Best black paints – 10 dramatic shades and how to use them in your home
Choosing the best black paint can be daunting – you've already made the bold decision to go dark, but with so many variants on 'black' where do you even start? Might we suggest here...
Decided it's time to join the dark side? Black is enigmatic, stylish, and timeless agreed, but choosing the best black paint can be a bit of a minefield with so much choice out there. You've made the bold decision to embrace the trend for dark interiors but what undertones do you go for? What finish? Where should you be using this dramatic hue?
Luckily, we've asked the experts and pulled together a guide to black paint so you know exactly what shade to look out for and where best in your home to use it. Black paint ideas may seem slightly unconventional but it's a color that has a lot of give – it can make any home, no matter its square footage seem chic and elevated.
Black paint can help create focal points too, provide contrast to lighter tones and even reduce the need for wall accessories or art. As Sara Cukerbaum, principal of SLIC Design says 'Painting your home black is a bold move that will make you stand out amongst your neighbors, but it’s a risk that will be well-rewarded...'
1. Downpipe, Farrow & Ball
'It's rare I use black paint in an interior as I mostly introduce stronger darker tones with furniture pieces and woodwork only,' says the interior designer and Livingetc columnist Minnie Kemp.
'Sebastian Cox does a wonderful solid English Ash shaped through the burning of wood that’s scorched black, and reminds me of a David Nash Sculpture. That said, there are places I like to accent in darker shades, and Farrow and Ball's Down Pipe is soft enough version of black for me to use. Technically, it could be called a grey, but with its charcoal notes I think it fits here. It's softer than a true black – which could be seen as harsh – and I often use it for stair rails.'
2. Onyx, Benjamin Moore
'Black exterior paint works great in modern and traditional architecture. Black paint on a classic Victorian home can add some edge to the home’s ornate lines. In modern architecture, it allows the other design features and surroundings to take center stage.' says Sara Cukerbaum, principal of SLIC Design.
'I used Benjamin Moore Onyx on this modern new build in South Austin that featured a reverse board and batt. It's dark and moody and lets the surroundings and glass expanse pop. In modern settings, pairing the black exterior with a glass front door is the way to go. In a more traditional setting, combining the black exterior with a wood door or pop of color can create something softer and more relatable.'
3. Iron Ore, Sherwin Williams
If you're intimidated by black paint yet secretly wish to incorporate it, then start small. Paint the smallest room in the dark tone, and create a jewel box in your home. You could add brass or gold polished lights as well to give a twinkling effect to the place.
In this powder room (the perfect rooms to experiment in), the matte black shiplap walls look sleek while the smooth angular lines and medium-toned wooden vanity create an intriguing contrast. This is a wonderful example of when you feel painting a wall is too extreme for you. You can simply paint your woodwork in black or off black with lighter surrounding elements. Also, consider bringing in matte black taps and granite sinks for a luxe interior.
Brooke Wilbratte of Tribe Design Group’s favorite black paint is hands down Sherwin Williams 7069 Iron Ore, seen in the image above. 'It is a soft brown-black that is not overpowering. We use it for walls and any metal we are painting like stair railings, doors, etc. We have painted entire rooms in it and it's stunning!'
4. Benjamin Moore, Black Jack
'Black as accented color makes feature walls bold and sophisticated. I particularly like the Benjamin Moore Black Jack,' says interior designer Iman Lalji.
A true black shade is as bold as it gets. This color is devoid of any other pigments and is a flat true color that can work well in small doses. If you're feeling adventurous but are still slightly unsure, a true black feature wall is just the thing for you.
Before painting a wall black, keep a few things in mind. The first thing is to think about the lighting. Choose a room that has good natural lighting so that the room doesn’t end up feeling dreary. The other important consideration is the furniture you want in the room. If the room already has a lot of dark-colored pieces, you may want to swap them for more neutral, lighter ones.
Also, consider light-toned linens in the room that will keep everything from looking too heavy. Try to color match some of the pieces in the room to create a coordinated look, and leave the rest of the elements soft and neutral. In this living room, the statement lights and chairs share the colors of the wall while the light oak flooring keeps things balanced.
5. Off Black, Farrow & Ball
'We love Off Black from Farrow & Ball and sometimes use it as a reference for metal finishes on doors and on radiators. Another one which we've use on a banister recently is Lamp Black from Little Greene,' says Celine Erlam, interior designer and co-owner of interior design studio Indie & Co.
