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What’s the darkest shade of grey?

What’s the darkest shade of grey?

Grey is a neutral color that can range from very light to very dark. The darkest shades of grey are those that appear almost black. Determining the absolute darkest grey shade is subjective, but there are some key factors to consider.

What Makes a Shade of Grey Dark?

The main property that makes a grey darker is having a lower lightness value. On the standard HSL (hue, saturation, lightness) color wheel, colors with low lightness appear darker, while colors with high lightness appear lighter. Pure black has a lightness value of 0, while pure white has a lightness value of 100. Most dark greys have lightness values between 5-30.

Another factor is the undertone of the grey. Grey with a cool blue undertone will generally appear darker than a grey with a warm brownish undertone with the same lightness value. This is because blue light scatters more than warmer wavelengths, making cool greys seem deeper.

Darkest Named Grey Shades

There are many named shades of grey that designers and artists use. Here are some of the darkest named greys:

Grey Shade Name Hex Color Code
Davys Grey #556B2F
Eerie Black #1C1C1C
Jet #343434
Raisin Black #24221F
Charleston Green #232B2B
Black Chocolate #1B1811

As you can see from the hex color codes, these greys all have very low lightness values under 30, giving them a very dark appearance. Davy’s Grey is the lightest, with a lightness of about 27, while Raisin Black is the darkest, with a lightness of just 12.

Using the CMYK Scale

In print design and printing, grey shades are often defined using the CMYK color model, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). The K value, representing black ink, is the relevant value for greys. The higher the K value, the darker the grey.

Some of the darkest greys on the CMYK scale include:

CMYK Values Approx. Lightness
95, 85, 85, 95 13
85, 80, 80, 100 8
90, 90, 90, 100 5

As you can see, greys with high K values around 90-100% are very dark, with lightness levels below 15. A CMYK grey with 100% K is pure black with no lightness.

Using RGB and Hex Codes

On digital displays, grey shades are defined using the RGB color model. This model mixes amounts of red, green, and blue light to create colors. The darker the RGB values, the darker the grey.

Some very dark greys in RGB/hex include:

RGB Values Hex Code Approx. Lightness
25, 25, 25 #191919 10
35, 35, 35 #232323 14
55, 55, 55 #373737 22

RGB greys with values below 50 are very dark. As the values approach 0, the grey becomes closer to black, with a lightness of 0.

Using HSL and HSB Values

The HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) and HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness) color models are also useful for defining grey shades. Since grey is a neutral color, the H and S values are 0 for all shades. The L or B value then determines the lightness/brightness.

Some examples of dark greys in HSL/HSB include:

HSL/HSB Values Approx. Lightness
0, 0%, 15% 15
0, 0%, 20% 20
0, 0%, 10% 10

Grey shades with L/B values below 20% appear very dark. A grey with a lightness of 0% is pure black.

Absolute Darkest Grey

Given all these color models and scales, what can we determine is the objectively darkest shade of grey? While there are many dark greys, the “absolute” darkest grey would be:

  • A grey with a lightness value of 0% (HSL/HSB)
  • A grey with CMYK values of 0, 0, 0, 100
  • An RGB or hex grey of 0, 0, 0 (#000000)

This color would be pure black with no lightness at all. Since grey by definition implies some lightness, however, this color is not actually considered a grey shade. The closest we can get to “absolute black” while still being within the grey color spectrum is likely a grey with lightness around 2-3%. This retains just a tiny hint of light to give it a dark grey appearance.

Darkest Grey in Use

When used in design and decor, what are some examples of the darkest shades of grey looking their absolute darkest?

  • A matte charcoal grey (HEX #3C3C3C) painted on walls with no sheen will look very dark and moody
  • Using an 80% black (CMYK 80, 80, 80, 80) for printed text provides high contrast and legibility
  • Deepest slate greys (RGB 105, 105, 105) on furniture or clothing absorb light for a somber look
  • Adding 19% grey (HSL 0, 0%, 19%) as a background on a website creates a stylish, almost black look

Many factors like surface texture, light conditions, and surrounding colors impact how dark a grey will look. But using very low lightness greys from any color system will generally produce a deep, dark effect.


While subjective, the darkest shades of grey approach pure black very closely. Greys with lightness levels below 20% based on HSL/HSB models and RGB/CMYK values below 50 are good candidates for the darkest greys. Cool undertones also make greys look darker. Ultimately, the “absolute darkest grey” is not a grey at all, but pure black with 0% lightness. However, deep charcoal greys with lightness around 3% retain a hint of light while appearing almost black, achieving the darkest grey look possible.