I have a large body of work that I need to complete, and I had been using Stuart Semple's Black 2.0 and Black 3.0. It seems he's out of stock, at the moment, and I'm on a deadline. I have not done much experimentation with other matte black media, so I'm hoping I can learn from some of the community's experience.

What are some good alternatives to Black 3.0, Mussou Black, and the strictly-licensed VantaBlack, for a very dark, very matte, black paint? Each of these is out of stock or prohibitively expensive.

I'm more familiar with acrylic paints, and their fast drying time is helpful, but I'm not opposed to other media, so long as I can get an impasto texture from it, and it's not prohibitively difficult to work with.

Is it possible to get similar results from a high-quality PBk6 (Carbon black) or PBk7 (Lamp Black) acrylic paint? I presume that Semple's black is little more than carbon in a matte acrylic medium, but there's clearly something about it that you can't reproduce with Windsor-Newton and a matte spray finish... or am I mistaken?

EDIT: For others' reference, I stumbled across this guy's YouTube video, which shows the process of making black paint to be (unsurprisingly) substantially more involved than is immediately obvious. Even knowing what he does, he was not able to get a pure black, and it took an enormous amount of work to grind it to a usable consistency: (Channel: "The Alchemical Arts" Video title: "Not so simple Charcoal Black pigment!")

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    Otto Piene used real smoke to get those visually very deep dark blacks, but that might require a lot of experimentation.
    – Joachim
    Jan 31, 2023 at 15:04
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    As soon as I get home from my day job, I'm going to toss some whole-lump charcoal in a Magic Bullet blender with some matte acrylic base medium, and see what happens. Hopefully it'll wash out... lol
    – Matt
    Jan 31, 2023 at 15:22
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    @Matt Very nice idea, please share your results. Charcoal is pretty much pure carbon, so there shouldn't be many impurities, but you should probably use as little acrylic medium as possible to reduce the risk of introducing a milkyness (is that even a word? You know what I mean...).
    – Elmy
    Jan 31, 2023 at 20:33
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    Ultra-black paints and coatings have their uses in scientific fields as well; there's some overlap between artistic and engineering materials. A while ago there was some work using cupric oxide (CuO, black copper oxide) instead of carbon.
    – Chris H
    Feb 1, 2023 at 13:10
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    An astronomy group I stumbled across recommended "Sennelier Matt Abstract Acrylic Pouch, 60ml, Mars Black" which I found VERY cheaply on Amazon ($5USD for 60ml). Given the low price, I'm not optimistic that it will compare, but I'll test it out and let y'all know what I find.
    – Matt
    Feb 2, 2023 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


Is it possible to get similar results from a high-quality PBk6 (Carbon black) or PBk7 (Lamp Black) acrylic paint?

They may not achieve the same level of light absorption and perceiver depth as the most-hyped ultra-black paints like Vantablack or Black 3.0. These specialized ultra-black paints are formulated with unique properties that allow them to absorb an exceptionally high amount of light.

So the simple answer is, No.

But, here are some few tips to help you achieve the desired output:

  1. apply multiple thin layers of black paint, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next.
  2. Opt for matte or satin finishes rather than glossy ones (they absorb more light)
  3. consider manipulating the lighting conditions under which your artwork will be displayed. Place it under low or controlled lighting env.
  4. pairing the black paint with contrasting colors or incorporating strong compositional elements can improve the visual enhancement of the overall effect of the black.
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    I haven't heard about applying several thin layers of black instead of one thick layer before. Can you elaborate on how or why this achieves a different effect?
    – Elmy
    Nov 6, 2023 at 17:49
  • Depending on the paint origin, it may be impossible to apply a so called "one thick layer". In some cases such a thickness may destroy your artwork base. Instead you may add multiple layers to achieve more light absorption. for more information you may consider watching related YouTube videos. Nov 6, 2023 at 17:58
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    Showing works under low lighting is a non-answer, though :) "You want the deepest black? Just watch the painting in an unlit basement on a moonless night".
    – Joachim
    Nov 7, 2023 at 8:52
  • That was not m answer. that was part of it. And I didn't say moonless night. I just said you may manipulate the lighting. Nov 7, 2023 at 9:26
  • I know, but that part of your answer is beside the point. And I was joking, hence the emoticon.
    – Joachim
    Nov 7, 2023 at 9:41

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