What Colors Make Black and How Do You Mix Different Shades of Black?

Shades of black brush strokes

Black is the absence of light. It means color has been completely absorbed. The truth is you won’t be able to mix colors to get true black, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get close. Part of the fun of mixing colors to get black is figuring out which colors make your favorite shade.

This is going to take some time, but in the end, your black will be your own.

On top of that, you could save money by not buying a pre-mixed black color. Just be sure to make notes as you experiment to recreate the steps when needed.

The following are a few tips to help guide you in the right direction.

What Colors Make Black?

Artist mixing shades of black on palette with red, blue and yellow colors

First, you have to learn how to make black from the three primary colors. This is the easiest way to make black simply because you’ll probably have these colors at hand.

You will need the following colors:

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow

You need to mix each color in equal parts to get the best result.

Remember that you are going to be using the true primary colors to get black. Don’t use lighter shades of blue or red.

You want to stay away from the pale yellow color as well. For example, if you make the mistake of using lighter shades of red and blue, you’ll probably get a shade of brown.

This could be useful if you need brown, but that’s not our goal here. Just stick to the strongest shades of the primary colors you are mixing and you should be fine.

Once you’ve got this part down, you can start to experiment a bit. There are a few shades that can produce different black colors. You are looking for strong color shades like ultramarine blue, crimson red, and yellow ochre. These are deep color shades that can help you create a rich black color.

When you mix crimson red with ultramarine blue, you’ll end up with a stunning purple. Set some aside if you think you can find a use for it. To neutralize this color, you’ll need to add yellow ochre. Keep in mind that the mix still needs equal parts of each color to give you the result you are hoping for.

Learn About the Blue Black Shade

Explosion of blue colored powder isolated on black background

Obtaining black from primary colors (or different shades of those primary colors) is one skill that’s going to be fun to have, but there’s so much more to learn.

There are more ways to get black, and some of them don’t exclusively use those three primary colors.

One way to get black is to experiment with blue. Yes, blue is one of the primary colors discussed earlier, but the rest of the colors you’ll use are going to be a bit of a surprise.

For example, if you are hoping for a black color that seems to have a brownish hue, then you are going to need to mix blue with orange.

You will need to get strong shades of these colors for best results, like phthalo blue and pyrrole orange, just as an example. Both are strong shades of each color that are going to neutralize each other, which is how you’ll get the black you want.

If you were hoping to create a darker black using the blue path, then you are going to need pretty strong shades of colors. A good mix is between ultramarine blue and burnt umber.

It’s hard to define burnt umber, especially when you talk to painters. Some are going to tell you it’s a dark yellow while others will tell you it’s a dark orange. You’ll even find some folks saying that it’s more of a dark red.

Mixing these colors in equal parts is going to get you a very dark black, something that can pull you into the void. If you pay attention to the type of black you create, you’ll notice that it’s actually pretty cool. The reason it feels cooler is because of the ultramarine blue you used to make it.

If you want your black to have a green-like hue – the kind of color you might see if you looked into a deep dark forest, then you’ll want to add a bit of yellow to your ultramarine blue and burnt umber.

Those who were hoping for a warmer type of black are in luck. You can get this type of black using blue as your base.

Go back to your ultramarine blue, but this time you’ll want to mix it with burnt sienna. If you look at burnt sienna, there’s no way to mistake it for anything else than a orange-reddish shade. When you look at this color, it’ll probably remind you of reddish clay. It’s a fun color you can do a lot with.

To make your warmer type of black, just mix both of these in equal parts. Don’t worry, even though this is a lighter type of black, it’s still going to look pretty black.

Creating Black Using a Green Base

Explosion of green colored powder isolated on black background

Creating black can get more exciting the more you experiment. Now that you’ve learned how to create black using blue as your base, you can move on to using green.

The key to using green as your base is to look for a dark shade of green. A rich, dark type of green you can use is phthalo green.

