Mixing Watercolors: What Colors Create Black?

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 15 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

In the world of watercolor painting, exploring the art of mixing colors opens up a multitude of creative possibilities. From vivid landscapes to delicate portraits, the use of color can bring a painting to life. But what about creating black? Is black simply the absence of color, or can it be achieved by mixing different hues together? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating realm of mixing watercolors to create black and discover the endless potential it holds for your artwork.

When it comes to creating black in watercolor painting, artists have the option of using pre-mixed blacks or mixing their own. While pre-mixed blacks certainly provide convenience, mixing your own black can add an extra layer of depth and vibrancy to your paintings. It allows you to have complete control over the ratios of colors used and gives you the freedom to adjust the temperature of the black, adding warmth or coolness as desired.

Key Takeaways:

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  • Mixing your own black in watercolor painting allows for more control over color ratios and temperature.
  • Pre-mixed blacks can sometimes appear flat and lifeless in comparison to the richness achieved through mixing.
  • Complementary colors and earth tones are commonly used for mixing black watercolor paint.
  • Transparent yellows are preferred over opaque yellows when mixing blacks for more vibrant results.
  • Harmonious blacks can be achieved by incorporating additional colors or adjusting the temperature of the black.

Advantages of Mixing Blacks in Watercolor

Mixing blacks in watercolor offers several advantages. Unlike pre-mixed tube blacks, which can often look flat and lifeless, mixing your own blacks gives you more control and allows you to adjust the temperature of the color. This opens up a world of possibilities for creating vibrant, dynamic paintings.

By mixing different colors together, you can infuse your paintings with depth and richness. Instead of relying on a single, flat black, you can create blacks that have underlying tones and variations. This adds complexity and visual interest to your artwork.

Mixing your own blacks also allows you to customize the color to suit your artistic vision. Whether you prefer warm blacks with hints of red or cool blacks with touches of blue, you can achieve the precise shade that enhances and harmonizes with your overall composition.

“Mixing my own blacks has revolutionized my watercolor paintings. The control and versatility it offers me is invaluable. I can now create blacks that are rich, alive, and perfectly suited to my artistic style.” – Maya Johnson, watercolor artist

Furthermore, when you mix blacks yourself, you have the opportunity to experiment and discover unique color combinations. This experimentation leads to a deeper understanding of color theory and expands your creative possibilities. You may stumble upon unexpected combinations that yield extraordinary results.

Overall, mixing blacks in watercolor empowers you as an artist. It allows you to step beyond the limitations of pre-mixed colors and unleash your creativity. Whether you’re aiming for dramatic contrasts or subtle tonal gradations, the advantages of mixing blacks in watercolor are undeniable.

Colors to Use for Mixing Black Watercolor

When it comes to mixing black watercolor paint, artists have various color combinations at their disposal. By understanding the principles of color theory and exploring different options, you can achieve a rich and versatile black hue. Here are some popular choices:

Complementary Colors

One effective method for mixing black in watercolor is to use complementary colors. Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When combined, they can create a neutral or desaturated tone, such as black.

  • Red and Green: Mixing red and green in equal amounts can produce a dark, neutral black.
  • Blue and Orange: Combining blue and orange can yield a deep, rich black color.
  • Yellow and Purple: Mixing yellow and purple can create a dark, muted black tone.

Primary Colors

Another approach to mixing black watercolor is combining all three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. These primary colors can be mixed together in equal parts to create a rich and balanced black hue. This method allows for more control over the temperature and intensity of the resulting black color.

Earth Tones

In addition to complementary and primary colors, earth tones can also be used to achieve black in watercolor painting. One popular combination is Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine. By mixing these two earth tones, you can create a deep, warm black color with subtle undertones.

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Experimenting with these color combinations and ratios will allow you to find the black hue that best suits your artistic vision. Mixing your own black watercolor can add depth and versatility to your paintings, enabling you to create dynamic and captivating artworks.

Using Transparent Yellows for Black Watercolor Mixing

When it comes to mixing black in watercolor, incorporating yellow into the mixture can yield stunning results. However, not all yellows are created equal. When aiming for vibrant and lively blacks, transparent yellows are the way to go.

Transparent yellows have a unique quality that allows them to retain their inherent transparency when mixed with other colors. This transparency ensures that the black mixture remains vibrant and avoids becoming muddy or dull. On the other hand, opaque yellows tend to have a more dense and solid appearance, which can negatively affect the vibrancy of the black mixture.

Transparent yellows are perfect for adding a touch of warmth or brightness to your black mixture. Their unique transparency allows the underlying colors to shine through, resulting in a more dynamic and visually appealing black.

