This article was written in 2014. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.

Black should be black

Every now and then I hear designers say that black should not be black. That instead of using color: black; you should use something like color: #666;. I heard people defending this argument by saying that in real life black is never really black. The ink in a book? Not really black. A black t-shirt? Not really black. The colour of my phone? Not really black. So, we argue, since black things are not really black in real life, they shouldn’t be black on our screens.

I don’t get it.

I think we should make black things black on our screens. The reason why black things are not really black in real life is not because we don’t want them to be black. It’s because it’s really, really hard to make things really black. We definitely want black t-shirts. We just don’t know how to make them. Of course we want the ink in our books to be black. We just haven’t figured out how to do that. On the web it’s pretty easy though. Just use color: black; and you’re done.

Ironically, the colour you’ll see on your screen when you use color: black; is probably not black at all. That’s because, indeed, it’s really, really hard to make things really black.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Black is the new almost-black! :)

    • Sjors Pals
    • #

    Hehe there is something like optical white, it’s an additive which is used in paper and washing powder, maybe we need optical black for the web ;)

    But more serious, in the past i was a hardcore gamer, in that time LED monitors where not suited for gaming because the difference between dark colors was minimal, especially in maps with a lack of light this gave a problem in identifying opponents ;)

  2. Both sides of the argument are pretty black and white (pun intended) if you ask me.

    It all depends on your site’s purpose, audience, branding, color palette (and amount of contrast especially), and who knows what other kinds of goals and context that drive design decisions.

    I’ve seen blogs use #234 and such instead of black and I found in some cases that it fit pretty well with the overall feel and attitude of the site. Smashing Magazine for example uses #333. Doesn’t bother me one bit.