How to Mix Black Watercolor?

Learn how to mix black watercolor like a pro! Discover the secrets of creating rich, dark shades with watercolors, and level up your painting skills.


Black might seem like a simple color, but mixing the perfect black watercolor can be a challenge. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various techniques, tips, and tricks to achieve the perfect black shade. And if you’re interested in learning how to mix other colors, check out our guide on how to mix pink watercolor.

Understand the color theory behind mixing black

Before you start mixing colors, it’s important to understand the color theory behind black. In the world of color, black is the absence of light, which means it’s the darkest shade you can achieve. In watercolor painting, this can be done by combining the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) in varying proportions.

Choose the right watercolor paints

To mix black, you’ll need high-quality watercolor paints in the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. Look for transparent, single-pigment paints for the best results. You can also try using a pre-made black watercolor paint, like Ivory Black or Lamp Black, as a starting point.

The perfect black: mixing complementary colors

Complementary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixing them together will create a darker color, which can be a great starting point for mixing black. Here are some combinations to try:

  • Red and green: Mix a cool red, such as Alizarin Crimson, with a dark green, like Phthalo Green.
  • Blue and orange: Combine a dark blue, like Ultramarine, with a deep orange, such as Burnt Sienna.
  • Yellow and purple: Blend a cool yellow, like Lemon Yellow, with a dark purple, like Dioxazine Purple.

Experiment with different proportions of these complementary colors to find the perfect black shade.

The three-primary method

Another approach to mixing black watercolor is using the three-primary method. This involves mixing equal parts of red, blue, and yellow. You can try the following combination:

  • Alizarin Crimson (cool red)
  • Phthalo Blue (cool blue)
  • Hansa Yellow (cool yellow)

Adjust the proportions as needed until you achieve the desired black shade.

Black watercolor

The glazing technique

If you’re struggling to mix a rich black, try the glazing technique. This involves layering thin, transparent layers of paint to create depth and darkness. Start by painting a layer of one primary color, let it dry, and then paint a layer of another primary color on top. Repeat this process with all three primary colors until you achieve the desired black shade.

Adjusting the black with other colors

Once you’ve mixed your black watercolor, you can further customize it by adding small amounts of other colors. For example, add a touch of blue for a cooler black or a bit of brown for a warmer black. Experiment with different combinations to find the perfect black shade for your painting.

Tips for using black watercolor in your painting

  • Use black sparingly: Black can be overpowering, so use it sparingly in your painting. Try using it for shadows, outlines, or small details.
  • Mix enough black: Mix enough black watercolor to complete your painting, as it can be difficult to recreate the exact same shade if you run out.
  • Practice on a test sheet: Before applying black to your painting, practice on a test sheet to ensure you’re happy withthe color and consistency.
  • Keep your water clean: Dirty water can affect the vibrancy of your black watercolor. Change your water frequently to maintain the purity of your colors.
  • Work with wet-on-wet technique: For smooth blending and transitions, try using the wet-on-wet technique. Apply the black watercolor to a wet surface for a softer effect.

Create depth with variations of black

When painting with black watercolor, consider using different shades of black to create depth and dimension in your artwork. This can be achieved by adjusting the ratios of the primary colors, adding other colors, or varying the water-to-paint ratio. Experiment with lighter and darker blacks to enhance the visual interest of your painting.

Mastering monochromatic painting with black watercolor

Black watercolor can be a powerful tool for creating monochromatic artwork. Monochromatic paintings use a single color in various shades and tints to create contrast, depth, and harmony. To create a monochromatic painting using black watercolor, follow these steps:

  • Start with a light pencil sketch of your subject.
  • Mix a range of black shades, from very light (almost gray) to very dark, by adjusting the water-to-paint ratio.
  • Apply the lightest shade to the areas of your painting that will receive the most light.
  • Gradually build up the intensity of the black by layering darker shades, working from light to dark.
  • Use the darkest black to emphasize shadows and add contrast to your painting.
Mixing black watercolor

Experiment with different watercolor techniques using black

There are various watercolor techniques that you can use to create interesting effects with black watercolor. Some of these techniques include:

  • Dry brush: Use a brush with minimal water and paint to create textured, uneven strokes.
  • Splattering: Load your brush with paint and water, then flick the bristles to create a splattered effect.
  • Lifting: Apply a wet brush to a dry layer of black watercolor to lift some of the pigment and create highlights.
  • Salt: Sprinkle salt onto wet black watercolor to create a unique, textured effect.


Mixing black watercolor might seem daunting, but with the right techniques and some practice, you can create the perfect shade for your artwork. Remember to experiment with different combinations of primary and complementary colors, and use the glazing technique for added depth.

Don’t forget to check out our guide on how to mix pink watercolor for more color mixing inspiration.

More resources:

  1. URL: Watercolor Affair’s guide teaches how to mix black watercolor paints using primary colors, offering a detailed explanation and step-by-step instructions.
  2. URL: In this YouTube video, the artist shows how to mix different kinds of black watercolor, explaining their techniques and providing tips.
  3. URL: The Virtual Instructor provides a comprehensive guide on how to mix black watercolor paint, discussing the theory behind color mixing and demonstrating the process.


  • Kristina Novakova

    My name is Kristina and I am a watercolor painter. I have always had a passion for creating art, and I found my true love in watercolor painting. With years of experience, I have honed my skills and can create a wide range of styles and subjects. From landscapes to portraits, my paintings are known for their attention to detail and use of color.

Kristina Novakova

My name is Kristina and I am a watercolor painter. I have always had a passion for creating art, and I found my true love in watercolor painting. With years of experience, I have honed my skills and can create a wide range of styles and subjects. From landscapes to portraits, my paintings are known for their attention to detail and use of color.

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