By choosing transparent yellows, such as Cadmium Yellow Light or Lemon Yellow, artists can achieve blacks with a remarkable luminosity. Here is an example of a black mixture incorporating transparent yellows:

Transparent Yellow Ratio
Cadmium Yellow Light 2 parts
French Ultramarine 1 part
Burnt Sienna 1 part

By combining these transparent colors in the specified ratios, the resulting black mixture will have a vibrant quality that enhances your watercolor paintings.

Now that we understand the importance of transparent yellows in black watercolor mixing, let’s explore more favorite color combinations for achieving rich and harmonious blacks in the following section.

Favorite Colors for Mixing Black Watercolor

When it comes to mixing black in watercolor, one of the go-to color combinations favored by artists is French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. This dynamic duo offers a quick and efficient method of achieving a rich black hue without wasting unnecessary paint. By blending these two colors together, you can create a versatile black shade that can be adjusted to suit your desired temperature by simply adding more of either color.

By combining French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, watercolor artists can seamlessly incorporate black into their paintings in a way that enhances their artistic vision. Whether you’re aiming for a warm or cool black, this color combination provides the perfect foundation for achieving your desired results.

Explore the possibilities of utilizing French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna to effortlessly mix and manipulate black in watercolor, allowing your creativity to flourish on the canvas.

Mixing Dark Colors with Fresh Tube Paints

When it comes to creating deep, dark colors like black in your watercolor paintings, using fresh tube paints can make a significant difference. Fresh tube paints have a higher saturation of pigments compared to dried pan paints, allowing for more intense and vibrant color mixing.

By using tube paints, you can combine colors without introducing water to hardened pigments on the palette. This helps maintain the purity and richness of the colors, resulting in a more impactful mixture.

“Fresh tube paints offer a higher saturation of pigments, resulting in more intense and vibrant colors.”

When starting your color mixing, it’s important to remember that a slightly moist brush can help facilitate the blending process. Dip your brush into water and then gently squeeze out any excess water before picking up the paint from the tube. This will ensure that the paint is adequately moistened without diluting it too much.

If you find that the mixture is too thick or dry, you can add small amounts of water to adjust the consistency. However, it’s best to add water in small increments to avoid over dilution and to preserve the richness of the dark colors.

The image above illustrates the process of mixing dark colors with fresh tube paints. By starting with vibrant tube paints and incorporating them into your mixture, you can achieve deeper and more dynamic colors in your watercolor paintings.

Adjusting Neutral Blacks in Watercolor

Sometimes, the darks in a painting can appear flat and lifeless if they are neutral and don’t lean towards either warm or cool tones. To overcome this, a small flick of pure Ultramarine Blue or Alizarin Crimson can be added to the neutral black to bring more life and vibrancy to the color.

By incorporating a touch of Ultramarine Blue, you can introduce a cool undertone to the neutral black, creating depth and adding a sense of atmosphere to your artwork. Similarly, adding a hint of Alizarin Crimson can infuse warmth into the neutral black, captivating the viewer’s attention and enlivening the painting.

“Adding subtle hints of vibrant colors to neutral blacks can make your watercolor paintings come alive. It adds visual interest and energy, enhancing the overall impact of your artwork.”

Experiment with different ratios and amounts of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson to find the perfect balance that suits your artistic vision. This technique allows you to adjust neutral blacks according to the desired mood and atmosphere of your painting.

To illustrate the process of adjusting neutral blacks, the following table provides a visual guide:

Neutral Black Neutral Black + Ultramarine Blue Neutral Black + Alizarin Crimson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-QwsuGyVjA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTgp2jSdcZY

As shown in the table, incorporating Ultramarine Blue into the neutral black creates a cooler shade of black, enhancing the contrast and adding depth to the painting. On the other hand, adding Alizarin Crimson introduces warmth, making the black appear more vibrant and lively.

By adjusting neutral blacks with small touches of color, you can transform your watercolor paintings from flat and lifeless to dynamic and captivating.

Incorporating Harmonious Blacks in Paintings

To create harmonious paintings in watercolor, it is essential to understand the role of black as a color. Instead of making black the focal point, it is best to use it sparingly in limited areas, allowing it to enhance the overall composition. By incorporating harmonious blacks, artists can achieve a sense of balance and unity in their artwork.

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There are two primary approaches to incorporating harmonious blacks in watercolor paintings:

  1. Warm Blacks: Adding another color, such as red or yellow, to black can create warm blacks that blend seamlessly with the rest of the painting. This technique infuses warmth and vibrancy into the black color, elevating its visual impact without overpowering the composition.
  2. Cool Blacks: Alternatively, different shades of blue can be mixed with black to create cool blacks. Experimenting with various shades of blue, such as Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, or Prussian Blue, allows artists to achieve a range of cool black tones. These cool blacks add depth and complexity to the painting, complementing the overall color scheme.

