Mixing Black



A photograph showing a canvas covered in black acrylic paint.

A photograph by Ronnie McInnes Black Friday © 2015.


The above image shows a canvas that has been covered in black paint, a black paint of my own mixing. At the time I was creating an original piece but thought it would be funny to joke that this was the finished piece. It also gave me a photo to use for Black Friday. I wasn't holding a sale or anything, I just thought it would be funny to show this photo on Black Friday. My sense of humour does get the better of me sometimes.

Getting good colour mixes are an essential part of my job. It is not an easy thing to do at first but, like most things, it becomes easier with practice. One of the most important and perhaps the easiest mix to get (roughly) right is black. Black is very useful indeed and I use it regularly. Occasionally I will use black straight from a tube. This is useful because I can ensure that I get the same shade of black consistently and it’s often very dark, so it suits some of my backgrounds very well. However, it can be too dark for some parts of a painting and in many cases a pure black is not realistic. I do not recommend using straight black for shadows because the shadows actually contain colour too but I do recommend mixing and using your own black for the (particularly) dark areas of the painting.

With our own mix of black paint we are more likely to give a better representation of a subject and it's surroundings. Often, I mix black by using a dark blue, red and a dark earthy colour (like burnt umber) together. I can make the black colder by adding more blue, or I can make it warmer by adding more red. You could even mix a little of the black into your other paint mixtures (like a skin tone colour for example) to darken the colour. I would suggest not to do that too heavily or often because it could spell trouble for your artwork.

In digital art I follow a similar principle, except I don't have to actually mix the colour. I rarely use 100% black in digital art, but will often use a dark blue, red, green or purple instead to darken the really dark bits. I certainly don't use black in any of my mid-tones or highlights. But those colour mixes are for another blog. Happy mixing.

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