Should we mix our own black and dark paints?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShould we use the black colour out of a tube or should we mix our own black colour? I think there is no right and no wrong.

When I am working on my paintings I usually mix my beautiful black colours and darks using pure pigments instead of using the pre-mixed black out of a tube. Especially in flower paintings I think that a colourful dark background works best. This helps me to create atmosphere. When we mix dark colours by ourselves we are then able to use complementary colours to support our focal point in our paintings.

Especially if you are a beginner then it will be more helpful when you learn to know the colours on your palette and what the colors can do for you. Start to mix them and see which colour mixes you like the most – make notes for future reference.

It is very easy to mix a rich and deep and colourful black using two or three colours from your palette.

Of course there is nothing wrong with using black out of the tube. I only suggest, that you should know about your possibilities and that you should know the difference between your own mixed black or the black out of the tube.

I usually mix my own black colour with Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Green and/or Phthalo blue. Mixing your own black also allows you to mix a warm or a cool black by adding more of the Alizarin or more of the Phthalo Green or Phthalo Blue.
If the black of a tube is overused your darks will become dull and muddy. If you mix it by your own you will see the colors dancing before your eyes

Use complementary colours when you mix black and dark paints:

Imagine you paint a red rose. You know the complementary colours of red is green. To support the red rose and to make it stand out I would need to work with some green and this combination red and green works best. But I want to have a dark background so what to do, how to mix dark colours using the complementary colours?

For the background I would create a mix of Phthalo Green and Anthraquinoid Red and maybe a touch of my blue to create a non-glowing black colour mix. Phthalo Green and Anthraquinoid Red creates a black together. If you then favor the colour green in this mix you would create a green dark mix which supports your main subject, which is red.

If your main subject would maybe an orange rose then I would use the same colours mentioned above (Red, Green and Blue) and favor then the Blue. Doing it this way I would create a blue dark mix which supports my orange main subject. Just have in mind that blue is the complementary colour of orange.

It is in your hands how to mix black colours and darks to create a powerful painting.

Let’s have a look at the painting of the Rhododendron above. You will see that I created a dark background.

I created the darks in this painting with the same mixes of red, green and blue.

  • Darks are not only black. You can create dark browns, dark greens, dark blues etc.
  • Darks don’t have to be boring or colourless.
  • Darks are colours, too!
  • Darks can be colourful and don’t need to be lifeless.
  • Darks are the opposite from lights.

More colour recipes for mixing dark and black paints:

You can create beautiful dark colours with mixing:

  • Anthraquinoid Red or Alizarin Crimson mixed with Phthalo Green or Winsor Green
  • Burnt Sienna mixed with Ultramarine Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue mixed with Cadmium Red or maybe Scarlet Red
  • Translucent Orange mixed with Cobalt Blue and maybe Anthraquinoid Red
  • Sap Green mixed with Scarlet Red
  • Aureolin mixed with Anthraquinoid Red and Winsor Green

Try the mixes above by yourself and find out which kind of dark you will get (a black one? or a brown one?)

TIP on how to mix dark colours:

Vary your darks by changing the ratio. As excample: If you use the mix of Alizarin Crimson & Phthalo Green then add a bit more of the red – this creates a warmer black. If you use more green than you will get a cooler black. Try it also out with adding some of your blue to this mix.

But what is the case with Ivory Black out of the Tube?

Ivory Black
I too have used Ivory Black several times – but I never use it alone. I always mix it with one of my reds, blues, greens or yellows. This mix also helps you to create a very dark red or blue or green etc.

If Ivory Black is too dark for you then try using Paynes Grey Bluish mixed with Sap Green, it creates some wonderful dark greens, too.

Make your darks in your watercolors powerful and colourful and you will love the result.

Darks are not only blacks, create dark blues, purples or clean browns to enliven your paintings.

If the pure black of a tube is overused your darks will become dull and muddy. If you mix it by your own you will see the colors dancing before your eyes.

Happy Painting

Get more free Art Lessons for better paintings!

For more lessons go back to the Free Tutorial Page or visit my DVD teaching page for more indepth instructions and watch how I create the darks in my watercolor paintings.



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