6. Rock Shutter Green, Sherwin Williams
The color black is quite versatile and can easily make a home inside any room. Sometimes it stands in as a highlight itself – a black wall making a statement in a room. Sometimes, it helps lift other accessories and tones, in this case, the books. Inside the black bookshelf, the white paperbacks get pride of place.
Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs says, 'Black paint has categorically become a hallmark of Urbanology Designs, and we certainly have our favorite shades and brands. Here, you can see in our University Park study, the black with green hues painted in Rockwood Shutter Green by Sherwin-Williams.'
'It makes the space seem moody and marvelous. Portola is also a new brand we are starting to use with stunning, dark green shades in their swatch. Their paint delivers a plaster look upon drying and has our hearts abuzz with design possibilities.'
8. Railings, Farrow & Ball
Black coordinated with other dark shades such as blue, indigo, and cobalt can look surprisingly chic – the layering also adds subtle depth and nuance to a space. In fact, many believe that dark blue is the new black!
In this soothing small living room, the black wall and blue couch look striking, with the addition of the printed cushions adding interest to the greyish-blue-black scheme. The large plant adds a pop of color to the whole setup.
'For a blue-black color, I love Farrow & Ball Railings. For a green-black color, which can be amazing as an accent to a true black, I love SW Greenback. For a true black, Benjamin Moore Onyx gives us that deeply saturated black without turning purple or brown.' adds Sarah.
9. Hot Ganache, Asian Paints
The color black has many hidden depths, and black doesn’t have to mean true black. It can be a variation that is just as good and effective. Case in point: charcoal grey. It's one of the best grey paint shades as it's a cool, sober, calming color that can give the space the same, high contrast look as black. The deeper tones of charcoal hinge closer to the blacks. If you want to reduce its effect, however, consider painting the color on bricks as the color gets slightly neutralized.
'I love using the color black in my projects, as I feel it makes a space look limitless! However, when I am choosing my paint shade, I don't like to pick an actual black. I always opt for shades that are close to black, like charcoal with grey undertones. I like the Hot Ganache from Asian Paints. It is a dark charcoal black with grey undertones when you see it in person,' offers Sarah Sham, Principal Designer of Essajees Atelier.
10. Deep River, Benjamin Moore
This is perhaps one of the world's most popular paint colors. You'll see it on everything from electronics and makeup products to fashion accessories. That's because matte has a warmer, more inviting look than its glossier, sharper counterpart. The lack of sheen makes the color feel slightly more subdued.
This finish can soften the overall look of the space while making it look regal yet still approachable. When designing with it, take a moment to think about the décor of the space. Add some interest with glossy lamps or fixtures, hardwood flooring, or a thick, textured rug.
'Black with blue hues is beautifully displayed within this Hockaday client’s library. This paint is Deep River by Benjamin Moore,' adds Ginger.
What goes well with black paint?
Honestly, a whole range of colors. The hue can be warm or cool, depending on its undertones. The best colors to pair with black are the ones that create an interesting contrast. With rosewood tones, the effect is warm and inviting. This is a good alternative to the classic black and white.
Black and brown can make a space look calm, cozy, and collected because both hues together can create a cocooning effect. Of course, everyone knows and loves the classic black and white combination which has maximum drama and appeal. A way to create a monochromatic look without going all black is to pair it with deep grey - use a series of tonal greys with an accent of black for a rich finish.
Emerald green and black are a very rich, sophisticated, and chic color combination. If drama is your thing, then paint the walls and the furniture black and add pops of color with yellow. Black and navy blue can sometimes seem similar so they need to be balanced well in a room for a moody scene.
Is it on trend to paint a room black?
Painting your walls black will help you create an elegant aesthetic but it’s important to choose which surfaces to paint. Ideally, choose black paint in a room that gets natural light. Of course, this isn't set in stone – you could add artificial light as well but that concept would work better in a bathroom where you want to have a jewel box-type of aesthetic. If you aren’t sure if you should paint an entire room black, you can always paint one wall as an accent piece. In large rooms with double height, you could consider painting the ceiling black to accentuate the height and volume of the space.
Black is a smart choice for small powder rooms or hallways. The color can add depth to the space and give it an infinity-like vibe. If you want to add contrast, just paint your baseboards and trim them in a white or cream.
Most cool black tones have hints of blue and violet in them. These work well when you're painting the interior trim or doors. They also work with the other bright decor and furniture hues. Warm black paints feature hints of brown or true black undertones. These are extremely versatile and are ideal as accents, decor, or furniture paint colors.
Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.
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