Sweet Black Wallpaper Images

If you think about your favorite websites, you probably recall seeing a lot of white backgrounds interrupted with periodic pops of color. But you don’t often see a black background.

There are plenty of reasons for this: a dark background can be unreadable if done incorrectly, people can be intimidated by such a striking visual choice, people may labor under the misconception that a black background is automatically flat and lacking depth, and the list goes on from there.

Here, we’ll take some time to explore in-depth the reasons why black, the deepest of colors, is often underutilized. We’ll address everything from cultural significance of the color, to how to address the visual challenges often associated with a black wallpaper, black image, or black background. Who knows? By the time we’re done, you may be willing to give a dark background a second glance, or even a second chance.

Gallery

As a sample of a few options availabe, the following list of images are ready to use for any application. To download, right click and select "Save Image As..."

A Brief Art History of Black

Since time immemorial, the color black has been utilized to make visual art. Prehistoric artists mixed their own black pigment using charcoal and mineral iron which they used to create early cave paintings like the ones found in France's Lascaux Caves that date back over 17,000 years ago. The pigment used in those cave paintings held up largely intact for several millennia, so it's safe to say that the color black has some real staying power in more ways than one. Since these paleolithic cave paintings were done on walls, you could even say this was pigment was kind of like the original black wallpaper! You can also find black silhouette figure paintings on clay pottery from ancient Greece that is still remarkably well-pigmented approximately 2500 years after the fact.

In the 14th century, fashion trends shifted. Until that point, people dressed in fine clothing dyed in bold purple, red, or blue hues to signify wealth and importance, but then laws were passed limiting the wearing of those colors to nobility. Bankers began dressing in black to show off their own wealth and high station, and soon enough kings began adopting the somber but striking black robes for their own. Late Renaissance-era painter Giovanni Battista Moroni was noted for painting pictures of the nobility and religious figures swathed in their dark robes standing in front of dark gray or black backgrounds. His paintings remain an example of how texture can be incorporated into a black image to give it dimensionality even in the darkness.

But perhaps our favorite tale of the color black in art history happened a lot more recently than these earlier examples. The story begins in 2014 when a UK-based company called Surrey NanoSystems announced that they had created the darkest shade of black in the world. Their revolutionary product which they dubbed Vantablack absorbed an astounding 99.96% of the light that hit it, making it a pretty mind-bending color to look at. In 2016, a sculptor named Anish Kapoor signed a contract with Surrey which gave him the exclusive rights to use the so-called world's "blackest black" in art. Many artists had been interested in testing out the pigment, especially when the company developed a much less expensive spray-on version: however, the company opted to work with Kapoor because he has long incorporated voids and negative spaces into his art. But other artists were incredibly frustrated to be denied the opportunity to explore such a revolutionary tool in the context of their own artistic medium. One such artist was painter Stuart Semple.

Semple had been mixing his own colors and pigments since he was a student in university. He was annoyed that an artist has essentially copyrighted a material so no other artists could use it, and the fact that he hadn't even created the pigment itself was an additional blow. Semple had already created for himself a vivid fluorescent pink paint. In December of 2016 he listed tubes of the color (which he dubbed "Pinkest Pink") for sale on his website with one caveat: He included a warning that people were not allowed to purchase "Pinkest Pink" and give it to Anish Kapoor, nor could Anish Kapoor himself purchase it. To everyone else, it was fair game.

While Semple was annoyed with Kapoor, he didn't expect his stunt to be marketable: it became a type of performance art for him. But unexpectedly he got swamped with over five thousand orders. Kapoor, not to be outdone, posted a picture of himself on Instagram with his middle finger dipped in a pot of "Pinkest Pink" and making an obscene hand gesture. But Semple may have gotten the last laugh, here: Surrey has now developed Natablack 2.0, an even blacker shade of the world's blackest black synthetic pigment, meaning Kapoor's exclusive contract doesn't mean that much what with a new and improved Vantablack in the works. As you can see the history of the color black when used in visual media can be a pretty wild ride.

