Black shades – black is not always black

There are very often different black shades with different designations in artist colour assortments. Apart from the name the different components of which the colours are made are reason for the various shades. Some premium colour ranges contain several black shades due to the respective painting technique (e.g. MUSSINI® , HORADAM® AQUARELL or Norma® Professional). In the lower-priced segments i.e. AKADEMIE® or College® lines the black shade is simply called “black” and consists of a mixture of various black pigments.

For a better overview you find some basic information on Schmincke black shades within the individual colour ranges in the following:

Lamp black


History: Soot-black, black colour used by artists, which was extracted from the soot of oil lamps, petroleum lamps, tallow lights etc. The soot - designated as “light soot” in earlier times - has been scraped off a baffle plate placed over the flame specially for this purpose. Lamp black was available at no charge but greasy and therefore of substantial worse quality than leg or ivory black.

Today: Deep, cool high-quality black, opaque and usually very lightfast, gained through the incomplete burn of organic substances such as gas or oil. Consists of pure carbon.


The shade “Lamp-black” is available in the following Schmincke colour ranges:
  • AKADEMIE® Oil color,
  • HORADAM® water-colours,
  • AKADEMIE® Acrylic colours,
  • Pigments


Ivory black

History: Name for an acid and alkali-resistant well opaque pigment, which was said to be used already centuries before Christ to paint pictures. The pigment was extracted by glowing, that means carbonizing the degreased (boiled) ivory wastes. Ivory black showed a velvet-like, deep black colour which was even more beautiful than bone black. In the nineteenth century ivory black was used to patinate newly gilded picture frames applied in a very fine glaze.

Today: Deep, warmer black with light pass to grey-blue, opaque and highly light-fast. Today it is gained from dry distillation of degreased animal bones.


The shade “Ivory black” is available in following Schmincke colour ranges:
  • Norma® Professional,
  • PRIMAcryl®,
  • Pigments,
  • HORADAM® Gouache,
  • HKS® Gouache,
  • Calligraphy Gouache,
  • aqua Linoprint

Additional black shades

Apart from the two classical black shades some assortments contain additionally:

Mineral black: cool, shimmering black with a light pass to antracite; e.g. in MUSSINI®

Neutral black: a black without black pigment, ideally for darkening coloured shades; e.g. in Norma® Professional

Furthermore there are black iron oxide (Norma® Professional), velvet-black (Calligraphy Gouache) as well as black (AKADEMIE® water-colours, PRIMAcryl® , AKADEMIE® acrylic colours College® acrylic colours, AKADEMIE® Gouache, AERO COLOR® Professional) and in the pastel range: black and deep black.

comparison of different black shades