An interesting way to create black using phthalo green is by mixing a shade of purple with it. You are going to have to find a strong shade like dioxazine purple to create this spectacular black color.

Make sure to blend equal parts of these colors to make this deep and mysterious black. If you were going for a gothic black, then this is definitely the path you want to take. There are other types of dark shades of purple you can use, so don’t hesitate to experiment a bit to see what you create.

Remember that when you are playing with a dark shade of green, like phthalo green, you have to make sure the color you end up with is, in fact, black and not just a darker green. Test out each blend on a white surface. Add a little more purple if you notice the green is still too strong.

Another fun way to create black using green as your base is by mixing in a bit of red. Again, you are going to need dark shades of these colors because if you mix plain red and green you aren’t going to get black.

To start, you should use a dark green shade like phthalo green. The red color you want to use is a strong alizarin crimson. This is a dark and bloody color you can use in many ways.

You want to mix both colors in equal parts to create a deep black color. You could say this is a warmer black color, but the truth is it just comes off as a rich, vibrant black, even if it’s technically a little lighter than the black you get from phthalo green and dioxazine purple.

Getting black from phthalo green and alizarin crimson is going to take a few tries. You’ll want to have a white sheet or surface to test the color until you’ve reached that perfect balance. You’d be surprised how often people put too much of either color, creating something that’s a bit off black.

Another fun way to use phthalo green is to mix it with quinacridone red.

Mixing these is going to take some patience, but do your best to make sure they are in equal parts. After putting in all that work to create black, you’ll end up with a transparent black that gives you a cool effect, depending on what you are working on.

A Deep Dive Into Different Shades of Black

Squares or pixels in different shades of black colors

Creating different shades of black helps you tell your story in a more precise way. You can probably already see how much freedom you have as you mix different colors.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking there’s only one shade of black out there, but that’s not true. The more you dig into it, the more you’ll see differences between each shade of black you are exposed to.

The best way to control the shade of black you end up with is to learn how to go from warm to cool. This was mentioned earlier, but the following will help you understand it a little more.

Cool Shades of Black

The first thing you want to do is familiarize yourself with warm and cool colors. Once you’ve learnt about all of the options you have, it’ll be easier to create that cool black you are hoping to make. The following are some cooler colors you might already be familiar with:

  • Ultramarine blue
  • Phthalo green
  • Dioxazine purple

It may take some time to figure out how to mix cool colors to make black. This is especially true if you are going for a deep, dark black, but if you train your eyes, you’ll learn to tell the difference at some point.

Glasses with colors inside and gray stripes around illustrating color perception

One of the most effective ways to train your eyes to see colors more effectively is by mixing colors.

At the moment you are playing around with black, but go ahead and mix all sorts of colors to become even better at this. There are several apps that help improve color perception, including this app that lets you complete color puzzles, which can be quite fun.

You’d be surprised to see all the new colors when you take the time to train your eyes. It’s almost like having a new pair of eyeballs.

Warm Shades of Black

Warm blacks are fun to mix and can be quite helpful. They also appear closer when you see them. This is the reason artists use warm colors to make images pop or make them seem like they are in the foreground.

If you want to create a black color you can use in the foreground, then you’ll want to create warmer blacks. The best way to start is to learn which colors are the warmest. Here are some examples:

  • Alizarin crimson
  • Quinacridone red
  • Pyrrole orange

These are just some warmer shades out there, but there are many more like rust, squash, or burnt orange, just to name a few. The lighter the warm color you choose, the lighter your black is going to look. Try to be careful how light you go because you might end up with something other than black.

Use the information in this guide to create spectacular shades of black. Don’t get stuck with the colors mentioned here because there’s much more to play with. The main thing to remember when mixing colors is that if you aren’t going to be using primary colors to make your black, then you’ll want to stick to slightly darker shades of the colors you choose to play with, no matter if they are cool or warm.

You should consider visiting artists and painters pages to see what kind of mixes they’ve tried. They may inspire you to try out new shades of black yourself.