Does it really matter which black I use?

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    Does it really matter which black I use?

    At the behest of some suggestions I got on my crap art, I'm going to go out and buy some oil paints next weekend. It was suggested that I go get some titanium white and some ivory black. The problem is that I looked up what ivory black actually is and it turns out it's bone char. Since I'm a vegetarian, I'm opposed to buying this, so my question is is there a vegetarian alternative that is just as black as ivory black? Does it really matter which pigment I use?

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    Point 1: Modern Ivory black is almost certainly a synthetic. Real Ivory black made from bone carbon is almost expensive as lapis lazuli in today's market.

    Point 2: Mars black is better than Ivory black, and it's an iron oxide. Hope you're allowed to eat metals...

    Point 3: The other blacks available are made from furnace scrapings, burnt screaming vegetable materials, and a lot of generally poisonous petro-chemical shit and are not as good as Mars Black.

    While I admire your dedication to your beliefs and would never make fun of you for them (and I mean this most seriously), I DO find it interesting that all of the replacements that allow you to specifically forego animal products are incredibly poisonous for an extended time to all life on earth.

    That being said, I would suggest that you google a bit or check your local library to verify the actual components of modern paints before you jump to conclusions based on possibly out-dated information. You may find less of a problem than you thought when looking for animal-safe products in the art world. They even make paper out of elephant shit, as well as bamboo-bristled brushes, and most modern pigments are not made from animal parts due to fugitive paints being replaced with non-fugitive "modern" chemicals that just kill everything equally.

    I hope this doesn't come across as sarcastic or patronizing. It is not meant that way...

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    Of the manufacturers sites I could see they list their ivory black as being PBk9 (= bone black) . Made from charred animal (presumanly cow or something similar) bones. One web site I checked had it selling for approx $18 a pound for the pigment.

    http://www.sinopia.com/index.asp?Pag...ROD&ProdID=851

    Last edited by Craig D; April 30th, 2007 at 02:34 AM. Reason: added link
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    Found on a paintmaking site I just found thru google...

    "Ivory Black PBk 9 ASTM l
    Also called Bone Black
    Chemical type and description
    Inorganic synthetic carbon black and Calcium Phosphate. Bone Black was invented by the Romans as a general purpose black and for the best grades pure ivory was burned instead of ordinary animal bones. Thus it started with 2 separate names. True Ivory Black has a higher carbon content than Bone Black and is more intense. It is the deep velvety black found in the backgrounds of Rembrandt's portraits. It wasn't until the 19th century that artists allowed the application of the name to the ordinary Bone Black. The genuine pigment is still made in tiny quantities from Ivory harvested from animals that have died naturally but is almost as expensive as genuine Lapis Lazuli Ultramarine. These comments apply to both forms of Bone and Ivory Black. A very slow drier in oil, it should never be used in underpainting. It produces a soft and brittle oil paint.. It can never be used in Fresco as it effloresces. It is the work horse black for artists and until the development of Mars Black was the best black artists had for oil paint .
    Toxicity
    Is considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
    Media suitability
    Linseed oil, Alkyd, Acrylic, Tempera, Encaustic, Pastel, Chalk"

    I think this pretty much supports what I said. Wish I'd seen this before I posted...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilaekae View Post
    I hope this doesn't come across as sarcastic or patronizing. It is not meant that way...
    It kinda did, but I'm used to the internets, so I don't much care. It's hard being a treehugger in this modern age. I'm all about saving energy and recycling and whatnot, but at the same time I'm a computer science major who practically never turns her computer(s) off. D:

    So Mars Black will work better? Basically all I'm doing is getting some oil paints to do some value studies. I've never used oils before, so the thought of getting a bunch of toxic chemicals is unsavoury enough; getting something with animal parts in it is like adding insult to injury, I guess. Even if it's not bone char (which it wouldn't surprise me if it is, given its extensive usage in sugar production) and is just some horrible inorganic compound, an iron oxide seems a lot more environmentally friendly.

