Uses of Mars Black

Black is banned.

This statement rings in my ears from my art school days, and I keep reading it in how-to books.  It can’t be further from the truth.

Black acrylic paint is an extremely versatile addition to your colour palette – just use it VERY carefully.  Small amounts will have a dramatic effect on the colours you are mixing.

You need to understand what it can do to use it correctly and avoid dirty colours.

Black-acrylic mixed with Titanium white acrylic

A bit about Mars black:
It has a slightly blue bias: So what you ask!  Well it is this colour bias that can work in your favour to mix some gorgeous subtle colour mixes.

Here are a couple of examples.
The top colour swatches show the brown – blue colour bias of the different blacks.  Its colour bias becomes obvious when mixed with a little Titanium white – as we can see – Ivory Black has a subtle brown tinge/bias, while the Mars black has a slightly blue tinge or bias.

The green on the left is a Mars black/Cadmium yellow mix which gives a warm green with a brown bias due to the orange in the Cad yellow.  The green on the right is a Mars black/Lemon yellow mix which gives a more acidic green due to the lemon yellow.

The red on the left is a Mars black/Crimson mix which gives a deep dark red with a purply bias due to Crimson’s blue bias.  The red on the right is a Mars black/Cadmium red mix giving a dark rich red with a brown tinge due to the yellow in the Cadmium red

Ivory and Mars Black-mixes in acrylic paint

So there you go!  This should give you an idea as to how the careful use of Mars black can result in a far wider range of subtle colour mixes.  

DON’T WORRY – if you got a little confused with all the colour bias stuff.  As long as you got the basic idea that you CAN use black in your colour mixing – all be it with care.  The rest will come with colour mixing practice, reading up a bit on colour theory and generally just paying attention to what happens when you mix one colour with another.

But that’s what art is all about – paying attention.
Have fun.
Feel free to ask any questions – I’ll do my best to explain further.