THE BEST SHADES OF BLACK FOR WALLS, DOORS, CABINETS, & MORE
I’m back, and I’m back in black (ACDC reference for all you headbangers). Black is undoubtedly one of the most popular shades for front doors. However, today’s trends have us seeing black on feature walls, kitchen cabinets, and islands – even entire exteriors are painted black.
But not ALL blacks are created equal. Just like the 5 Types of White, there are also MANY types of black – 16, to be exact.
However, in the real world of useable paint colors, this doesn’t mean you must choose between 16 TYPES of blacks. Oh no, you get to choose between HUNDREDS of versions of these 16 types (insert wine HERE)
Which is why I’ve written this blog post for you. I’ve narrowed down the BEST black paint colors and their undertones. This way, you can focus on the best of the best and find the one that best suits you and your home.
BUT FIRST, let’s do a little learnin’…
THE 3 TYPES OF BLACK PAINT COLORS (TEMPERATURE)
Black can be made in several ways, the most common being the mix of red, blue, and yellow (primary colors).
Of course, it’s not you doing the mixing, and long story short, when you slightly alter the amounts of red, blue, and yellow, you shift between warm black, cool black, and true black.
1. WARM BLACK
Warm blacks have a bit of brown in them. The more brown a black has in it, the less black it will look – eventually, it will just be dark brown. Some warm blacks pick up a touch of purple/violet.
2. COOL BLACK
Cool blacks can have blue, green, or violet undertones – the most popular being blue. You can also get a subtle blend depending on the TYPE of blue, green, or violet you have. For example, blue can be blue-green or blue-violet. Green can be green-blue (cool) or green-yellow (warm). Violet can be violet-blue (cool) or violet-pink (warm). However, while violet-blue makes for a cold black, violet-pink results in a black with a brown-violet undertone (warm).
Am I talking too much? Probably (lucky you – wink wink).
3. TRUE BLACK
True black is the real deal – just good old black. However, even the most steadfast black can vary slightly depending on the paint brand (as some brands’ black has a blue undertone right off the get-go).
THE TWO TYPES OF BLACK (INTENSITY)
While there are THREE types of black paint related to temperature, there are only TWO types of black when it comes to intensity.
1. SOFT BLACK
That’s right; I got REAL creative with that second one. Seriously though, it’s either BLACK and crazy dark, or it’s a soft black and isn’t QUITE as solid.
However, to even be CONSIDERED black in the first place, a color needs to have an LRV lower than seven. But even then, just because a color’s LRV is lower than seven doesn’t mean it’s BLACK.
To be considered ‘black,’ a color must have a low LRV and minimal color (chroma).
For example, Sherwin William’s Anchors Aweigh has an LRV of 3, but because it’s SO STUNNINGLY BLUE…it sure as heck ain’t black.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH TYPE OF BLACK SUITS YOUR HOME?
This is where you step back, and your home steps up to the plate. Most of the time, there should be a defining element on/in your home that tells you which type of black will be best. For example…
- Most exterior stonework suits a warm or true black
- Some exterior brickwork suits a cool black
- Most kitchen countertops suit a true black or warm black
- Warm-toned finishes often suit a warm black, but some can handle a cool black
- Cool-toned finishes always suit a cool black
The above is based on the colors already existing in the finishes, either warm or cool. If your home doesn’t HAVE any black, then you’ll take inspiration from the other colors/temperatures in your finishes.
NOW, are you ready to rumble in the WILD WORLD OF BLACK PAINT COLORS? Let’s get this color, errr, ‘lack of color party’ started.
Benjamin Moore Black 2132-10
PLEASE NOTE, 99% of my photos are from my Online Paint Color Consulting clients. I don’t always have the quality image I need, but I sure as heck have the INFO you’ve been looking for.
1. BENJAMIN MOORE BLACK 2132-10
- LRV 4.56
- NO UNDERTONES
- TRUE BLACK
When it comes to tried-and-true blacks, it’s hard to go wrong with Benjamin Moore Black for general depth and lack of undertones. Black has an LRV of 4.56, making it wicked dark (but not the BLACKEST shade on the market). The important thing is that when you order it, you must say ‘Black 2123-20‘; otherwise, you’ll order ‘Black,’ and they’ll say, ‘WHICH black do you want?‘ It’s allll in the number.
