Colour Story: Lamp Black

Lamp black is a simple genuine pigment made of carbon black. A lightfast, permanent and opaque pigment, it has been used since prehistoric times, making it one of the oldest pigments still used today.

Lamp black was commonly used in Egyptian tombs and murals as an alternative to charcoal, which was considered less pure and dense. The pure carbon pigment is made from the residual soot from burning oil and its name comes from the practice of making it with oil lamps. Older and less stable blacks made from oil also existed and were called oil black or flame black.

It is a fluffy, fine pigment which has a bluish tint and produces a wide selection of slightly cool and blue greys. Due to its natural slow-drying properties, it should not be used exclusively as an under-painting layer for oil paints. But drying times can be improved by adding drying mediums or by mixing with another colour, such as umber.