Assuming they are all the same grade (let's assume professional grade to simplify the question), what makes one better for one purpose or another? I understand that there are a variety to choose from: mars black, lamp black, chromatic black, etc.

Could someone tell me what the attributes of the different blacks are? (transparency, warmth, typical uses, etc)


The answer would be too broad because the different black pigments have all different characteristics as other pigments have in terms of hue/temperature, intensity/tinting, transparency, even value and so on. Here's what Winsor & Newton says about their acrylic blacks:

Ivory Black is a brown black of moderate tinting strength recommended for general use.

Mars Black is a denser, more neutral black with stronger tinting power.

Lamp Black is a blue black that is lightfast, permanent and opaque.

same (more or less) applies to oils, thus for a detailed description it's better to focus on pigment(s) rather than names as they are not universal between manufacturers. This applies to other hues more severely. For much accurate details you can refer to Handprint. And a chromatic black behaves as the pigments it's made of, so you can have more control over its attributes knowing what you've mixed.

  • Hey, so the specifics you provided are about acrylic paints. My question is only about oils. Also, what I've listed are not "names" of paints the way paint chips at a Home Depot have arbitrary names. Oil paints are named for their ingredients. "Cadmium Yellow" or "Zinc White" for instance, are fairly obvious examples. Oil paints will be mostly consistent across brands because in order to be a specific color, the ingredients/pigments would be the same. However, one can argue for quality of one brand over another. – A. Staffelbach Jan 12 at 16:13
  • The Handprint link is nice though. – A. Staffelbach Jan 12 at 20:09
  • @A.Staffelbach - While each medium has its own behavior and look the answer provides the qualities of the pigments which will be the same in oils and other mediums. They are also traditionally named pigments, not like the names on the paint chips at home depot, that refer to specific pigments or processes to get the pigments. – rebusB 2 days ago
  • I understand what you are saying, but oil paint DOES have different qualities than acrylics. Some attributes will be the same across the two mediums, but others will not. For example, with oils, drying time will vary greatly based on the color used. Titanium White will take days to dry even if applied in a thin layer, whereas Zinc White will be dry much faster. – A. Staffelbach 2 days ago

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