In this next photo, Black 2132-10 looks gorgeous on the front door, accenting the rest of the palette…
Black 2132-10 has NO noticeable undertone, meaning you get what you get. HOWEVER…this doesn’t mean it’s the blackest black on the market – it’s just Benjamin Moore’s darkest black.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of BLACK HERE
If you’re looking for a BLACKER version, make room for this next shade…
2. SHERWIN WILLIAMS TRICORN BLACK 6258
- LRV 3
- BLUE BUT SO FRACTIONAL IT’S HARDLY WORTH MENTIONING
- TRUE BLACK
Between Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, Tricorn Black is the BLACKEST black. Now this doesn’t mean Benjamin Moore Black 2132-10 doesn’t do the job equally, as it does – its LRV is just a bit higher than Tricorn Black’s LRV of 3.
If you’re looking for a black that’s pretty darn safe and predictable, Tricorn Black is the perfect shade (same goes for Benjamin Moore Black 2132-10) – it’s as black as a stack of black cats.
Here’s Tricorn Black in my old home office…
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Tricorn Black HERE
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS BLACK MAGIC 6991
- LRV 3
- BROWN UNDERTONE
- WARM BLACK
Black Magic LOOKS pretty darn black. However, it has a nugget of WARMTH in it, making it a warm black, especially when compared to a more stark shade of black like Tricorn. Could Black Magic lean TOO warm (brown-violet) with its undertones? It’s doubtful, but in the right natural light (especially southern or afternoon western sun), it will pick up considerable warmth.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Black Magic HERE
4. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CAVIAR 6990
- LRV 3
- VERY MINOR BROWN UNDERTONE
- WARM BLACK
To say that Caviar is a warm gray would be an overstatement. However, in the battle of Caviar vs. Tricorn Black, it is fractionally warmer.
And while both colors have similarly low LRVs, Tricorn Black is a tiny bit darker.
What’s interesting is to compare Black Magic and Caviar; you’d think that Caviar is the darker of the two. However, the numbers don’t lie (let’s be honest, sometimes they do). If you’re comparing Black Magic and Caviar, Black Magic’s warmth can be just a bit more noticeable – that’s the only REAL noticeable difference.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Caviar HERE
5. SHERWIN WILLIAMS GREENBLACK 6994
- LRV 4
- GREEN UNDERTONE
Someone REALLY had their
drinking thinking cap on when they named this one. I’m sure you can guess which undertone Greenblack has. You guessed it – purple. Just joking.
Greenblack is a green-black with an LRV of 4, making it strikingly dark. And while the undertone can show up at the party, especially where light hits, it’s muted at best.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Greenblack HERE
Green can be warm (green-yellow) or cool (green-blue). Greenblack is a COOL green-black.
6. BENJAMIN MOORE TWILIGHT ZONE LRV 5.11
- LRV 5.11
- BLUE UNDERTONE
If you want a black with a blue undertone but find Wrought Iron a bit too light, Twilight Zone could be your shade. With an LRV of 5.11, Twilight Zone is strikingly dark with only a touch of softness.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Twilight Zone HERE
7. SHERWIN WILLIAMS IRON ORE 7069
- LRV 6
- GREEN UNDERTONE
- SOFT BLACK
Iron Ore is a soft black (and one of my faves). Along with its LRV of 6, which is higher than most of the shades on this page, it also has a very subtle green undertone. This undertone doesn’t always show up, but when it does, it’s usually on an exterior or when it’s compared/partnered with a darker, more legit black paint color.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Iron Ore HERE
8. BENJAMIN MOORE WROUGHT IRON
- LRV 8.17
- BLUE UNDERTONE
- SOFT BLACK
Truth be told, Wrought Iron is definitely taking advantage of the word ‘black.’