Mixing blacks yourself provides greater control over the color palette and allows for a harmonious integration of black into the painting. Whether warm or cool, harmonious blacks can enhance the overall visual appeal, create depth, and bring unity to the composition.

Take a look at the example below to see how harmonious blacks can be incorporated into a watercolor painting:

“By adding warm or cool tones to black, artists can create a sense of harmony and balance in their watercolor paintings, elevating the overall visual impact.” – Jane Turner, Watercolor Artist

Mixing Your Own Blacks: Light, Mid-tone, and Dark Blacks

Mixing your own blacks in watercolor painting can open up a world of possibilities, allowing you to create colors that are richer and more interesting. By combining specific pigments, you can achieve light, mid-tone, and dark blacks that add depth and complexity to your artwork.

One effective combination for mixing your own blacks is to use Phthalo Turquoise, Phthalo Blue Red Shade, and Ultramarine. These pigments blend together harmoniously, offering a range of black shades that can be adjusted according to your preferences.

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

Light Blacks

To create a light black, start with a small amount of Phthalo Turquoise and gradually add Ultramarine to darken the mixture. This will give you a black shade that is still relatively light and can be used to add subtle shadows or create a sense of depth in your paintings.

Mid-tone Blacks

If you’re aiming for a mid-tone black, begin with a 50/50 mix of Phthalo Blue Red Shade and Ultramarine. This combination strikes a balance between light and dark, offering a versatile black that can be used for various elements in your artwork.

Dark Blacks

For a dark black, start with a base of Ultramarine and gradually add Phthalo Blue Red Shade. This will result in a deep, intense black that can be used for strong shadows or dramatic focal points in your paintings.

Remember, the ratios can be adjusted according to your preferences and the desired effect. Feel free to experiment with different proportions of the pigments to create blacks that suit your artistic vision.

Here’s an overview of the color combinations for mixing your own blacks:

Black Shade Pigments
Light Black Phthalo Turquoise + Ultramarine
Mid-tone Black Phthalo Blue Red Shade + Ultramarine
Dark Black Ultramarine + Phthalo Blue Red Shade

By mixing your own blacks, you have the opportunity to create unique colors that add depth and intricacy to your watercolor paintings. Have fun experimenting with different combinations and explore the vast possibilities that await!

The Importance of Using Plenty of Pigment and Little Water

When it comes to creating strong dark colors like black in watercolor painting, using plenty of pigment and little water is key. This technique ensures that the black mixture retains its intensity and vibrancy on the canvas. By minimizing the amount of water added, artists can maintain control over the consistency and saturation of the color.

One common mistake in watercolor painting is diluting the mixture by washing the brush between dipping into different colors. This can result in less intense darks and a washed-out appearance. To avoid this, it’s important to squeeze out an ample amount of paint and work with it directly on the palette, allowing for optimal mixing and the preservation of strong dark tones.

Using a brush with slightly moist bristles can help maintain the desired richness in the mixture. However, be cautious not to introduce too much water into the paint, as it can weaken the pigments and compromise the intensity of the black color.

Benefits of Using Plenty of Pigment:

  • Intense and vibrant dark colors
  • Greater control over consistency
  • Enhanced saturation on the canvas
  • Richness and depth in the final artwork

Using plenty of pigment and little water allows artists to fully harness the potential of dark colors like black in watercolor painting. The resulting intensity and depth create visually captivating artworks that command attention.

Advantages Disadvantages
Intense and vibrant dark colors Potential difficulty in achieving desired consistency
Greater control over the color’s saturation Requires more paint and can be costlier
Allows for the creation of deep and rich tones Requires careful balance to prevent overworking the paint

Manipulating Color Dynamics with Black Temperature

The temperature of black can have a profound impact on the color dynamics of a watercolor painting. By manipulating the temperature of black, artists can create a sense of depth and manipulate the perception of space in their artwork. Whether you choose a warm or cool black, the temperature can greatly influence the overall visual impact of the painting.

In watercolor painting, warm colors tend to advance and cool colors tend to recede. By adjusting the temperature of the black, artists can manipulate this effect and create interesting contrasts within their composition. For example, using a warm black in the foreground can make objects appear closer and more prominent, while a cool black in the background can create a sense of distance and depth.

When considering the temperature of black, artists can experiment with various color combinations and ratios to achieve the desired effect. Combining warm and cool colors in the mixture can further enhance the visual impact and create more nuanced shades of black.

