Carbon black

/ char • kole   blak /

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A painted swatch of Carbon black:

Brief description of Carbon black:

Carbon black was used as a pigment since very earliest times.  Carbon blacks are made by heating wood, or other plant material, with a very restricted air supply. Sticks of charcoal have been used for sketching by artists of all periods, and traces of their work may be found on the ground layer of paintings. Carbon black was used both in oil and watercolour. Carbon black is used today in photocopier and laser printer toner.Carbon black is easy to prepare and has excellent hiding power.

Carbon black is just a common name for a black pigment, traditionally produced from charring organic materials such as wood. There are lots of varieties of names, each of which reflects a traditional method for producing a particular kind of carbon black. The most important are:

Vine black was traditionally produced by charring desiccated grape vines and stems.

Lamp black was traditionally produced by collecting soot, also known as lampblack, from oil lamps.

Names for Carbon black:

Pronounciation: char • kole   blak
Alternative names: Charcoal black, vine black, lamp black
Word origin: The name "Carbon black" comes from Latin carbo = charcoal.
Non-English names:
German French Italian
Pflanzenschwarz noir de charbon nero carbone (carbon black), nero di lampada (lamp black), nero di vite (vine black)
Chemical name: Carbon (C)

Source of Carbon black:

Burnt wood

Example of use by artists:

Infrared reflectography reveals underdrawing made of carbon black

Virgin and Child, Giovanni Bellini, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Since carbon absorbs light so well, it appears dark with infrared reflectography imaging, revealing artists' sketch under the painting.

Other blacks
(intro) - Bone black - Charcoal