Should You Use Black? For the Serious Oil Painter It Is a Serious Question


Should you use black? for the serious oil painter, it is a serious questionShould you use black in your oil painting color palette?  Since I began oil painting, it has been a hotly debated subject among serious artists.

Even as early as 5 years ago when I took a portrait painting class at the Art Students’ League of New York,  a very well-known and respected teacher asked the class if using black was in or out or appropriate for the modern painter.

In my opinion, black isn’t necessarily a crucial pigment in oil painting. I do not use it in my palette.  It is technically possible to do without black altogether.

As a matter of a fact, it is just a matter of mixing primary and secondary colors in order to compensate for a black hue. This isn’t to say that the choice between black colors in oil painting isn’t very important.

Many artists shy away from using black at all because it tends to “dirty” color in mixing, and instead prefer to use a color’s complement to tint or shade. However, using black as a color, you can avoid ‘dirtiness’ to some degree by taking note of the color bias and tinting strength.

This is where it becomes important to pay attention to the differences in different blacks and how to use them. When choosing to use black oil color, there are several variations of black pigment to choose from just like there are different whites.

3 Black Oil Pigments

The most obvious difference between blacks in oil painting is the hue variance. The most common and universal blacks (Ivory, Lamp & Mars) are easily identified by their hue characteristics, usually regardless of the oil paint manufacturer, as long as they are made from high quality pigments.

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  1. Thank you so much for this much debated information about using black. This has been very helpful.

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