A Writers Guide to Black

blackBlack is mysterious. Black is secret. Black is associated with everything from power and protection to formality and elegance to evil and death. (Black sure does get around.) In chromotherapy, black absorbs negativity, repels fear, and banishes nightmares.

Black is the absence of all color. Black objects do not reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum.

grayGray is a between black and white. Gray is intellectual. Gray is associated with refinement, dignity, and authority. In chromotherapy, gray neutralizes negative influences.


  • Fear of black: melanophobia
  • Fear of gray: glaucophobia


  • Black
    • Black is unknown and hidden.
    • Black is strength and authority.
    • Black is sexual and sophisticated.
  • Gray
    • Gray is timeless.
    • Gray is conservative.
    • Gray is formal.
black cat

black cat

Superstitions and Beliefs

  • Black
    • Most Western countries consider black as the color of grief and mourning. This tradition dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans.
    • During the Roman Empire, black was the color of mourning.
    • The ancient Greeks associated black with the underworld; the river Acheron (it separated the living world from the underworld) had black water.
    • Ancient Egyptians believed black cats had divine power.
    • Black was the color of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, the god of the underworld. He took the form of a black jackal and offered protection against evil to the dead.
    • The ancient German and Scandinavian peoples worshiped Nótt, the goddess of the night, who crossed the sky in a chariot drawn by a black horse.
    • Black is worn by Benedictine monks as a sign of humility and penitence.
    • The black cassock a priest wears is to remind the priest that he dies to the world every day and immerses in eternity.
    • A woman buried in all black with no color at all will come back to haunt the living.
    • In medieval times, black symbolized power and secrecy.
    • The black knight is associated with a mysterious person who hides his identity.
    • In many cultures, if a black cat crosses your path it’s bad luck.
    • American Indians associate black face paint with victory and success, and black war paint with power and strength.
    • In the Japanese culture, black means experience. In martial arts, the black belt is the most experienced.
    • In Thailand, it is unlucky to wear black on Fridays.
  • Gray
    • In Thailand, gray is the color of Wednesday night. It is good luck to wear gray on Wednesday night.
    • In folklore, goblins and elves are often gray or wear gray.
    • In Scandinavian folklore, gnomes and nisser wear in gray clothing.

melanistic black lamb

Black History

  • In ancient Rome, black was worn by craftsmen and artisans. The black, made from vegetable dyes, faded quickly ending up as gray or brown.
  • In heraldry, black (sable) signifies wisdom, grief, constancy, and prudence.
  • Black was rarely worn by nobility in the early middle ages with the exception of the rich dark black fur from the sable.
  • Black has gone in and out of fashion since the 14th century.
  • In 1926, Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion with a drawing of a simple black dress.
  • Melanism is the opposite of albinism. It is a development of the dark-colored pigment melanin in the skin and/or its appendages. It was also the medical term for black jaundice.

Gray History

  • In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the color of clothing showed a person’s social rank and profession. Gray and brown were worn by peasants.
  • Monks of the Franciscan order, the Cistercian Order, and the Capucine Order wore gray as a symbol of their vows of humility and poverty.
  • Franciscan monks in England and Scotland were commonly called the Grey Friars due to the gray color of their robes.
  • Buddhist monks and priests in Japan and Korea will often wear a sleeved gray, brown, or black outer robe.
  • Taoist priests in China often wear gray.
charcoal sticks

charcoal sticks

Pigments & Dyes

  • Paleolithic artists using charcoal to for black. They made more vivid black pigments by burning bones or grinding a powder of manganese oxide.
  • During Roman times, Vine black was produced by burning the cut branches of grapevines or the remains of the crushed grapes.
  • Ivory black, also known as bone char, was originally made by burning ivory and then mixing it with oil.

Phrases and Sayings

Black and blue – bruised
Black and white – clear and distinct
Blackball – to secretly vote against someone to prevent him or her from becoming a member of an organization
Black comedy or black humor – a drama about disturbing or sinister topics treated with ironic humor and satire
Black day – a day in which a tragic event occurred
Black-hearted – an evil person
Blacklist – list of people or organizations to boycott
Blackmail – to demand payment or action by threatening someone
Black market – illegal trade (goods or money)
Black out – loss of consciousness or the act of erasing something (usually with a big black marker)
Blackout – loss of electricity
Black sheep – a bad character in an otherwise respectable family or group
Black tie – formal party attire
Blackwash – bring things out in the open
In the black – showing a profit
Men in black – government agents
Pitch black – dark as night, very black (petroleum-derived pitch is black in color)
Pot calling the kettle black – when someone criticizes someone else for something that they do themselves

Gray area – a situation that has no clear moral value
Gray hair – elderly person
Gray matter – intelligence
Gray market – an unofficial market or trade in something, especially unissued shares or controlled or scarce goods
Gray mood – feeling depressed or unhappy
Gray page – text-heavy page with little white space
Gray power – the power of the elderly
Gray water – relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances

Meanings of Tints of Black

  • Gray: neutral, security, intelligence, dignity, maturity, classic as well as gloominess and sadness

Words for Black

Off-blacks have a hint of a secondary color.

black bean
black olive
café noir
ink / inky
outer space
pitch / tar

Words for Gray

battleship gray
clouded / cloudy
lead / leaden

black bullet line

Black and You

Are you wearing black right now?
You are feeling pretty opinionated and strong willed today. You are organized and independent.
Are you wearing gray?
You would rather be uninvolved today. You’re feeling self-sufficient and individualistic.