    Last edited by Icetigris; April 30th, 2007 at 03:58 AM.
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    Interesting that paints, what seems to be rather ordinary items, are made from such exotic materials.

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    If you're just using black and white, then no, it doesn't particularly matter. Mars black will be fine. Different blacks, like different whites, have different handling, drying, and mixing qualities. Here's the rundown:
    Ivory black- Called that because it was originally made from charred ivory scraps. Now made from charred animal bones. Carbon with some calcium phosphate and other trace materials. Slow drier, good mixer, the deepest and most transparent black. For those without animal product issues, the best all-around black pigment.
    Lamp black- Pure amorphous carbon from burning natural gas. Extremely slow drier, gives lovely bluish grays with white, but can be sooty and overpowering in mixes.
    Mars black- black iron oxide. Average drier, good tinting strength, dense and opaque. Not as deep a black as ivory, warm top tone, cool undertone.


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    So if I used Titanium white and raw sienna, a good 3rd color to use would be Ivory Black or Mars Black?
    Now if I had to make a decission between the two?

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    Quote Originally Posted by HunterKiller_ View Post
    Interesting that paints, what seems to be rather ordinary items, are made from such exotic materials.
    It is interesting. A book I’m currently reading called "What Painting Is" by James Elkins compares oil painting to alchemy and has many educational revelations about the pigments we use. Painting is usually just smearing mud on a canvas (very pure, brightly coloured mud mind you), but sometimes the processes that were required to create paint were quite exotic.

    For example "Early in this century a gelatinous extract from the swim bladder of sturgeons was used as an ingredient in oil paint." To make Vermillion "In the Dutch technique, mercury and melted sulfur were mashed together to make a black clotted substance called Ethiops mineral or Moor. When the Moor was put in an oven and heated it gave off vapour that condensed onto the surface of clay tablets. The Moor is black, but its condensed vapour is bright red - a typical piece of alchemical magic - and it could be scraped off and ground into Vermilion for paint."

    and

    "Painters' media have included dozens of European and Asian plants, oils made of spices like rosemary and cloves, and even ground up fossilized amber. ... Rubens and his contemporaries boiled oil and lead into a stinking mixture called black oil, which was stored in airtight containers. To extract the particles of blue lapis lazuli from the colourless rock surrounding it, painters used the 'pastille process'; they pulverized ore samples in a bag, mixed them with melted wax, plant resins, and various oils, and then kneaded the bag under a solution of lye (made with wood ashes) to coax out the blue particles."

    "Lead White, the best white paint before the nineteenth century, was made by putting cast 'buckles' of lead clay in pots partly filled with vinegar; the pots were stacked in a shed with fermenting horse manure or waste tanning bark. Every few weeks the painter's assistant would scrape the leprous flakes of lead carbonate off the buckles and put them back for more steeping."

    I just find it fascinating – although now we just go down to the art store, everything’s in tubes – All we need to do is make sure not to mix acrylic with oils and always paint fat over lean.

    Last edited by Puck; May 1st, 2007 at 08:22 AM.
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    I personally don't use black at all.

    This reminds me though, anyone know where I can get my hands on some Mummy?

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    Puck: pld: That's my brain after reading your post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Mars black- warm top tone, cool undertone.
    Tristan, I can't figure out how that works. Are you saying it's warm when it's a lightened with a higher value color... and then cooler when mixed with a darker value color?

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    I think it's warm when used in glaze and cool when mixed with white.

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    so my question is is there a vegetarian alternative that is just as black as ivory black? Does it really matter which pigment I use?
    You're not supposed to eat it.

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    NOOOOW you tell me.

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    hoot!
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo View Post
    I personally don't use black at all.
    Dave, I know that your family doesn't use black as I heard Boris said that it causes "flatness". Is this why you do not use it? One of my painting instructors who is big into the Old Masters is totally comfortable using black and not having it be flat. I know I use it sparingly, especially for certain grey mixtures, and usually use Ivory for its transparency.

