Nearly any kind of wood will make charcoal but the most prized for producing beautiful blue-blacks is that made of vines, traditionally made by charring grape vines and stems.
Charcoal was a key component of cave painting, examples date back 28,000 years. Many cultures have utilised charcoal for art and in rites of passage. It can be used as is for drawing or ground into a pigment for ink or paint.
Lamp Black is made by collecting the soot from the oily ames of beeswax or tallow candles and oil-lamps, hence its name. The carbon is deposited on a cold surface suspended over the flame.
A lightfast, permanent and opaque blue-black, Lamp Black has been used since prehistoric times making it one of the oldest pigments still in use today.
Peach black is a finely ground grey-black pigment obtained by charring the stones of peaches.
Used from the Middle Ages onwards it is one of a family of impure carbon blacks derived from vegetable origins such as almond shell black, cherry pit black, coconut shell black and cork black.
They tend to be opaque and have excellent hiding power. Due to the expense in collecting and processing the pigment they have generally fallen out of production.
Graphite in its pure form consists of carbon and is, together with diamond, a modi cations of the element carbon.
Used since the Neolithic Age as a ceramic paint for decorating pottery.
During the Renaissance, graphite would be wrapped with string or wool and used as a drawing instrument. It was too brittle to hold in the hand and nobody thought of putting it in a hollow stick of wood until the 17th century!
Although there are chalks coloured by incorporated carbon, black chalk is not necessarily a single pigment but a class of pigments, which could include a number of different black minerals.
There are varieties composed of iron oxide and magnetite, shale, earths with high carbon content like Shungite, minerals like iron manganese oxide known as Jacobsite and Pyrolusite, natural black manganese.
The most commonly used was Pyrolusite, a soft black earthy manganese dioxide mineral. Used as a pigment in early civilisations, it has been found in the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, on wall paintings of the Roman period and in Greek paintings of the bronze age.
Bone black has been in use since the dawn of mankind, having been identified in prehistoric paintings and also in Egyptian, Greek and Roman art.
It is found throughout European medieval and Renaissance art and later in both oil and watercolour paintings until modern times.
Bone black is prepared by charring bones in the absence of air. It is the deepest black but was not used as widely as charcoal black. Fragments of animal bones are put into a crucible surrounded by burning coals and covered. The bones, by exposure to the heat, were reduced to charcoal.