Look in your closet. Is black a predominate color in your wardrobe?
You are independent and strong-willed. You may be inflexible and may lack self-confidence or you may just be stubborn!
Is it gray?
You are individualistic. You seem self-sufficient and in control. You tend to isolate yourself and may feel stressed.

Do you just dislike the color black?
You desire to be in control.
Do you dislike gray?
You need support from family and friends.

Do you drive a black car?
Black: You are powerful, classic, and elegant.
Gray: You are neutral, sober, and practical.

*Chromophobia, also known as chromatophobia or chrematophobia, is a persistent, irrational fear of, or aversion to, colors and is usually a conditioned response. Color phobis are often caused by a traumatic experience from the past, usually childhood. The color becomes associated with the trauma but the individual may not remember the event or realize the connection. It could also be culturally related with meanings attached to the color. Conditioning or brain chemistry may also be the cause. While actual clinical phobias to color are rare, colors can elicit hormonal responses and psychological reactions. Reactions include heart palpations, panic, sweating, breathlessness, nausea, shaking, dizziness, and dry mouth. Treatments include behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, exposure therapy, and psychotherapy.black bullet line
Use black wisely in writing, painting,
decorating, and in your wardrobe!

Does black have a negative or positive connotation for you?

Don’t forget to vote on your favorite color in my poll over on the right. (closed)colorindex


The wardrobe portion of this post was created using The Complete Book of Color by Suzy Chizzari.
The car information from Today.
awesome black and gray sphere and series logo by me!
black cat by Pixabay.com
black sheep by clipart.com
charcoal by Wikimedia.org
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  1. I'm wearing (wearing?) grey nail polish. I didn't know it was because I was desiring no involvement (but I do), I merely though it was because of the colours listed as “fall 2010 nail polish colours” it was the only one available in my local store. So I thought I was 50% fashion victim and 50% “small selection in store”-victim. Good to know that I am wrong – my nails have an intention! 😉

    I do wear a lot of black, though. Probably partially for some of the reasons listed above, but also because a) it goes with everything; b) I can wash all my clothes in one load without worrying about them colouring each other; and c) I've been told it's slimming. Which is probably not true, but nevertheless a reason I keep coming back to black in clothing.

  2. Black is my favorite color and two-thirds of my wardrobe is black or grey. But I'm not stubborn. Really, I'm not!

  3. I wear a lot of black, especially black slacks. I guess I wear black because it's suppose to make you look slimmer. I also just bought a bottle of gray nail polish. Interesting to learn more about black.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. Definitely have lots of black in my wardrobe. I like its versatility in working with other pieces, and it adds just the right feel to an outfit.

  5. That little lamb is PRECIOUS!

  6. I wear black because it's slimming, but it isn't predominant in my wardrobe. I wore it yesterday.

  7. Most of my work pants (not that I admit to pants) are black or gray, and I have a few skirts too–I WAS indoctrinated in the 'black is slimming' thing, but MOSTLY it is because I really like bright colors on top, and black and gray are very flexible about who they pal around with.

    I have a black dog and a mostly black cat (do those count for anything?) but I see 'black sheep' as generally a good thing (love a rebel) and don't believe in 'black and white'–there is always more to it than that…

  8. I love black. And yes, I am wearing black right now! Black boots, leggings, belt, sweater…

    I love these color posts.

  9. I don't have a lot of black. I might wear it if I'm going out, but I prefer navy. It's not as harsh.

  10. Uh-oh…I'm all about black…

  11. In many cultures, black is considered symbolic of feminine energy and power. Dark mysterious death rebirth cycle and all that jazz. I'm usually always wearing at least one black thing.

  12. I've always liked black. My wedding colors were black and white. I love black shoes and clothes.
    In your post, I relate to the “independent” characteristic.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to my post today, which I totally get.

  13. Hilary Melton-Butcher said…
    Hi .. I like pinks, blues, bright colours .. and black – smarten things up ..

    Grey – I was put off .. because friends said the colour does you no favours – so that was it!!

    The picture of the lamb is wonderful .. interesting information .. thanks Hilary

  14. Cruella, I didn’t know grey was a fall nail polish color.

    Black is supposed to be slimming because it recedes in the background.

    I don’t have any predominate color in my wardrobe. And as for greys I like either dark charcoal grey or a light steel grey.

  15. Shannon O'Donnell said…
    This is totally awesome – I love it! 🙂

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