ART MEDIUMS Watercolor artist 1 min read

McCracken Black: The Perfect Black Paint?

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In the Fall 2022 issue of Watercolor Artist Magazine, we asked 5 great watercolor painters the question “What are the three tube colors that are always on your palette?” Here, we’ll focus on one of those artists, Laurin McCracken, whose upcoming Art Fest workshops will allow artists like you an opportunity to learn directly from him. Scroll down to read his comments on McCracken Black, a color created by Daniel Smith to his specifications.

Don’t miss the opportunity to work and learn with Laurin McCracken himself! His Art Fest workshop—The Art of the Still Life: Painting Silver & Crystal in Watercolor Realism—is filling up fast!

McCracken Black

Three of the colors that are always on my palette are Daniel Smith’s phthalo blue (red shade), Aussie red gold and McCracken black. I find phthalo blue (red shade) to be the most versatile of all the blues. It’s a very rich color that can be used full strength to create full-bodied blues or thinned out to be light—as might be required in a midday sky, for example. It’s also my go-to color when mixing greens, creating
a wide range of fabulous green mixtures when combined with cadmium yellow (dark, medium or light).

Aussie gold is a relatively new color in the Daniel Smith line that’s astonishingly rich. I use it often as an underpainting color for fruit to create a bit of punch. I also use this gold as a layer under dark colors such as quinacridone burnt orange, a combination that works especially well for subjects such as dark-brown antique bottles or on an old padlock.

3 watercolors you must have
Laurin McCracken added some zing to the yellow pear in Jars With Pears (watercolor on paper, 18×13) by using an underpainting of Aussie gold.

I worked directly with the color chemists at Daniel Smith to develop the color McCracken Black. It’s a rich black that can be thinned out to a neutral gray. It’s what I use to create the dark black backgrounds in my paintings. The color is a bit transparent, so an underpainting can still have an impact. I apply it quite thickly, scumbling it as I paint. It dries to a matte finish and—in spite of its dark appearance—is nonstaining. —Laurin McCracken

DANIEL SMITH McCracken Black

DANIEL SMITH Phthalo Blue (Red Shade)

DANIEL SMITH Aussie Red Gold

This article originally appeared in Watercolor Artist. Subscribe now so you don’t miss any great art instruction, inspiration, and articles like this one.

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