Tutorials on how to paint black

I have a large scale figure approximately 13 inches tall, but it’s not a action figure.
It is of a navy seal in its scuba gear!
So my question to you guys is this, how do you paint the color black.
Thank you.

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Well first of all don’t use black :grin:!

Yeah I know, sounds weird right but ask yourself- if you use black what do you do for a shadow color? There’s no paint darker so…you can’t!

I always use acrylics so my advice is largely based on that experience but the ideas apply to most mediums. There are several ‘Black Painting’ sets out there- from Andrea, AK etc. These are useful, offering several paints for a step-by-step painting process.

But this is how I would do it. First- prime in grey. Then use a dark grey color- something not too far away from black but, when painted next to a Flat Black, looks visibly lighter. Use that as your base color. Then for highlights mix with a lighter color and apply where the light would naturally fall. Then do the same only for shadows- here you can use black to darken the base paint. If you wish you can lighten and darken further to increase the contrast or to make the uniform appear more worn.

In order to blend the transitions you should use a ‘glaze’ of your base color to paint between the areas of base color and highlight or shadow color. A glaze is simply a very dilute paint- it should be opaque and applied in very light coats giving each coat time to dry- a hairdryer can be handy for this. Repeated coats will help the sharp transitions between two colors to fade creating a nice, blended transition.

Hope this helps.


I would suggest painting the wetsuit in Dunkelgrau (Panzer Grey). That looks more like black rubber and will give you a good starting point.


What Karl & Matt said…

If that’s what your figure’s going to look like I wouldn’t worry much about the suit, it’s the accessories. But the same advice applies, the only “black” in the picture is in the darkest shadows, otherwise it’s 50 shades of grey…wet, dry or just moderately damp? That’ll dictate what kind of final varnish you use.

(Afterthought – it can be said that if a figure was painted black, provided it wasn’t flattest matt black then there would be a natural sheen from the paint which would automatically show as those shades of grey. The problem though is scale-colour i.e. applying the “correct” colour to a scaled down replica just looks toy-like because there’s not enough surface for the natural play of light to work. That’s why it needs to be helped along by tweaking the colour, typically lightning and fading it (hence dark grey instead of black) and artificially creating the shade contrasts with darker washes)


All the mentioned above, plus you can add in Dark Prussian Blue, Black Brown, Black Green etc to help change the black color.


What they said.

In addition this might be a useful product for the darkest areas of shadow on such a figure. I haven’t used the product just brain storming.

Green Stuff World: blackest-black-paint-maxx-darth-black-paint-17-ml


Wow, that is black.


That paint SUCKS IN light!


Beyond the Dark Side - if you painted that you’d see galaxies twinkling through it.


That is what an “art” teacher drilled into us way back when. As has been suggested above, black is the absence of colour. Yes, It has its place, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid using it. When you do use “black” it will be more dramatic - for lack of a better word. I’m putting black in quotation marks, because it can, light white, be a relative colour. Although white has a much wider spectrum of hues. The blackist black paint currently available, it should be noted, is truly the absence of all colour.

(Note the references to Anish Kapoor - an hilarious tale of just revenge.)

A closer study of the great masters will reveal that very few ever used pure “black”. Goya, being an exception. He was a master of black. Using dark blues, umbers, siennas, etc., for most shadows will be more pleasing to the eye.

Of course, if the figure is clad in black clothing, this presents more of a challenge. The advice above should be followed. Black has its place, but should be used with discretion.


That is a new one to me, thanks


Hi. Vallejo DARK GREY is my go-to for anything black these days. Far more in scale. Good for weapons, berets, railings etc. BUT pure Black I keep for shadows and tight creases. It does notice too.

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