    Last edited by Elwell; November 13th, 2007 at 02:16 PM. Reason: tag cleanup
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    I'm not sure, but I think Boris does use black now and then. Or maybe he used to and doesn't anymore, can't remember. I don't use it because it makes my transitions more, I dunno, colorful. I do alot of blending on the board, so if my black is actually very deep mixed color, it can do cool stuff when I mix into it. It's just a "that's what I'm used to" think really. I'm sure that most of my favorite paintings have tube blacks in them. I have nothing against it, it's just not what I do. No rules, just keep an open mind and do what works for you.

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    So what colors do you mix to get your blacks? I'm sure it changes since you mix on the board, but what's your usual cocktail?

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    Some useful mixed blacks:
    burnt sienna (or another dark brown)+ ultramarine blue (or another dark blue)
    alizarin crimson (or another purple red)+ pthalo green (or another dark green)


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    I've discovered the hard way that mixing any darkish pthalo with anything else gets me a decent black of some sort...usually when I didn't want it...

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    Nothing makes a stronger contrast than black.
    Not even the darkest purple.

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    Instead of pure black, try using Payne's Gray (for cool tones) and Raw Umber or Van Dyck Brown for warmer ones. Also, try using Zinc White (also known as "mixing white") in place of Titanium White. It's not as popular, and you generally have to use more to lighten stronger colours, but it's basically a translucent white that won't deaden or overpower your colours the way Titanium White does. Also, because it's semi-transparent, it's good for lightening your transparent colours without making them opaque.

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    FYI, payne's gray is just ivory black + ultramarine (some brands also include very small amounts of other pigments, but those two are always the majority). Most Van Dyke brown is burnt umber + ivory black.


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    My typical combo is Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson (more to green or crimson depending on the transition I want), but sometimes I mix it up

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo View Post
    My typical combo is Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson (more to green or crimson depending on the transition I want), but sometimes I mix it up
    Hahaha, pun intended?

    This is a really informative thread... I was wondering about which black to buy.

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    I had an instructor in school that used to "not use black". He even envisioned that on his tombstone, "lived well, good father, never used black." It is a practice that comes from fine art, and I have used it as well. But in illustration and other work that is reproduced on a four color printing system, it needs black to make those colors. They often end up getting a washed out purple color to them. He showed us an old four color acetate print proof of his old illustrations, and the black plate had almost nothing on it. He started using blacks. In the fine art world, where you actually look at a painting, blacks could be used sparingly for very subtle colors, but in most media, it is a very important asset to value and contrast. Don't give up black for the sake of it, make sure you know why, and that it will still not have black in it's final presentation (printing).

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    I paint with acrylics and make black out of Payne's gray and burnt umber. That's as black as I've ever needed. God knows what they make Payne's gray and burnt umber from. Whatever it is, you can rest assured that somehow, somewhere the earth's resources were exploited. Just walking around breathing does that!

    I've also got a tube of acrylic paint called carbon black. Now that's black! I can't tell what they burnt to get the carbon though. Guaranteed it was something living. I'm not a biologist, but the last time I checked, all life on this planet is carbon based.

    I respect your desire to be true to your convictions, but in the grand scheme of things, a tube of black paint is pretty small stuff.

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    Necromancy is a forbidden magic.

    On the other hand, I'm interested in what procedures are involved in making real irony black, as in with bone char.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wooly ESS View Post
    I paint with acrylics and make black out of Payne's gray and burnt umber. That's as black as I've ever needed. God knows what they make Payne's gray and burnt umber from.
    As I mentioned only a few posts up, Paynes gray is just ivory black plus ultramarine blue (plus maybe traces of some earth color, depending on the brand). Burnt umber is a natural earth containing iron oxide and manganese. So essentially you're taking a black which has been cooled with blue and reneutralising it by adding brown.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wooly ESS View Post
    I've also got a tube of acrylic paint called carbon black. Now that's black! I can't tell what they burnt to get the carbon though. Guaranteed it was something living. I'm not a biologist, but the last time I checked, all life on this planet is carbon based.
    All life is carbon based, but not all carbon is alive. Carbon black is another name for lamp black, which is made from burning natural gas.


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