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Vantablack is the Darkest Substance Ever Made

by Margaret Penney | January 3, 2018

In the world of art and design, it’s not every day that we see the creation of an entirely new color.

When I think about Vantablack I’m reminded of an early class in color — there’s a familiar lesson where one learns that white is all colors and black is the absence of color. The lesson makes sense from an intellectual perspective, however, in everyday life I don’t remember really seeing the color black as this way, as the absence of color. Usually, if you look closely, black is a very dark gray, like anthracite or dark blue, like indigo.

Vantablack helps one really understand what black truly is. Vantablack is the world’s blackest material. It’s so black that it appears as nothing, absent, empty like a black hole. When one sees it in use in a photo it looks like the parts of the image where it’s applied have been blocked out. Vantablack’s darkness is so total that its visual presence is quite foreboding.

Vantablack being grown on metal foil.

Vantablack was developed by the National Physics laboratory in the UK. Its name stands for Vertically Aligned Nanotube Arrays. Vantablack is a chemical artificial substance that absorbs up to 99.9 5% of radiation on the visible spectrum. It’s made of vertical nanotubes which are grown on a substrate like metal foil.

Beyond being the blackest material, vantablack has a number of useful applications like improving infrared cameras, preventing light from entering telescopes and enhancing the absorption of heat in solar technology.

Cover image is Vantablack applied to a bronze mask at the Science Museum. Image by Kake.


Margaret Penney is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Margaret is a teacher, designer, writer and new media artist and founder of Hello Creative Co.


If you are interested in learning more about using color, Sessions College offers a Color Theory course and many other graphic design courses for students at all levels. Contact Admissions for more information.

This blog is powered by Sessions College, the leading online school of visual arts.

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