Black Paint Ideas Revisited

It is much easier to imagine many shades of green than many shades of black. If you think about painting a wall in a conference room black, you are likely to think that it will be too dark and frightening. Is that true?

According to C.G. Jung, everyone carries a shadow within them. The less you are aware of it, the blacker it is. The negative side of things is thought to be black. Do we have a problem with black?

So many blacks!

In 2016, I took part in a panel discussion on BLACKNESS at the Getty Institute in Los Angeles. I showed a slide with 16 black paint colors—and deeply touched the souls of the partly Black listeners. The surprising number of black paint colors was showing them a rich multitude of previously hidden possibilities.

Everything looks more colorful in front of black

The stars shine brightest in the blackness of the night. So do people! Stand in front of a white wall, then in front of a black one. You will look more refreshed in front of the dark wall. Test it with your cell phone! It is completely logical, because the white wall overwhelms your sense of vision with its brightness. Your pupils will get smaller to protect your eyes. This protective reaction, however, will mute all the colors in the visual field, not just the white wall surfaces. It is harder to see details in white spaces. A dark wall in the background, on the other hand, will stay in the background. The pupil stays wide open and every color and fine details are rendered most visible.

For human vision, people in front of bright, white walls look backlit. They can be seen better in front of more muted walls. Getty Images

Distracting white

White is the most conspicuous color. Our eyes are drawn to light, bright surfaces first. White walls separate the objects in the room from each other, and these bright separations are a constant source of distraction. Good color concepts, however, should allow us to concentrate on important elements in the space. Wall surfaces in the background in living and working spaces, conference rooms and studios should not be the brightest elements in these spaces. How bright are the faces in these spaces when the lighting is on? The background color should not be brighter!

Subtle differences

Solving the problem by Painting everything black won’t solve the problem. Thinking solely in terms of black and white misses more than half the truth. Color design is all about the subtle nuances and the process of slowing down to raise awareness.

16 black paint colors. Each one is made from different natural and mineral pigments. Match the color choice to the flooring, the lighting, and the overall brightness. kt.COLOR

Black in interior design work

The best color concept includes a nuanced world of differences. Using a colorful black on a wall surface brightens the rest of the space. It literally illuminates the life in the room. It invites us to pay attention to subtle nuances and to reflect our preconceptions. It asks us to look for diversity in an apparent unity, and to dissolve the dominant narrative to one that is filled with life and richness.

In 2014, I summarized these thoughts in a book entitled BLACK. It contains 8 essays and 24 large, handmade, authentic paint color samples. Of these, 16 are indeed black or nearly black, but the others include the bluest blue ont he market, a pure red, gold, Champagne white, and more. You can purchase the 2-volume set for $ 32 / € 30 plus shipping.


Katrin Trautwein, revised June 9, 2024


Black - Black. Katrin Trautwein, 2014, Lars Müller Publishers, Zurich 2014, ISBN 978- 3-03778-382-5.

About the author

Dr. Katrin Trautwein (*1962 in Stuttgart) is a Swiss chemist, author, teacher and entrepreneur. She researches historical color palettes, pigments, colors and their spatial effects. In 1997, she founded the artisan paint manufacturer kt.COLOR in Switzerland, which made a name for itself with the production of paint colors for architecture made from natural pigments.

n the 1990s, she began researching the paint colors and color concepts of the architect Le Corbusier. Building on this research, she developed modern recipes for 81 colors that Le Corbusier used to differentiate his architecture. Her research made these colors world-famous. Further collections of high-quality façade paints, wall paints and furniture paints using natural pigments followed. She passes on her knowledge in writing, in a Masterclass for architects, and as part of her extensive teaching and consulting activities. Her primary topics are color and light, spatial vision, paint color conservation, color theory and color design.