Blog | The All-Elusive 'True Black'

natural dye black


We have all worn and loved the colour, Black. It goes with everything, it can be worn anywhere and at any time, it can be casual yet elegant, or elegant yet casual. Black is philosophically the absence of all colour and scientifically the union of all colours.

The significance of the colour black lies, historically, in Man's search for true black, or to be more precise - true black ink or dye. But what is True Black? For the sake of ease, let's see what it isn't. It isn't the darkest shade of red or green or blue. Though a sufficiently dark red or green or blue might appear to the human eye as black, upon fading, instead of slowly turning grey, these bogus blacks slowly begin to reveal their, well, 'true colours', so to speak.  

The oldest known 'True Black' is Carbon Black or more commonly known as 'Lamp Black', which, as its name indicates, is essentially carbon harvested in the form of soot, and mixed with a solvent to produce ink. This type of ink was used for writing on papyri and subsequently on paper for many centuries in Europe. This ink, however, was not a dye, as it would not stick to textile fibres and stay. In other words, it was not colourfast.


natural black soot


Meanwhile, as Europe wrote opuses with Lamp Black, and wrote some of history's most treasured pieces, as it turns out, rural artisanal dyers in ancient India had found the all-elusive True Black dye by mixing common household ingredients - rusting iron, Palm Sugar and water. These three ingredients, when mixed in a particular proportion and left untouched for 21 days, give pure black natural dye.

This is the recipe that we still use to this day at Creative Bee. Once the fabric that's been dyed in this black dye is washed, all remaining traces of the Iron II Oxide (rust) are removed leaving the fabric just as virgin as it was before it was dyed, and fixed with Myrobalan - it is completely colourfast.


black quote ricardo tisci




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