Sherwin Williams Eider White walls, Wrought Iron doors
Because while Wrought Iron is darn dark, with its LRV of 8.17, it’s a toss-up whether it’s a soft black or just a SUPER DARK gray with blue undertones. Either way, Wrought Iron is one of my FAVORITE darker shades. In the absence of any other black around and in a space with no direct natural light, Wrought Iron can LOOK black..ish, but that softness is always there.
And even though it’s not a LEGIT black, if you think Wrought Iron could work for you, COMPARISON IS KEY – order a sample of Benjamin Moore’s Cheating Heart as well.
Get your Peel & Stick sample of Wrought Iron HERE
COLORS THAT AREN’T ACTUALLY BLACK
According to many online sources, any color with an LRV lower than 10 with a somewhat neutral approach is ‘black.’ Don’t be fooled! To be black, the LRV should be approx. six or lower, and the degree of color (chroma) should be minimal.
Here’s a list of colors that AREN’T black, no matter how you look at them. However, if you’re looking for a SOFTER approach, they could be just the ticket…
- Benjamin Moore’s Cheating Heart
- Sherwin Williams Peppercorn
- Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron (as previously mentioned, it’s questionable)
- Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal
- Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain
- Farrow & Ball Railings
I’ll write a blog post on the above colors as the ‘next best things to black’ – stay tuned!
BEST BLACK WITH MORE OBVIOUS BLUE, GREEN, OR PURPLE UNDERTONES
Sometimes you want more commitment to color while still getting an overall ‘blackish’ paint color. I’ve rounded up a few of my faves, some from the above list, as well as a few new ones to explore.
BEST BLACK WITH PURPLE UNDERTONE
Purple is one of the more popular undertones in black, especially for coordinating with exterior stonework (same with blue-black).
BEST BLACK WITH BLUE UNDERTONES
Other than straight-up black, black-blue is the most popular, asked for color in the black family (especially for kitchen islands).
BEST WARM BLACK
- Sherwin Williams Black Magic
BEST BLACK WITH GREEN UNDERTONES
Some green-blacks lean warm, others cool. Comparing these colors will help you see which is best for your home. Green-blacks are most commonly used on feature walls, same with blue-blacks.
PEOPLE ALSO ASK…
WHAT ARE BENJAMIN MOORE’S & SHERWIN WILLIAM’S MOST POPULAR BLACK PAINT COLORS?
Sherwin Williams Iron Ore and Tricorn Black are ahead of all shades of black from Benjamin Moore (according to Samplize Peel & Stick stats). As for Benjamin Moore’s most popular shade, Black Magic and Onyx come out on top. PERSONALLY, Tricorn Black and Benjamin Moore Black 2132-10 are my two most recommended shades.
WHAT’S THE BEST BLACK PAINT TO USE ON WALLS?
WHAT FINISH OR SHEEN SHOULD BLACK WALLS BE – FLAT, EGGSHELL, SATIN?
It depends on the look you’re going for. If your walls are in great shape, a glossy black creates a dynamic, glamorous look. However, for MOST walls, a washable matte finish (i.e., BM ScuffX) is the best for black so it doesn’t look garish.
The best finish for black cabinets is usually satin/pearl.
WILL BLACK WALLS MAKE MY ROOM LOOK SMALLER OR BIGGER?
While a LOT of it comes down to perception, black can give the illusion of more space as the corners tend to recede. This can make a room look bigger than expected, with more depth and drama. However, many find dark colors too enclosing or claustrophobic, so again, it comes down to personal perception.
WHAT’S THE BEST BLACK FOR THE EXTERIOR OF A HOME?
First off, SHOULD you paint your exterior black? Heck, yes, if it suits the style of your home and its existing finishes (windows/roof/stone), black can be striking. Just remember that it’s a TREND, and trends always cycle out. If you don’t care about trends, fill your lil black boots.
If you’re painting your trim, Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black and Iron Ore are awesome shades, depending on which best suits the siding color/stone/roof/etc…
If you’re painting your entire home black, both are still super popular, but I’d throw Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron and Black 2132-10 into the mix as well.
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