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Which Black Oil Color Should I Paint With?

By May 18, 2018No Comments

Why use black in a painting? We thought we’d share this informative article from Gamblin:

Black quickly and effectively creates shades, however the strong mixing strength and/or temperature of some blacks can be difficult to control in nuanced color mixing. The relative opacity, tinting strength, and color temperature of a black all influence how it will behave on our palettes and in our paintings.

Gamblin makes six different blacks, each with their own unique characteristics:

gamblin blacks

Ivory Black

The most commonly used black, made from burnt bone (sometimes called bone black). It is semi-transparent, has a moderate tinting strength, and doesn’t overwhelm mixtures. Overall it is a good mixing black, however if you find that it dulls mixtures a bit too much, try chromatic black.

Mars Black

Mars black is a synthetic iron oxide. It is very opaque and has a strong tinting strength, making it a bit overwhelming in color mixtures. It is useful when you want a strong, opaque black straight from the tube (think Franz Kline or the German Expressionists).

Black Spinel 

One of the most unique blacks, Black Spinel has a dense texture and dries to a very matte appearance, almost like slate, when no painting mediums are added. It also remains quite neutral. * 

*Because it is a series 4 color ($24.95), Gamblin does not include it in their display so we don’t stock it.  However, our distributors do, and we’re happy to special order it for any customers that wish to use it.  Like all of our in-stock Gamblin oil paints, our members will receive a 25% discount on it.  Delivery would be less than 1 week.

Chromatic Black

Developed by Robert Gamblin, Chromatic black is unique to Gamblin.

For some painters, black straight from the tube has been discouraged. As an alternative, many painters choose to mix their own black. Some good examples are Sap green and Alizarin Crimson or Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. Chromatic Black was developed in the spirit of a mixed black, made by mixing two modern organic colors, Phtalo Emerald (warm green) and Quinacridone Red (cool red). When mixed, these two colors pass right through the middle of the color wheel to produce a rich black, perfect for creating cleaner shades of colors. Because of its transparency, it is the darkest black on the color palette and is ideal for mixing with other transparent colors when you don’t want to lose their transparency.

gamblin black2

Van Dyke Brown

The contemporary permanent version of  the historical color and the warmest black on the palette. It is made with iron oxide and is semi-transparent. Great for creating shades of skin tones.

Payne’s Grey 

When mixed with white, Payne’s grey creates the color of storm clouds. The Ultramarine Blue in its formula makes it the coolest black on the palette. It is semi-transparent, great for capturing the coolness of shadows.