Black, which one to buy

Black paint

There are different black colors, not all are good. This is a small evaluation of the most common three and a less common one.

Lamp Black – PBk7

Lamp Black

The most common is Lamp Black, it comes with pretty much all box sets and is also the most common black colors in my students’ color boxes. It makes me think that it is the most common. It’s a shame, because it’s also the most boring of them all. The pigment is made of soot, the same type that was once obtained on the inside of the glass on the gas lamp, hence the name. The color is intense and opaque.

Ivory black, Bone black – PBk9

Made until the end of the 19th century from ivory that was charred, then this was banned. Nowadays, the pigment is made from charred animal bones (slaughterhouse waste). The hue is slightly warmer than the original of ivory and semi-transparent.

Vine black, Peach black – PBk8

Vine black

Made from charred plant parts, either stone fruit kernels or old vines. The pigment is semi-opaque to semi-transparent and granulating. The color tone is quite warm, almost like a dark sepia. There are not many manufacturers that make this color. The only bigger one I know of is Old Holland. If you’re really interested in the color, there are a few smaller manufacturers:

Iron oxide black, Mars black – PBk11

Ironoxide black

Is a magnetic pigment. which gives fantastic effects if you paint fluently with the paint. The pigment is relatively new (20th century) and has only appeared as a watercolor paint in recent years. The hue is usually a little bluish.

Which one to buy?

Name and picture

Pros and Cons

My comments

Lamp black

Lamp Black

Neutral black
Intense black
Dries with clear lost of value
Inferior in mixtures due to its opacity

I think it’s too boring, opaque and bland.

Ivory black

Ivory black

Slightly granulating
Good in mixtures
Slightly warm
Not very intense
Not for vegans

Nice color, that it granulates is a plus for me. I also like that it is at least somewhat transparent.

Vine black

Vine black

Beautiful granulation
Difficult finding manufacturers
Old Hollands is very brown

Nice color that I almost never use, unfortunately. Hard to find a good use for it.

Iron oxide black

Ironoxide black

Extreme effects
Fun if you like the extreme.
It is not possible to paint a black surface because the color is flocculating so much that it only becomes “dotted”

If you like effects and granulation, you should own this color. It’s not something for “ordinary” painting, though.

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Mr. S.
3 years ago

Do you use DS Lunar Black to paint shadows?

Mr. S.
Reply to  Erik
3 years ago

I just watched the video. Granulation galore, amazing. Would you use lunar black for gloomy, stormy skies?

Mr. S.
Reply to  Erik
3 years ago


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