Skip to Content

What is the name color for black and white?

What is the name color for black and white?

When it comes to color, black and white are often thought of in opposition to each other. Black absorbs all visible light wavelengths, while white reflects them all. However, black and white can also be considered complementary colors, with equal importance in design and art. So what is the name given to black and white as a color combination? Let’s explore the origins and applications of these classic tones.

The Meaning of Black and White

Black and white each carry symbolic meanings that inform their use together. Black is associated with power, elegance, and mystery. It can represent both the unknown and sophistication. White is linked to purity, cleanliness, and simplicity. It can suggest neutrality or fresh beginnings.

When combined, black and white can represent the contrast between dark and light, evil and good, or complexity and minimalism. The stark opposition of the two shades is visually striking and high contrast.

Monochrome and Achromatic

The terms “monochrome” and “achromatic” are used to describe the color pairing of pure black and pure white.


Monochrome comes from the Greek words “monos” meaning single and “chroma” meaning color. A monochrome image or design uses only one color, though different shades and tones may be present.


Achromatic comes from Greek as well, with “a” meaning without and “chroma” meaning color. So achromatic literally means without color or hueless. Black, white, and all greys in between are considered achromatic colors.

So both monochrome and achromatic accurately describe the black and white color scheme. Monochrome may imply higher contrast between the tones, while achromatic suggests a more neutral continuum.

Black and White in Design

Black and white have been a staple color combination throughout design history, from the earliest cave paintings to modern minimalism. Here are some of the design fields where black and white play an integral role:


Early photographic processes like daguerreotypes and black and white film photography resulted in monochrome images. While color photography now dominates, black and white photography is still used for art photography, journalism, and fashion editorials. The high contrast draws focus to shape, lighting, and composition.


Before color printing was widely available, black and white ruled printing. Newspapers, books, posters, and magazines all relied on the combination. Black text on white paper is still the standard for printing and typography because of the high legibility of the contrast.


From ancient Greek temples to the Bauhaus movement, black and white have been used in architectural design for bold facades, striking interiors, and graphic accent elements. Black and white can create visual interest and depth through color blocking, patterns, and materials like marble.


Black and white fashions represent a perennial trend, from Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white halter dress to black leather jackets and punk styles. Monochrome outfits in either tone allow other elements like texture and silhouette to stand out.


Modern minimalism embraces black and white for their simplicity and neutrality. Homes, products, and visual designs may be stripped down to clean black and white color schemes to focus on function and shape.

Black and White in Art

Many renowned artists have incorporated black and white into their works. The contrast creates visually captivating compositions. Here are some examples:

Artist Black and White Artworks
Pablo Picasso Guernica
Edvard Munch The Scream
Frank Stella Black Paintings series
Jackson Pollock Number 1 (Lavender Mist)

Psychology of Black and White

Research suggests that the contrast of black and white has a psychological impact on viewers:

– High visual contrast draws attention and interest
– Black and white is associated with confidence and power
– Black provokes stronger emotions than white
– White backgrounds aid concentration and readability
– Monochrome can appear elegant, classic, and high-end

So black and white work together to create visual impact, with black emphasizing the dramatic and white providing balance through its calming effect. Their use can convey different messages from boldness to integrity.

Cultural Meanings of Black and White

Black and white symbolism varies somewhat across cultures:

Western Cultures

– White for purity and innocence
– Black for mystery, power, and sophistication
– Bride wears white, grooms wears black

Eastern Cultures

– White for death and mourning
– Black for health and prosperity
– Brides wear red, white avoided


– Black for fertility, life, and substance
– White for death and immortality
– Brides wear black

So interpretations of the color pair span from purity to vitality based on cultural context. But the visual magnetism remains universal.

Uses of Black and White

Beyond the arts and design, black and white are applied in many everyday materials and products:


The printing of text and images in black and white makes mass newspaper production affordable. Color is reserved for attention-grabbing accents.


The classic tuxedo or dinner suit features a black jacket and trousers with a white shirt and bow tie. The stylish combination suits formal occasions.


Iconic black and white cookies like Oreos and chocolate chip cookies showcase the visual appeal of the color contrast.


The alternating black and white stripes of Universal Product Codes allow scanners to easily read product information.


The black and white keys on pianos create a pattern that corresponds to the musical scale. Black keys are raised and set further back.

QR Codes

QR code graphics use black modules arranged in a white background for storing encrypted data. The high contrast allows quick scanning.

Zebra Stripes

Zebras’ distinctive black and white stripes may help regulate temperature, avoid predators, and identify individuals.

So black and white are employed extensively in both beautiful and practical ways in our everyday world.

Black and White in Nature

Black and white patterns occur frequently in the natural world. Here are some monochrome animals and plants:

Animal Description
Pandas Giant pandas have black fur with white patches around the eyes, muzzle, and limbs.
Penguins Most penguin species sport a black back and white front for camouflage and temperature regulation.
Zebras Zebra stripes are black and white in coloration and unique to each individual.
Killer whales Orcas have black backs with a white underbelly and patches behind the eyes.
Skunks Skunks are black bodied with thick white stripes running from head to tail.
Plant Description
Calla lilies This elegant flower has a single black spadix rising from white petals.
Tulips Popular black tulips actually have deep purple petals, while white tulips are purely ivory.
Orchids Some orchid varieties showcase striking black and white blooms.

So black and white are common colors in nature that serve protective and decorative purposes across species.


While seemingly straightforward, black and white form a complex color relationship rich in meaning and symbolism. The contrast and interplay of the dark and light tones imbues them with visual power that has been captured throughout art and design history. Their complementary nature allows black and white to work in harmony, conveying both subtle and dramatic messages. Whether referred to as monochrome, achromatic, or any other name, the combination of black and white has earned its place as a versatile and iconic color scheme.