I am new to oil paintings and I have found that black is very difficult to work with. I’d like to do some dark/goth paintings but I’m having trouble making the black blend to grey. The transition doesn’t look smooth.

  • 1
    Hi Heather, welcome to Arts & Crafts! I believe there is a very similar question here somewhere already, but since I can't find it, this might actually be good for findability :) Do you have a picture of what you've tried, and where and how it failed?
    – Joachim
    May 21, 2022 at 8:05
  • 1
    Just to clarify, are you painting all in black/grey/white, or dark colors and using black just for shadows?
    – fixer1234
    May 21, 2022 at 18:00
  • I finally found what I thought was a duplicate: How do you fade one color to another with oil paint without getting the mixed color?. I figure it's still good to have as a linked question here.
    – Joachim
    May 22, 2022 at 10:12

2 Answers 2


The fundamentals of painting and color theory: black is rarely used (of course it can be in certain instances). But when observing with the human eye, shadows or dark colors in general are typically dark blues, greens and purples. Taking black and adding white to it to make gray might actually be quite difficult to get exactly what you want, and might come out as muddled.

If you look at artwork such as by Monet, or even Rembrandt, the colors used in their darker paintings aren't actually black. You might find they are dark greens, or dark yellows.

The artist in this Youtube video explains in detail, making a richer, tuned off-black from complementary colors, that can be lightened with white.

  • 1
    So the idea is to darken and desaturate the color by adding some black to it?
    – fixer1234
    May 21, 2022 at 18:09
  • 1
    Black is complicated. Because it just takes over. If one were to use black, it would probably be small amounts, and adding other colors to it, such as small amounts of blues, greens, or reds to get the desired affect.
    – Lyssagal
    May 21, 2022 at 22:59
  • 1
    My painting is more about getting roped into kids' crafts, but an idea from there should provide a starting point: don't add things to black, add black to other things. You almost always need far less black than whatever you're mixing it with
    – Chris H
    May 23, 2022 at 15:40
  • 1
    @fixer1234 No. The idea is to make a chromatic "black" by blending dark colors. Black as a pigment on its own is rarely used unless the artist wants its specific effect. It will deaden (desaturate) any hues it mixes into.
    – rebusB
    Jun 6, 2022 at 13:54

If you are making dark gothic paintings and want to use a lot of black in your compositions consider making black the ground (base color) and then, after it has dried, work with colors and lighter greys over that base.

You would be painting the light into a pitch black world, very goth, while keeping your other colors clean.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .