You may have read my blog post about Whites and have gotten curious about the ultimate black guide; cause black is not equal black neither – even though the critical points are different in the use of blacks.
Facepaint.com sells dozens of different Blacks, so which one should you to choose for your kit? See detailed review and swatches below.
Summary Table: Black Face Paint Guide
Black and whites are essential in your face paint kit, for some reason I carry around at least 3 different blacks all the time. This is because no one black is perfect for every job. Some are good for line work, while others are better for blending or shading. There's a wide range of how many applications are available given the same amount of face paint. I came to the conclusion within the tested paint brands, there no such thing like a best paint or a worst. paint They are just made for different applications by different artists.
I live in Florida where the humidity is usually very high, so please understand this was a simple test in my own environment. The results are not derived from complicated lab tests with dozens of swatches and perfect applications. I only did one swatch per application, so the results reflect my personal opinion; another face paint artist might be able to get different results. This being said, my results are below.
Blacks tested (the number is random just to identify the swatches)
Let's get started with the blacks! First again, I smelled the paints. Most of them had a neutral or powdery smell, nothing to get excited about. Paradise seemed to have a slight coconut (?) smell, quite pleasant and oh ….I could sniff for hours on Kryolan! It somehow reminded me of the smell of my late Grandmother’s hair, in a good way, and had a pleasant cosmetics smell that did not linger too long.
Next I activated the paints. Paradise, Diamond FX and Wolfe seemed rather on the hard side of cake face paints but held up steady consistency during the test. Kryolan, Ruby Red and Graftobian behaved similarly; they were thick and creamy but I had to keep re-activating them which was fine with Kryolan but over time RubyRed and Graftobian got a bit more grainy each time I reactivated (RubyRed needed a bit work stirring smooth and then got back to normal). Mikim had to be re-activated with every single application, and seemed to absorb the water. Mikim had a pleasant consistency at the very beginning but turned gloppy real fast. FAB was super creamy from the beginning and held up its consistency thru the whole test. One has to get used to the soft creaminess it but once there, it’s very pleasant to work with!
Aptitude test for bases - application with dauber sponge
After I activated the paint, I used a brand new dauber for each brand, loaded it with paint and dabbed it on three times, see picture first row? The coverage of all of them seemed very opaque, with the exception of Graftobian (8) which even after 3 more dabs still let skin see thru. Kryolan (1) was opaque with a light powdery finish, while Paradise (4), Global strong black (6), Graftobian (7), Diamond FX (11), TAG (12), Ruby Red (13) and Snazaroo (14) kept a soft shine. The edges of Wolfe (5), Global strong black (6), PartyXplosion (9), Kryvalline essential (10) and Ruby Red (13) showed well defined.
Aptitude test for bases - application with kabuki brush
For the second row, I used a small round edged Kabuki brush. It seemed to me that especially Kryolan (1), Graftobian (7), Cameleon (8) and Ruby Red (13) blended well and fast with a translucent but even powdery finish. If this is the effect you want to achieve, then this is the paint to go with. FAB (2), Wolfe (5), Global (6), PartyXplosion (9), Kryvaline (10) and Diamond FX (11) blended nicely opaque.
Aptitude test for bases - application with a flat brush
There was not much difference between the brands. Some are a bit shinier and some are flat. All of them showed instant coverage with the first stroke.
Mikim (3), Paradise (4) and Wolfe (5) showed precise edges when applied. Kryvaline essential (10) seemed to behave ideal; darkest black, no shine, defined edges, complete opacity. Diamond FX (11) seemed to have a slight metallic (gunmetal) sheen.
Aptitude test for line work - application with a round brush
Next I tried to evaluate the best paint for line work. I loaded a round brush size 6 and painted one teardrop upwards. I found that most of the brands are excellent for line work in general; Kryvaline (10), Diamond FX (11), TAG (12), Ruby Red (13) and Snazaroo (14) went on flawless. FAB (2) and Paradise (5) showed outstanding opacity. Global strong black (6) was so easy to work with resulting in a precise teardrop; blackest black and sharp edges. Kryolan (1) and Graftobian (7) are lacking for this application in both opacity and line definition.
After applying a sample with the flat brush, I used a dry rough brush to pull shade out of the dry paint. This worked very well with Kryolan (1), FAB (2), Mikim (3) and Paradise (4). For Wolfe (5) and Diamond FX (11) I had to spray the brush a bit, resulting in a less desired rather strong shade. Again, choose your black paint brands for what exact characteristics you need. Sometimes you want them not to smudge at all (linework) sometimes you need them to be able to smudge (shading).
As a last test I painted a row of short teardrops and waited until they were all dry. I used my dry finger to smear over it lightly one time to the left, one time to the right. Most of the brands resisted the smear, a slight tolerable smear came out of Cameleon (8) and PartyXplosion (9) while Ruby Red (13) and Snazaroo (14) smudged bad. Remember this was tested in humid Florida, what might work in other states might not work at my location…
Last I kept a row of teardrops on for 2 hours and rinsed it under water without rubbing or use of soap. Global (6) and Cameleon (8) came off right away with Diamond FX (11), TAG (12), RubyRed (13) and Snazaroo (14) right behind them. To remove them all I did not use any soap, with a simple rub of my finger they all came off without leaving stains.
One other thing that I noted during the process was the packaging. Most cakes had a lid which was separated above the actual paint, while Kryolan and Ruby Red close super tight right on top of the full tub of paint. This might have advantages that I am not aware of, but until there’s enough product used to build a small air pocket, pieces of the product will stick to the lid when opened and create small craters in the cake, which I personally found aggravating. Also I would like to mention that Snazaroo and Ruby Red black did not hold up well to heat and humidity, it practically melted in the mail (while the other brands were OK) and I had set it out in the A/C over night to be able to use it, but remember; this was tested in the hot and humid Floridian summer. What might be a problem for me, may not necessarily be a problem for another painter in a different climate.
Other factors that you will need to consider in choosing your blacks; availability of the brand, how many full faces you can get out of a cake, and the manufacturing country (you might consider paying more and supporting US jobs). You may prefer liquid paints over cakes, waterproof paints, wax-, glycerine or alcohol based paint, vegan or non-vegan paints, different size and style of packaging. Personal taste will still be a large factor in finding your favorite brand, so it's best is to experiment with several brands in order to find your favorite.
Personally, I carry Global (or TAG), Wolfe and Paradise (or Kryolan) with me all the time. I use Wolfe for outlining for private appointments or when I need outstanding coverage, Paradise for edges that I want to draw a shade off (with a dry brush).
What’s your favorite black?