Cultural Significance of the Color Black

When you're contemplating using a black wallpaper on your phone or a black background for your website, you may not realize that you're doing more than making a simple visual choice. Your design choices may be informed by unconscious biases you have with certain colors thanks to cultural implications that you might unknowingly associate with the color black. We'll delve into the significance of the shade in a wide cross-section of cultures to help you analyze the way you think about it.

Black symbolizes dark concepts like death, mourning and evil across many cultures: as a result, your kneejerk reaction may tell you instinctively to stay away from it. This is true in most Western cultures, as well as in Thailand and Tibet, where black specifically tends to be associated with evil. But there are plenty of other connotations attached to the color as well. In the Middle East black does represent mourning, but it also symbolizes a more hopeful concept: rebirth. In many African countries, the color black can represent strong and dignified concepts like masculinity or maturity. Likewise, in China, black is also connected to masculinity: in fact, that is the color associated with boys, much like how in the United States we use blue to denote boys vs. pink for girls.

We continue the masculinity trend in Latin America, where many cultures associate black as a masculine color: it is often a favored color for use in men's clothing. But the same cultures also tend to ascribe to black being a color of mourning as well. Finally, the one thing most cultures can agree on, is that the color black goes hand-in-hand with magic and the unknown. As you can see the color black holds varied meanings for people from cultures all over the world, which is a good thing to understand if you're contemplating using a dark background.

Marketing Considerations Regarding the Color Black

Now that you know a little more about the significance of the color black in art history and across several vastly different cultures, let's drill down into why you don't often see a black background on a website or black wallpaper on a cell phone or tablet.

Just like there are cultural and historical aspects of the color black to keep in mind, there are psychological reasons why people gravitate towards other colors. There's a Latin phrase tabula rasa that translates approximately to blank slate: it's a philosophical construct refined by John Locke in the 17th century that when we're born, our mind resembles a "white paper, void of all characters". A white background on a website is welcoming in the same way a sunrise is, or a fresh piece of journal paper or a clear sunrise. A black background, however, has a heaviness to it that can feel claustrophobic.

Beyond the psychological reasons, there are other valid concerns about using a black background on a website. Probably the number one practical reason people avoid a dark background is because it presents a lot of issues with readability. If you have a lot of verbiage or written content against a black background, it will be a real challenge for people to read.

However, there are plenty of reasons why betting on black can absolutely pay off. For starters, it can instantly help you stand out. In a sea of white websites, a black background will stand out. You just want to make sure it's standing out for the right reasons. Here are some tips and tricks for utilizing a black background to its best advantage:

  • If your content is primarily driven by visuals, a black background can provide a sleek and sophisticated dark background for a gallery or portfolio. Your images will look luxe against a simple black plain background.
  • Play around with gradients. Having your black background fade into a deep gray doesn't introduce much more lightness, but it immediately makes the black feel less cramped. It gives an illusion of light.
  • Introduce a black texture background in order to add dimensionality. Our Trianglify background composed of abstract triangles in a black to gray gradient is a great example of a black background that really pops.

While black backgrounds might not be the obvious choice in web design, it has a surprising amount of flexibility and fun for the right project. We hope learning about the history and cultural significance of the color black, as well as its modern marketing applications, has inspired you to take a gamble and think outside the box in the future.

Colophon

While Cool Backgrounds is a fine resource for generating images from popular javascript libraries, the real heavy lifting comes from the library authors themselves. When it comes to customer support, Quinn Rohlf from Trianglify.js is incredibly responsive and a really smart guy to boot. Particle.js is developed by Marc Brüderlin with a wonderful API and is being actively maintained. Gradient Topography is a newly minted project by me as a response to the amazing work by the Codrops crew. And of course Unsplash is one of the best internet treasures of all time, built by the former Crew team as a side project.

Oh yea and can't forget CSS Gradient and Rellax.js which is the "cool background" that powers those sliding parallax shapes in the content section of this site!