Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

You can send an email to [email protected] if you have questions about how to use this forum.

Question about black

edited January 2017 in Color Mixing
Mark often says that when you're color checking and and the source color is darker than black, then, of course, you just use black -- you can't get paint darker than black.

My question is if you have a black background, say, and part of it is darker than black and the rest is pretty much the same as the black you've mixed, how do you differentiate?

If, for example, you have folds in a black material and the shadows cast by the folds are darker than black and the folds themselves look black how do you show that with just one black.

I thought of perhaps lightening the black a bit for the black that's not blacker than black. But what happens then is that if I try to lighten a bit with yellow, I get a greenish tint (my black is ultramarine blue and burnt umber), and if I try to lighten with white, then it gets milky.

What are some of the ways that you all deal with this question? Thanks!


  • edited January 2017
    You have to apply for the artistic license here :) and paint those lighter darks a little lighter than black and the absolute darks with pure black. If it gets milky then you have to add a little more burnt umber or a mix of slight yellow and a little more red to counter that bluish color.

    The main issue in a still life is that we are mostly concerned about lighter object, That's how we set things up in a box and we balance our painting and box lighting on the basis of value similarity of white oil paint because we are concerned about the lighter objects. If we balance the lighting with black paint, then lighter objects will be so overblown that you will never be able to match that with your white paint. Which is bad. So we have to ignore the blacks and be concerned about the lighter value objects.
  • Folks 

    Here is an interesting article on how Vantablack is being used

    Top Stories: Blacker than black: How the world's darkest material is being used

    When the world's darkest material made headlines in 2014, pundits predicted it would be used to turn military jets invisible, revolutionise our telescopes, and enable new trends in blacker-than-black haute couture. But has Vantablack lived up to expectations?

    Read the full story

  • @Kaustav -- I never thought about this in these terms at all. This is extremely valuable information for me. Thank you very much.
  • @dencal -- fascinating article. Thanks for the link. I don't imagine we'll be seeing Vantablack in Geneva paints anytime soon  :).
  • ArtistMartin1

    I'm expecting Mark Carder to be the first kid on the block sporting a Vantablack tee shirt.


  • If you have read any word wrong or confusing then it is my cell phone's autocorrect. Pls excuse.
  • dencal said:

    I'm expecting Mark Carder to be the first kid on the block sporting a Vantablack tee shirt.


    I'd settle for one of those bobblehead dolls featuring a portrait of Mark.  I'd buy one!  :3

  • edited January 2017
    The issue is this: the range of values from light to dark in a subject is often much greater than the range of values you can get from the reflected light off a paint surface. You cannot get the full range of values not matter what you do, so what do you do about it?

    There are different possible approaches to this. Back in film days we would deliberately flatten the response curve of the film by the way we develop it in order to retain detail in the shadows. Generally, in film, it isn't a linear response but an S-shape. So you could do the same, you could keep a 1-2-1 relationship between the value steps on the canvas and the value steps in your subject in the mid-tones, and compress the highlights and shadows. But, that is a matter of experience and skill. 

    Much simpler is to anchor one end of the scale, retain the value step relationship until you run out of the ability to make your paint whiter (or blacker) and paint everything beyond that point the same colour. It looks much better if you retain the detail in the highlights and lose it in the 'mysterious' shadows. This is what cinematographers call 'crush to black', and that is what Mark recommends. I would say, don't fear the shadows, let them be dark and mysterious and weighty. It didn't do Rembrandt any harm.

    If you really need detail in your shadows, then bounce some light into them (with a Lastolite or something) so you can still gauge accurately with the colour checker.
  • @AlunapR -- thank you very much for the advice.
Sign In or Register to comment.