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Spilled black paint making an abstract shape on white background
fStop Images - Ralf Hiemisch/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Considered the negation or absence of color, black is conservative, goes well with almost any color except the very dark. It also has conflicting connotations. It can be serious and conventional. The color black can also be mysterious, sexy, and sophisticated.

What Colors Are Black? These words are synonymous with or represent various shades of the color black: coal, charcoal, ebony, ink, jet, lampblack, midnight, obsidian, onyx, raven, sable, soot.

Nature and Culture:

Black is the absence of color. In clothing, black is visually slimming. Black, like other dark colors, can make a room appear to shrink in size and even a well-lit room looks dark with a lot of black. Black can make other colors appear brighter.

In most Western countries black is the color of mourning. Among young people, black is often seen as a color of rebellion. Black is both positive and negative. It is the color for little boys in China. Black, especially combined with orange is the color of Halloween. In early Westerns the good guy wore white while the bad guy wore black. But later on good guys wore black to lend an air of mystery to themselves.


Awareness ribbons that use black include:

  • Various diseases and conditions such as:Melanoma, Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, Sleep Disorders, Primary Billiary Cirrhosis, Skin Cancer
  • Gang Prevention
  • POW & MIA
  • Mourning
  • Amish Support
  • The Choking Game (black, red, & gold)
  • Loss of a son (black & light blue)
  • Loss of a daughter (black & pink)
  • Bone Marrow Donor (black & pink)

Other Awareness Ribbon Colors.

Using Black in Print and Web Design:

Use the color black to convey elegance, sophistication, or perhaps a touch of mystery. Dark charcoal gray and very dark brown can sometimes stand in for black.

In printing, black is not a single color. It can be a combination of pure black ink with a few other inks included to change the appearance of the black. Discover black ink formulas and tips for designing using warm, neutral, and cool blacks.

While black can be a focal point, it's also a neutral color. Black text on a white or light background is a tried and true high contrast choice for books, newsletters, and online articles. 

With Other Colors:

Be careful using black with very dark colors. It can work, but if the colors are too similiar they blend together. Black works well with bright, jewel-toned shades of red, blue, and green. Black is the ultimate dark color and makes lighter colors such as yellow really pop out. Photographs often look brighter against a black background. Black and gray is a conservative combo as is medium or light blue and black.

Color Palettes:

These color palettes feature black with other colors.

In Other Design Fields:



Black Language:

Familiar phrases can help a designer see how their color of choice might be perceived by others, both the positive and negative aspects.

Good black

  • Black tie - formal (as in formal party attire)
  • Black belt - expert (especially in martial arts)
  • Blackwash - bring things out in the open In the black - having money, doing well in business
  • Men in black - government agents
  • Black box - equipment or apparatus
  • Pitch black - dark as night, very black

Bad black

  • Black out - Loss of consciousness or the act of erasing something
  • Blackout - loss of electricity or turning out the lights
  • Black eye - damage such as damage to one's reputation, slander, unpopular
  • Black-hearted - evil
  • Blackguard - a scoundrel
  • Black sheep - an outcast from a family or from society
  • Black market - illegal trade (goods or money)
  • Blackmail - obtaining something by threat
  • Blacklist - list of people or organizations to boycott, avoid, or punish

Is Black Your Favorite Color?

See how many others share the same color favorites.
View Results for Your Favorite Color Poll

More Color Meanings

Related Video
Convert Color Photos to Black and White in Photoshop
Create a Black and White Effect in Adobe Photoshop

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