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The colour Black

March 19, 2012

Black The color that is the lack of light and color
Black is often seen as ominous, of being absolute, mysterious, associated with the things of fear and death. It is often forgotten however that it is from the darkness that light comes, a fact not lost on artists following the Renaissance. Dramatically setting color and light against black backgrounds they made luminous masterpieces that amaze us still. Black also has the honor of being one of the first 3 colors ever used by humankind. Of the 3 (the others are red and yellow earth) blackened burnt wood was  available every morning from the night time fire, and since it is soft and already conveniently attached to sticks, it is highly likely that black was the very first color used by the earliest artists.

Lamp Black PBk 6   ASTM   l
Also called Carbon Black and Vegetable Black.
Chemical type and description
Carbon Black produced originally by burning vegetable oils, but these days by burning tar, creosote, naphthalene, or other petroleum products. Lamp Black is the oldest pigment made by a deliberate industrial process. It’s origin presumably was after the development of oil lamps and by early Egyptian times was the black of choice as it was a more intense and pure black than charcoal, and is the black found in all Egyptian murals and tomb decorations. it is one of the slowest drying pigments in oil and should never be used underneath other colors unless mixed with a fast drier such as Umber. produces a very soft and brittle oil paint. While Lamp Black has a long and honorable history, most artists prefer either Ivory Black or the newer Mars Black for most purposes. It was the only black pigment that could be used in Fresco at one time, but even for that purpose Mars Black is superior.
Toxicity
Some types may be considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Tempera, Encaustic,  Pastel, Chalk

Mars Black PBk 11   ASTM   l
Also called Iron Black, or Black Iron Oxide.
Chemical type and description
Inorganic synthetic iron oxide. Closely related chemically to the coloring agents in the naturally occurring red and yellow earths, Mars Black is nevertheless recent in origin, being developed early in the 20th century. It is normally the only black available in acrylics ranges because Ivory Black is is less successful in acrylic than oils, however oil painters could benefit from using this excellent pigment. It is the only major black pigment that is considered non-toxic, the only one that is a good drier, the only one safe to over paint because it is the only one that produces a hard fairly flexible oil paint, and is the only one that can be used in all media without reservation. It is dense and opaque with a warmish brown undertone.
Toxicity
Not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.

Ivory Black PBk 9   ASTM   l
Also called Bone Black
Chemical type and description
Inorganic synthetic carbon black and Calcium Phosphate. Bone Black was invented by the Romans as a general purpose black and for the best grades pure ivory was burned instead of ordinary animal bones. Thus it started with 2 separate names. True Ivory Black has a higher carbon content than Bone Black and is more intense. It is the deep velvety black found in the backgrounds of Rembrandt’s portraits. It wasn’t until the 19th century that artists allowed the application of the name to the ordinary Bone Black. The genuine pigment is still made in tiny quantities from Ivory harvested from animals that have died naturally but is almost as expensive as genuine Lapis Lazuli Ultramarine. These comments apply to both forms of Bone and Ivory Black. A very slow drier in oil, it should never be used in underpainting. It produces a soft and brittle oil paint.. It can never be used in Fresco as it effloresces. It is the work horse black for artists and until the development of Mars Black was the best black artists had for oil paint .
Toxicity
Is considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic,  Tempera, Encaustic, Pastel, Chalk

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