Raise your hand if you have had the luxury of painting an all black set. More than one? Was it a glossy all black set? If your hand is still raised then we should sit down and have a beer together, because you have first hand knowledge of how hard it is to keep black pretty.
Glossy black shows every tiny imperfection; not just your coat of paint, but also in the surface. Touching up gloss black often means making that spot glossier. Flat black paint, no matter how dark, can still often appear dark grey when next to velour curtains. And heaven forbid you touch that flat black paint with your hand or a dirty shoe, because you just made that look chalky and gross.
Why does a black velour curtain look so much blacker than even the blackest of scene paints? It all comes down to science and the reflection of light. Unlike a painted surface upon which light will bounce, the threaded surface of velour sucks up that light almost completely. Can we ever reach those velvety depths of blackness with paint? Quite possibly.
British-based company Surrey NanoSystems has created a light-sucking super black coating called Vantablack. Some have called this product the closest humans will ever come to looking into a black hole.
What makes this black blacker than any other shade of paint? The answer is science. Developed for the military and NASA to help with telescopes and satellites, Vantablack is made of “growing” carbon nanotubes on a substrate using Surrey NanoSystem’s proprietary process. These Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Arrays (VANTA) are like trees in a dense forest: as light hits the material it is continually deflected in the gaps between the tubes until it is absorbed and dissipated into heat. Keep in mind, this forest is only as tall as one 10,000th of human hair.
The process involves lots of heat, special reactor chambers, and is incredibly costly. It isn’t the most efficient way to coat a substrate with an “instant black hole”, so they kept working and created “Vantablack S-VIS”. More paint-like, this coating can be sprayed on and then subjected to a vacuum process that better helps hold all those tubes together. This product won’t be coming to our paint shelves any time soon, but it did find it way to one artist’s studio.
After Vantablack S-VIS took the internet by storm, Surrey NanoSystems gave permission for its product to be used exclusively by one artist; internationally renowned Anish Kapoor – the creator of the London ‘Olympic Red Orbit Tower’, and Chicago’s ‘Bean’. Before you slam down your paintbrush, angry at the thought that one artist could have exclusive rights to a material, take a deep breath and cheer up. Equally miffed by the situation, artist Stuart Semple created his own color, Pinkest Pink, and banned Kapoor from buying it. This started a soap-opera worthy feud in the fine art world, played out in the constantly burning embers of social media. Spurned on by Vantablack’s unavailability, Semple created the blackest paint publicly available on the market, Black 2.0.
Do you have a few extra dollars in your paint budget and want to try out the blackest black we can get? A sample from Semple (for science!) is affordable at $15/150ml.
We’d love to see how it pairs next to some velour curtains!
Gif courtesy of Culturehustle.com.