How to Make Black Watercolor

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Learn how to make black watercolors, Get easy tips for mixing colors to create the perfect black color for your art.

You might also be interested in this post on color theory.

black watercolor paint swatch

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How to Make Black Watercolor

Technically, you can combine red, yellow, and blue to create black, but I prefer making 2 color mixtures.

There are 2 factors for choosing the colors to make your own black watercolor:

  1. The colors must be complementary (red and green or blue and orange.)
  2. The colors must be dark. This is why I didn’t mention yellow and purple as an example for complementary colors. Yellow is way too light.
watercolor swatches

My Favorite Black Watercolor Mixture

My favorite black watercolor mixture creates a color commonly known as Jane’s Gray. To create this gorgeous color, mix ultramarine and burnt sienna. (Burnt sienna is brown, but looks very orange, so it works as a complementary color.

Blick links: Ultramarine | Burnt Sienna

watercolor swatches

The ultramarine granulates and creates the perfect shade of black.

By the way, these colors can also create the perfect dark brown watercolor if you use more burnt sienna than ultramarine. Read more about making brown paint here.

You can also use burnt umber to create a cooler shade of black.

Blick link: Burnt Umber

watercolor swatches

Any dark blues combined with brown will create a black color. Indigo mixed with burnt umber is also very beautiful.

Blick link: Indigo

watercolor swatches making black

My 2nd favorite mixture combines perylene green and perylene red. These are both very dark shades and technically perylene green is made with black pigments.

Blick Links: Perylene Green | Perylene Red

watercolor swatches

Please note that perylene colors are notorious for not scanning well. And my scanner is slowly dying so it’s not the most accurate color ever.

You can also use darker neutral reds. The bottom mixture uses perylene green and Indian Red.

Blick link: Indian Red

watercolor swatches

Keep in mind that some colors are stronger than others, so it’s not always a 1:1 mixture. For example, Indian Red is really strong and you need a lot more perylene green for mixing a black color.

Why Would You Use Black Mixtures Instead of PreMade Black Watercolor?

I love using my own mixtures for black with a few exceptions. I prefer Payne’s Gray or Neutral Tint to straight black watercolor. The colors are much prettier and easier to use.

Blick links: Payne’s Gray | Neutral Tint

black watercolor swatches

On its own, black is a little too harsh and I find that I never use it. Payne’s Gray is my go-to for black.

Also in nature, you rarely see a solid black color. I have a black lab and in the sun her fur is more dark brown than true black.

When mixed with colors, the results are much more interesting than when mixed with black.*

watercolors mixed with black and paynes gray

*There is one exception to this rule. I love mixing lunar black (some brands call it Mars black) with colors to create super granulating colors similar to the dusk pink by Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

Blick links: Lunar Black | Rembrandt Dusk Pink

paint swatches
Colors mixed with Lunar Black
van gogh dusk watercolors swatches
Dusk colors by Van Gogh

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black paint swatch

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One Comment

  1. thank you for this…easy to follow, I too prefer 2 colours as I love the way they will separate to make the painting more interesting

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