How to Make Black

Five Methods:Black paintBlack food coloringBlack dye for untanned leatherBlack hair dyeBlack ink

Black is the darkest of colors for an artist, or the absence of color for a scientist. Whatever your take on it as a color or absence thereof, it's a useful addition to many art, craft and painting projects and making it is fairly simple.

Method 1
Black paint

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    Assemble magenta/red, yellow and cyan (turquoise blue)/blue paints. Use the paint medium of your choice, for example, oil, watercolor or acrylic.
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    Mix equal amounts of each color together. The result will be a basic black. The tone of the black will vary dependent on the paint used and the differing qualities within the paints.
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    Achieve a slightly color-enhanced black. When mixing a black, altering the amount of one of the colors used, including more or less of that particular color, makes a black with a tinge of color. Hence, you can get a reddish, greenish, brownish black by playing around with the ratios of color you add. This is experimental and depends on the medium used (oil paints, acrylic, watercolor, etc.). For an artist, such experimentation may be regular practice. Some of the many blacks that artists use include:[1]
    • Soft black – mix Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow), Rose Madder Genuine and Cobalt Blue
    • Medium black – mix New Gamboge (light fast synthetic), Permanent Rose and French Ultramarine Blue
    • Bold black – mix Windsor Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Winsor Blue.
    • Bluish tinted black: Mix dark blue with and earthy brown paint.
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    Lighten the black. To do this:
    • Add gradual amounts of white until you achieve the desired color.
    • Use lighter shades or variants of the red, yellow and blue paints forming the black.
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    Make a batch large enough for your creation. Unless you are exceptionally precise with the mixing proportions, it is hard to ensure that you'll get the same black when you create it again. It therefore makes sense to make enough needed in the one batch, or be very precise when making more.

Method 2
Black food coloring

Next to paint, the other most likely use for black is in coloring food. Black food coloring is useful for painting eyes, features and such on sugar craft sculptures and it can be useful for turning Halloween food a deathly color!

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    Mix a variety of primary food colorings together. Mix equal portions of blue, yellow and red should to make black.[2] Dependent on the quality of the food coloring, however, you may need to add more of one color––test your version to see what works best.
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    Make black food colored frosting.
    • Purchase blue food coloring and chocolate frosting.
    • Mix the two together to form a black color.[3]
    • Spread on cake, cookies or candy as required.
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    Use squid ink. This has a briny taste, so it's definitely not suitable for sweets or desserts but will work for savory dishes, such as pasta.[4] Add a small amount to begin with, adding more if needed.

Method 3
Black dye for untanned leather

This is teach a simple, cheap homemade dye suitable for coloring vegetable tanned, undyed leather. It is simple, easily scalable and holds fast to leather.

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    Make the dye. In a five gallon bucket, place the entire package of steel wool and pour in the whole container of vinegar.
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    Seal and allow it to sit for a few days, occasionally opening and stirring it. This waiting period is to allow the acid in the vinegar to fully oxidize the steel Eventually, the liquid will have an opaque, light brown color. This means it is ready to use.
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    Make the neutralizer. The vinegar in the dye is acidic and eventually will destroy the integrity of whatever leather you apply it to. The solution to this problem is to use a neutralizing solution. Take the other five gallon bucket, pour in the baking soda and fill it approximately half-way full of water. Stir this until all the baking soda has dissolved. Put the lid on it and set it aside.
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    Dye the leather. Test the dye by taking a small piece of leather and submerging it in the dye for approximately two minutes. Use the piece of wire for this, not your hands.
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    Remove the leather. It should have a very dark matte color to it. If not, there is either a problem with your dye or your leather. If you have used vegetable tanned un-dyed leather, try adding more steel wool and letting it set for several more days. If it does come out black, that means the dye is working and is ready to use on any larger pieces of leather you may want to dye.
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    Neutralize the acid. Take the piece of leather you have just dyed and submerge it in the bucket filled with the baking soda solution. Leave it in there for several minutes, so that the solution can seep into the leather and then remove it.
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    Finish the leather. Remove any white residue by washing it with water. Your leather is now ready to be made into whatever you would like.

Method 4
Black hair dye

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    Use either coffee or tea to dye hair darker. The "blackness" will depend on the texture and existing color of your own hair.
    • Note that some people don't like the coffee smell that can linger even after washing the hair several times. This might influence your choice of coffee or tea.
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    Brew 3 to 4 cups of strong coffee or tea.
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    Allow the brew to cool down to lukewarm. You should be able to touch it with ease.
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    Prepare yourself for the dyeing. Put on old clothes that you don't mind getting stained.
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    Pour the natural dye over clean hair. Do this over a bathtub or outdoors; it is messy and any splashes will stain fabrics etc.
    • Plastic covering over areas that you wish to keep safe can be a good idea.
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    Pop your hair into a shower cap. Let the natural dye sit for a half hour.
    • The shower cap will get stained. You might like to use one reserved just for this purpose.
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    Hop in the shower and wash your hair as usual. Use shampoo and conditioner, it won't spoil the color.
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    Repeat at least once a week to heighten and keep the color.

Method 5
Black ink

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    Make egg and gum arabic ink:
    • Mix the egg yolk, gum arabic and honey together in a small bowl.
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    • Add the lamp black. Stir into the other ingredients. This will thicken into a paste.
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    • Transfer to a container. Seal tightly.
    • Use as required. To use: add a small amount of water to a little paste for each usage. This ink is permanent.


  • When mixing for black, always watch the color change carefully, so that you can stop adding color when it reaches the perfect black you're seeking.
  • Be aware that the natural hair dye is light but darkens with repeated use.

Things You'll Need

Method 1:

  • Paints
  • Mixing palette or bowl

Method 2:

  • Food colorings
  • Frosting
  • Mixing bowl
  • Squid ink

Method 3:

  • 2 plastic five gallon buckets with lids
  • 1 package of steel wool
  • 1 gallon (3.8 L) of white vinegar
  • 1 average size box of baking soda.
  • 1 piece of stiff wire (coat hangers are excellent for this)
  • Safety glasses when handling the dye

Method 4:

  • Coffee or tea
  • Brewing equipment
  • Old clothes
  • Plastic covering
  • Shower cap

Method 5:

  • Small bowl
  • 1/2 teaspoon lamp black or carbon black (or burn wood/paper)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon gum arabic
  • 1/2 cup honey

Article Info

Categories: Coloring and Shading