What’s the Blackest Black Paint?
Paint reflects light, so you really can create a black so black it tricks the mind into thinking you’re looking at a bottomless abyss.
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The idea of one black being blacker than another is kind of wacky. I mean, isn’t black just black and anything lighter technically a shade of grey? Conceptually, maybe, but when it comes to paint there are indeed certain mixtures that appear more black than others.
A glossy-black car might appear more black than a metallic black one since flakes would make the latter shinier and more reflective. Then of course there’s matte black paint, which is the opposite of gloss, so dull that it’s almost grey in appearance. Between gloss and matte is satin, which is semi-reflective.
But we’re not talking about standard colors here, as the paints in this article appear exceptionally black because they absorb almost all light, to the point where whatever object is painted with them almost appears to be two-dimensional. These are the extremes, the very blackest of blacks.
“Vantablack” Made by Surrey Nanosystems
Vantablack made the rounds on car blogs back in 2019 when it was applied to a BMW X6 with bizarre results. Surrey Nanosystems, the company that makes it, contextualizes that the color (or lack thereof) “was originally developed for satellite-borne blackbody calibration systems.” It has since been used for “deep space imaging, automotive sensing, optical systems, art, and aesthetics,” per the company’s site.
The ’19 BMW job is the only confirmed example we’ve seen of this on a car, though. As Vantablack inventor Ben Jensen said in a release when that project was shared with the public: "To be honest, we received inquiries from most of the big-name automotive manufacturers, almost from the day we launched the original material in 2014, but we’d always said no … This was also due to the fact that we only had a suitable material once we came up with VBx2. When we were approached by BMW, we were still quite hesitant. But the new X6 looked so incredibly different that it just felt like a really good fit."
How To Buy Vantablack Paint and How Much It Costs
I have seen some claims floating around that Vantablack is “illegal” or “unobtainable,” and that is not entirely true—you can get it, but the purchasing process is a complicated one and the cost, well, you’ll need to contact Surrey Nanosystems with some specific info to even see if they’ll send you a sample. If you seriously want to get your hands on Vantablack, go to the company’s purchasing page and prepare to furnish them with info on your application (e.g. space, automotive, lens, or special project.), and “a PDF drawing showing the areas to be coated, volumes and any special processing or handling procedures.” I would imagine the cost to paint a civilian’s car with this just for fun would be somewhere between unbelievable and preposterous.
“Singularity Black” Made by NanoLab
Like Vantablack, Singularity Black is mostly made for space-related stuff. As NanoLab’s site explains: “Singularity Black LT is a nanotube-filled, solvent-based paint that has exceptionally strong absorption in the visible, and is similar in performance to the vertically aligned arrays of nanotubes that are the blackest items known to mankind.”
NanoLab actually has three different blackest-black paint products, but they’ll all look pretty similar on your computer screen.
How To Buy Singularity Black Paint and How Much It Costs
NanoLab’s purchasing process is less intimidating than Surrey Nanosystems, offering “Singularity LT-AERO … a sprayable, low temperature activating formulation of Singularity, suited to application on metals, composites, polymers, etc., and suited to the needs of the Aerospace community,” right on its site. As of this writing, you can order sprayable Singularity Black here for $1,375 a quart. NanoLab even has a Use Overview how-to document on its site if you’re brave enough to try painting with it.
Musou Black Made by Koyo Orient Japan
Art and material supply store The Black Market has products that are more accessible to people trying to paint something with, you know, not a national defense department’s budget though its blackest blacks are still not cheap. Musou Black is “a water-based acrylic paint that can absorb up to 99.4 percent of visible light,” which is claimed as “the World’s Blackest Paint.” It’s meant for plastic models and crafts, so painting a whole car with it might be … tough. But perhaps a little trim or decorative piece could be done with the stuff.
Interestingly, the PlastiDip car-painting company and YouTube channel DipYourCar were able to mix this into an amalgamation and spray a Mitsubishi Evo with it. I think it looks pretty wacky, but it really does look like DYC achieved the same basic look as the Vantablack BMW for surely a lot less money.
How To Buy Musou Black Paint and How Much It Costs
You can get a five-pack of one-liter bottles of Musou Black for ￥87,500 (about $630) plus shipping from The Black Market. But be advised: You might need something known as a Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Certification if you’re planning to import it to the United States. You can get Musou Black from Amazon too, but only in tiny doses.
Black 3.0 Made by Stuart Semple
It seems Black 3.0 is the result of a feud between artists Stuart Semple and Anish Kapoor—no, really. Apparently, Kapoor made some kind of deal with Surrey NanoSystems, makers of the previously referenced Vantablack, to own exclusive rights to use the stuff in art. How such a thing could actually be enforced I can’t imagine. But as a result, Stuart Semple created or commissioned a similarly bottomless black known as Black 3.0 that is available for sale to anybody who isn’t Anish Kapoor.
Right on Semple’s site, it says, and I kid you not: “By adding this product to your cart, you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this material will not make it's way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.”
I don’t have the time or interest to find out if this is actual beef or just creatives goofing on each other, but I guess this blackest-black is indeed readily available. The site Culturehustle explains more detail about the product itself:
- Absorbs up to 99% of visible light
- Apply with a brush or a spray
- Works with most surfaces (wood, paper, canvas, plastic, metal, plaster etc…)
- Thins with water
- Lightfast and archival
- No need for cooking, vacuum chambers, or weapons-grade scientists
- Smells like fresh coffee
- Not available to Kapoor
How To Buy Black 3.0 and How Much It Costs
Black 3.0 can be ordered online from Culture Hustle. The largest bottle it comes in is six liters (a little more than 1.5 gallons) for about $800.00.
The Blackest Black soft material: “Viperblack” Made by Phoebe Heess
While researching the blackest black paints, I discovered the blackest black t-shirt—a material called Viperblack by designer Phoebe Heess. It doesn’t appear to be in stock anymore, but if you wanted to create a true black hole on wheels, painting it in one of the finishes listed above and then using this material on the interior would be one heck of a trick. I’ll also add that The Black Market (the company that makes the Musou Black) sells various non-paint blackest blacks you might want to look up for certain creative projects.