to Gamblin Studio, the overuse of chromatic darks mixing can be a problem. Color mixtures can easily become “dirty” looking. This also points to a limitation of chromatic Black: while mixing colors together is an excellent way to create combinations for dark color, it is not as good as Ivory or Mars Black when a true black is needed in a painting.

Colors can also be grayed without being made to look “dirty.” When a chromatic black is added to white you can get some beautiful grays. If these grays are too blue, for example, simply add a little more of an earth color to the original mixture, which will make the grays look more gray.

I have even created my own “black” and feeling it was not dark enough, I added a touch of Mars Black. How about you? Do you have a preference for a particular dark color?

6 thoughts on “Chromatic Black

    1. Ann Hart Marquis Post author

      Well Gail, that would be a project to think about. Thank you for asking. I learn from writing my posts. If you ever think of a topic that I should investigate, let me know. I would love suggestions.
      Thank you.


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