Theoretically Speaking: Painting Black

Theory for the artfully inquisitive mind.™

Painting objects at the polar ends of the value scale can be a challenge even for the experienced artist.  How do you highlight white or shade black?  Following are a few pointers on painting black excerpted from my Color Mojo lesson plan. 
Painting Black
  • Black objects are defined by highlights rather than shadows. Light reflecting off a black surface creates the middle and light values while black remains the dark value.
  • As with white, a touch of color can provide warmth and interest to basic black and grey tones, which can seem dull on their own.
  • Rich black: Burnt Umber + Payne’s Grey or a pure deep blue. By shifting the proportions you can warm or cool the values created from this mix plus white.
  • Grey values can be cooled with Payne’s Grey, blue or violet and warmed with earth tones, red, orange or yellow.
  • Reflected light is especially important on black objects as it helps to define the receding edge on the dark value side.

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