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What colors do I mix to make black paint?

What colors do I mix to make black paint?

Black is a versatile and popular color for painting and art. Achieving a true, deep black color can be challenging when mixing paints. The most common way to make black paint is by mixing complementary colors on the color wheel. The three primary colors used in painting are red, yellow, and blue. Mixing together all three primary colors creates black. However, different paint pigments and ratios result in different shades of black. Finding the right paint pigment combination and ratio takes some experimentation. In general, mixing a warm color like red with a cool color like blue makes the darkest black. Adding white to the mix lightens the black to create shades of gray. Understanding color theory and paint qualities helps create the perfect custom black paint.

Primary Color Combinations

The simplest way to mix black is by combining the three primary colors – red, yellow, and blue. This mixes together the three pigments to absorb all visible light wavelengths. Different paint brands and qualities result in different shades though.

Color Ratio Resulting Shade
Equal parts red, yellow, blue Dark gray or charcoal
2 parts red, 1 part yellow, 1 part blue Darker black
2 parts blue, 1 part red, 1 part yellow Cool black

Using more blue in the ratio creates a cooler, bluer black. Warm blacks use more red. The more pure hue pigments used, the darker the black. Cheaper paints substitute some black pigment for primary colors. Higher quality paints with pure pigments make a truer black.

Complementary Colors

Combining complementary colors from opposite sides of the color wheel produces deep, neutral blacks. Red and green, orange and blue, and yellow and purple complement each other. Mixing a warm and cool complementary pair like red and blue makes the strongest black.

Color Combination Proportions Result
Red + Blue 2 parts blue, 1 part red Neutral black
Orange + Blue 2 parts blue, 1 part orange Slightly warm black
Yellow + Purple 2 parts purple, 1 part yellow Slightly cool black

The blue component creates depth and darkness. Balancing with a warm color like red, orange, or yellow counteracts any unwanted color cast. Different paint pigments alter the tone. Mixing pure complementary colors at high saturation produces the most neutral black.

Tinting Black Paint

Pre-mixed black paint provides a short cut to an instant true black. Using black acrylic paint as a base is an easy starting point for mixing custom blacks. Tinting the black paint adds hints of color. Here are common tinting color options:

Tint Color Ratio to Black Resulting Tone
Burnt Umber 4 parts black, 1 part umber Warmer black
Prussian Blue 4 parts black, 1 part blue Cool black
Dark Green 4 parts black, 1 part green Subtle earthy tone

Adding a small amount of color like burnt umber creates a warm, deep charcoal black. Prussian blue makes an intense, cool onyx black. Dark green provides an earthy feel. Limit tint colors to 10% or less of the mixture to retain true blackness.

Shades of Gray

Lightening black paint by adding white makes different hues of gray. Mix the white and black paint together evenly to reach the desired lightness. Here are common ratios for mixing shades of gray:

White Parts Black Parts Tone
5 1 Light gray
3 1 Medium-light gray
1 1 Medium true gray
1 3 Medium-dark gray

Always add white to black instead of black to white for easier blending. An even 1 to 1 ratio makes a medium true gray. Adjust the white to black ratio to create lighter soft grays or darker charcoal hues.

How to Mix Black Paint

Follow these steps when mixing custom black paint:

  1. Select quality paints with pure pigments for the strongest color intensity. Liquitex, Winsor & Newton, and Golden are good artist-grade paint brands.
  2. Determine the color temperature desired – warm, neutral, or cool.
  3. Use the color wheel to identify complementary colors. Red and blue make a neutral black.
  4. Mix colors in a ratio of 2 parts key color (blue) to 1 part complement (red).
  5. Adjust ratios as needed to match your desired tone. Add more warm color for a neutral or warm black.
  6. Alternatively, start with pre-mixed black and add tints of color like burnt umber or prussian blue.
  7. Lighten with white paint in varying ratios to create shades of gray.
  8. Test black paint ratio on a sample board before mixing larger batches.

Mixing the perfect custom black requires experimenting with different color combinations. Keep track of paint brands, colors, and ratios that create your ideal black.

Color Theory for Mixing Black

Understanding color theory guides what two colors combine to make black paint. The color wheel provides a visual depiction of how colors relate to each other. Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the wheel. When mixed, they cancel out each other’s hue and create a neutral color.

Red and green, orange and blue, and yellow and purple occupy these complementary pairs. Red and blue make the strongest black combination. Their strong hue intensity balances warmth and coolness. Orange and yellow have lower saturation.

Black is the absence of light. Using highly saturated primaries absorbs the most visible light wavelengths. A warm red and cool blue pigment combination absorbs the widest spectrum of light. Mixing all three primaries together subtracts all the light.

Best Paint Pigments for Mixing Black

The purest, most intense artist paint pigments produce the darkest blacks. Synthetic pigments create very saturated colors. Here are some top pigment choices for mixing black:

Color Pigment
Warm – Red Cadmium red medium or Quinacridone red
Cool – Blue Phthalo blue or Ultramarine blue
Tint – Umber Burnt umber

Cadmium red medium and quinacridone red offer deep warmth. Phthalo or ultramarine blue provide coolness and depth. Burnt umber adds an earthy tone when tinting black. Opaque pigments like cadmium work better than transparent ones for mixing black.

Avoid low quality student grade paints with weak pigments. Cheaper paints mix to a muddy gray, not pure black. Invest in professional artist quality paints for the best color mixing.

Tips for Mixing Black Paint

Mixing the perfect custom black requires patience and practice. Here are some useful tips:

  • Always add color to black, not black to color, for easier blending.
  • Use a palette knife to thoroughly mix colors together.
  • Add thinner or medium to improve flow of acrylic paint.
  • Limit other colors to 10% or less when tinting black.
  • Test ratios on a practice canvas before mixing large batches.
  • Allow swatch samples to dry fully before assessing the color.
  • Snap a photo of successful color ratios for replication.
  • Buy premixed black for convenience if needed.

Take detailed notes on custom mixes that achieve your ideal blacks. Duplicate these winning formulas for future painting projects. With some experimentation, you can create perfect custom blacks, grays, and tints.

Frequently Asked Questions

What two colors make black?

The most common color combination to make black is mixing red and blue. Complementary colors cancel each other out to produce a dark, neutral black. A ratio of 2 parts blue to 1 part red usually gives the best results.

What 3 colors make black?

Mixing the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue together makes a composite black. Combining the primary pigments subtracts all the light wavelengths. A ratio of 2 parts red, 1 part blue, and 1 part yellow creates a deep primary black.

Does mixing paint colors make black?

Yes, mixing paint colors together can make shades of black. The darkest blacks come from combining complementary colors like red and blue. Mixing all three primary paint colors produces a dark black as well. Tinting black with Umber or Prussian blue provides black tones.

What color and black make gray?

Mixing black paint with white paint makes different tones of gray. Adding white lightens the black to create soft grays. A 50/50 ratio of white and black makes a medium true gray. Adjust the ratio to make light grays with more white or dark charcoal grays with more black.

What are the 3 main colors that make black?

The three main colors that combine to create black paint are red, yellow, and blue. These primary colors provide the color components to absorb the full visible light spectrum. Mixing primary colors makes a muddy black. Pairing complementary colors like red and blue makes an intense neutral black.


Mixing paint provides endless options for achieving custom blacks, grays, and black hues. Combining complementary colors makes intense neutral blacks. Adding the three primary colors together creates composite black. Tinting black with umber, blue, or green provides beautiful black tones. Adjusting the white to black ratio delivers soft grays. With the right high quality artist paints and color combinations, you can mix the perfect black paint. Test ratios and make notes on your custom color recipes for painting success.