Design Tip: Never Use Black

Ian Storm Taylor wrote a great post on one of the most important color tricks he’s ever learned; to avoid using the color black in his work.

(Thank you Carly)

13 Comments leave a comment below

  1. So dropmarked to share with my art students! Thanks for sharing

  2. Great find – will definitely share this.

  3. definitely gonna try and use more black now

  4. This is bad advice, in my opinion. What happens in real life, and what happens in a UI, are two totally different things. There are occasions when black can be beautiful and valuable in a design. The only case where I would warn about using pure black is with text on white. Other than that, it’s shouldn’t be discarded.

  5. This is complete horseshit. There are countless examples when pure black and deeper shades of gray-scale make sense.

    Think of how much more colors and designed accents pop against a contrasted background as an example.

  6. misguided designer self-wankery. why would any designer ever limit their scope to prove some odd, baseless theory. grow up.

  7. At everyone criticizing this article, please give it a read and I’m sure you’ll find it is very legitimate and proves a very important point. Often what appears “black” “000000” is not black, but a dark shade of grey and other colours.
    I found the article useful.

  8. On a strictly personal level, when I see a site (blogs mostly but retail also) that has a black background I am out of there! Too hard to read. If it’s a seller – make it easy for me.

  9. So the gist of the article is that black doesn’t really exist. So, that being said, it really isn’t possible to use black precisely because it doesn’t exist. The same article can be written about white, blue, red, etc.

    While I agree that we often lazily assume that objects or the absence of light are black and love Thiebaud’s interpretation of shadow, I believe as stated above that one should not limit one’s palette. The theory, while not baseless, is just that–a theory. It’s definitely intriguing and I can see the merit of its application. However, I don’t believe it to be appropriate in all instances.

  10. It does no harm to remind us how unnatural black is and to point out examples of saturated “greys”. If anything, this should help us exploit the effect when we want to.

    My grandad used to carry a piece of black velvet in his paintbox to help gauge the true colours of dark images. This is enlightening.


  11. The author makes some valid points but, as with any rule, there are exceptions. One very legitimate use of black in a UI is to disguise the edge of the screen and create a seamless effect with a black bezel surrounding the screen. A good case in point being the status bar along the top edge of the iPhone screen as can be seen in the included pictures. It blends in with the iPhone’s black glass bezel and makes the screen feel less contained.

    Try setting your iPhone wallpaper to pure black. The screen edges become less visible and the result is very clean and punchy.

    There are some really neat live music production apps out there that make great use of black backgrounds. Check out the JazzMutant Lemur:

  12. I think there is definitely so much that you can get from this great design here. I see a lot of great things coming from it all here. The options are endless with this. Woodbridge pizza

  13. Oh jeez, yet another baseless argument for the non-use of black. Whatever art teacher told this poor guy to never use black needs her head examined.

    ALL of this theory about “no black” dates back to impressionism. And guess what? When Cezanne died, they found no less than 6 types of solid black paint in his studio. Manet and Degas both used black as well.

    People have been promoting this “no black!” B.S. for decades and it gets repeated ad nauseum on the internet now.

    Black is fine, indulge, use it as you will… it’s a great color to use in design, furniture, painting, UI, etc.. black is good!

    Why limit yourself? True art breaks all the rules!