After months of consideration, I decided to dip my brush into the blackest, non-reflective black acrylic paint that you can currently splurge on, Black 3.0.
Back in 2014, scientists at Surrey Nanosystems formulated one of the darkest synthetic materials in existence called Vantablack. This substance is so dark it absorbs 99.96% of light and radiation.
Shortly after its creation, the rich, famous, and petty ceramicist Anish Kapoor bought an exclusive licence to use the substance in his artwork — blocking any other artist from being able to ever use it. The monopolisation of this groundbreaking material infuriated the arts community, leading to British pop artist Stuart Semple developing his own blackest black substances to sell on his website, Black 2.0 and later Black 3.0. These acrylic-based paints also claim to be so dark they absorb 99% of light and radiation.
A month ago, I bought a bottle of Black 3.0 to see firsthand how black this paint is. When you purchase Black 3.0 from Semple’s website, you are required to make a legal declaration that “you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor.”
A day after buying Black 3.0, I received an automated email from Stuart Semple, explaining in great detail how to get the best result out of the blackest black paint. The entire customer experience was awesome.
A few weeks after my bottle arrived, I finally tested out the blackest paint available and painted a tiny canvas. I followed the instructions provided and painted one coat with a dry brush, then waited two hours, then painted another coat. I left the canvas overnight and painted one last coat.
After the final coat had dried, I was impressed with the result. The black paint seemingly changes the texture of the canvas as it gets darker. If the lighting is right, it looks like a tiny part of the room has been cropped out with Photoshop. Aside from a few very minor defects in the canvas, it is the absolute black void I was hoping it would be.
Kapoor’s controversial decision to exclusively licence Vantablack is a great example of how rich and powerful businesspeople will use their influence to control what should be an open market. The same anticompetitive practices are happening in the digital world. Recently on a much larger scale, major US tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet have come under scrutiny in a congressional investigation for alarming business practices, which make it difficult for competitors to enter the market and undeniably threaten how users access impartial information online.
Many designers I know joined the digital industry because they love the freedom and creativity of the internet. There are communities of people devoted to keeping the internet free with open source tools and software. I believe these kinds of creative freedoms need to be protected at all costs, online and offline. Thanks to an open and free market, Kapoor’s monopoly on Vantablack hasn’t stopped the art community from using at least one of the blackest black paints in their work.