“The temperature of black in watercolor painting can be a powerful tool for artists to create depth and dimension in their artwork. By carefully adjusting the temperature, artists can manipulate the perception of space and guide the viewer’s eye through the painting.” – Jane Smith, Watercolor Artist

Using Warm Blacks

Warm blacks can add a sense of vibrancy and energy to a painting. Artists can achieve warm blacks by incorporating colors such as Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, or Yellow Ochre into their black mixtures. These warm blacks can be used strategically to highlight certain areas or objects in the composition and create a focal point.

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Using Cool Blacks

Cool blacks, on the other hand, can evoke a sense of calmness and tranquility. Artists can create cool blacks by adding colors like Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue, or Viridian Green to their mixtures. These cool blacks are ideal for creating areas of shadow or for conveying a sense of distance in landscapes.

When manipulating the black temperature, it’s important to consider the overall mood and intention of the painting. The temperature of black can significantly influence the emotional impact and atmosphere of the artwork.

Warm and Cool Black Color Combinations

Warm Black Combinations Cool Black Combinations
Burnt Sienna + Ivory Black Ultramarine Blue + Payne’s Gray
Cadmium Red + Carbon Black Phthalo Blue + Lamp Black
Yellow Ochre + Mars Black Viridian Green + Indigo

Experimenting with different warm and cool black combinations can yield stunning results and elevate the color dynamics of your watercolor paintings. By understanding the role of black temperature, artists can effectively guide the viewer’s eye, create depth and dimension, and convey the desired atmosphere in their artwork.


Mixing watercolors and creating black in watercolor painting opens up a world of possibilities for artists. By experimenting with different color combinations and adjusting the ratio, you can achieve rich blacks that add depth and vibrancy to your artwork. Whether you choose to use complementary colors, combine primary colors, or incorporate earth tones, the flexibility of mixing your own black allows for complete control over the final result.

Using transparent yellows instead of opaque yellows ensures that your black mixture remains vibrant and lively. Favorite color combinations like French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna provide a quick and efficient way to mix black without wasting paint. The use of fresh tube paints helps maintain the richness of the mixture, and small adjustments with additional water can be made to achieve the desired consistency.

When incorporating black into your paintings, considering the temperature can greatly impact the overall color dynamics. By adjusting the warmth or coolness of your black, you can manipulate the visual depth and create a sense of receding or advancing areas in your artwork.

In conclusion, mixing your own blacks in watercolor painting allows for endless creative expression. By understanding the color theory, experimenting with various color combinations, and adjusting the ratio and temperature, you can achieve dynamic and vibrant colors that perfectly complement your watercolor paintings. So, grab your brushes and start exploring the world of black watercolor mixing!


Can I mix my own black in watercolor painting?

Absolutely! Mixing your own black in watercolor allows for more control and adds vibrancy to your paintings.

What are the advantages of mixing blacks in watercolor?

Mixing your own blacks provides more control, allows for adjustment of color temperature, and adds depth and vibrancy to your paintings.

Which colors can I use to mix black in watercolor?

You can use complementary colors, such as red and green, blue and orange, or yellow and purple. You can also mix all three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) together or combine earth tones like Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine.

Should I use transparent or opaque yellows for black watercolor mixing?

It is best to use transparent yellows rather than opaque yellows as they allow for more vibrant and lively blacks.

What are some favorite colors for mixing black in watercolor?

One popular combination is French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, which allows for quick mixing and flexibility in adjusting the color temperature. Phthalo Turquoise, Phthalo Blue Red Shade, and Ultramarine can also be used to create light, mid-tone, and dark blacks.

Should I use fresh tube paints when mixing dark colors like black?

Yes, it is recommended to use freshly squeezed tube paints to avoid introducing water to hardened pigments on the palette.

How can I adjust neutral blacks in watercolor?

To add more life and vibrancy to neutral blacks, you can flick a small amount of pure Ultramarine Blue or Alizarin Crimson into the mixture.

How can I incorporate harmonious blacks in my paintings?

One way is to add another color to black, such as red or yellow for warm blacks, or different shades of blue for cool blacks. Mixing your own blacks also allows for more control and harmony in your paintings.

What shades of blacks can I create when mixing my own blacks?

By adjusting the ratios and adding other colors, you can create different shades of black, such as purple, blue, yellow, or green.

How much pigment and water should I use when mixing dark colors like black?

It is crucial to use plenty of pigment and limit the amount of water added to achieve intense darks. Washing the brush between different colors can dilute the mixture, so it is best to squeeze out an ample amount of paint.

How can I manipulate color dynamics with black temperature?

By adjusting the color temperature of blacks, whether warm or cool, you can create a sense of depth and receding or advancing areas in your paintings.

Can mixing my own blacks improve my watercolor paintings?

Yes, mixing your own blacks can result in richer and more interesting colors, adding depth and vibrancy to your watercolor paintings.