Which Colors to Mix to Make Black Paint?

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It’s time for a tip that will change your painting forever. It’s how to mix black paint using different colors. And why would you want to mix different colors to make black paint? Two main reasons I can think of:

  1. You want a black paint color that is more interesting than straight-from-the-tube black.
  2. You don’t have black paint on hand and you freaking need some, already.

So what colors to mix to make black paint? I knew you could mix up brown with different colors, but when I started thinking about mixing a black acrylic paint color, I realized I had no idea if it could be done. I had always just mixed in a tinge of another color to lend the tube black more richness.

How to Make Black Paint

So, yes, indeed you can make black paint by mixing other colors, and you aren’t limited to a strict two or three paint colors. If you are out of black acrylic, or you just want to mix up a fancy black, you can use any of these color combinations.

painted color wheel showing the colors you can use to mix black paint

Mix Primary Colors

Mix blue, red, and yellow in equal amounts to make a black paint. You can experiment with different reds, blues, and yellows to see the slight difference in blacks you get. You can also experiment with different amounts of each of the primary colors to change your black up.

This is great news for artists on a budget, or total beginners, as you can grab 4 paint colors to mix up all sorts of new colors to paint with. (White being the fourth).

Mix Complementary Colors

Grab your color wheel and Pick 2 colors opposite each other. These are complementary colors and if you mix them, you’ll get black. This is essentially the same thing as mixing the 3 primary colors together, because take a peek above at the color wheel. Blue is opposite orange (red + yellow), red is opposite green (blue + yellow), and yellow is opposite purple. Pop quiz: what 2 colors make purple?

Mix Blue and Brown

This is a super-quick way to mix black paint. Use a mixture of Burnt Umber and Pthalo Blue, and you will get a magical deep black color that is more interesting than just squeezing black out of a tube.

a canvas board with swatches of black paint on it showing which colors to mix to make black paint

Okay, so check out the paints above. I mixed a bunch of different blacks using other acrylic paint colors, and as you can see, they range in how they look both painted straight (left), and then watered down (middle column). The right hand column is all Mars black, straight from the tube, painted on for comparison.

  1. Cadmium Red Medium + Ultramarine Blue + Hansa Yellow Medium
  2. Same as 1, but in different ratios
  3. Cadmium Yellow Light + Napthol Red Light + Pthalo Blue
  4. Cadmium Red Medium + Pthalo Blue + Hansa Yellow Medium
  5. Quinacridone Magenta + Hansa Yellow Medium + Pthalo Blue
  6. Pthalo Blue + Burnt Umber

So, how cool are all those black colors I mixed up? #2 definitely has a red tint to it, and #3 is on the green side. And look how they all change when watered down! That watered-down #2 looks more purplish!

And as you can see from the differences in 1 + 2, you can even create different shades of black using the same initial colors in different amounts. For most of these, when I started mixing I ended up with a color that was not black. This will probably happen to you, because mixing black is not an exact science here.

If you get a brown color, add more blue. If you have a black that is too red, try adding more yellow and blue. If it’s too green, add more red. The #2 black obviously has more red in it than the #1 black.

Once you start playing around with mixing up black colors, you’ll get a feel for which ones you like, which will look best with other colors, and you’ll see how much more depth and interest mixed blacks can lend to your acrylic paintings.

Not pictured here, but lately I’ve been playing around a lot with Dioxazine Purple. Try mixing it with a little bit of Phthalo Green to make a great black!

white canvas board with color swatched showing black acrylic paint mixed using different colors. Next to those is a paint brush and  jars of acrylic paints, plus a tube

Related: Everything you need to know to paint with acrylic on wood

Why Mix up Black Paint?

Mixing black paint may seem like an unnecessary endeavor if you have a container of it already, but there is good reason to mix black using other colors. Using black acrylic straight from the tube can look super harsh, especially if you are mixing other colors to use in your painting. Tube paint tends to stick out as looking too “perfect”. Mixing from scratch gives you more control over what your black will look like, and you can tailor it to work better with your other colors in your painting.

Even if you do have a tube of black paint that you are wanting to use, try mixing it with a little bit of another color on the palette to lessen its harsh perfection. (Does lessen the harsh perfection sound like a good t-shirt idea?)

Tips For Mixing Black Paint

Use a palette knife to mix your paint colors on the palette. Mixing paint with brushes shortens their life span. (I break this rule sometimes. Shhhhh)

Keep paint swatches of the different blacks you mix so you can refer back to them later. You can keep a paper color chart if you’d like, but I like gessoing and painting on fat popsicle sticks. That way I can place the paint colors next to each other to see what they look like.

Once your black is mixed up, you can add a tiny bit of white paint to lighten it up and give you more of a dark grey-black.

A Little Color Theory Re: Black

Let’s geek out a bit on the color black. Black is defined as the absence of color, and of light. Therefore black is technically not a color. Since it absorbs all of the colors and doesn’t reflect them back to us, it is considered a non-color.

Of course, in the paint-mixing world, black can be made up of lots of colors, and usually is not a true black, so trying to understand this concept is a little bit mind-blowy. If you want to get all technical and dive deeper into the world of black, read this article, Are Black and White Colors?

Happy black-mixing, and guess what? This works for food coloring as well. Just mix up your red, yellow, and blue colors to make black food coloring! (Because sometimes you are making a cake with your son and he wants to decorate it with a black UFO.)

Now check out all of these cool abstract acrylic painting ideas.

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