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Black Art material?


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I need to make up a fairly sizeable black art cover for a prop appearance, and I'm trying to work out the best fabric to use (it's going to be kabuki dropped, so must be cloth). Everyone says that velvet is the way to go, but looking at a sample of J&C Joel's Velvet Velour it sheens quite badly at the wrong angle, and since my cloth is going to be wrapped around three sides of a box, and lowered in from above, this is a concern. Comparatively, Premier Wool Serge is slightly more reflective versus the velvet at its best, but is still very matte black and seems to be more consistent; it's the same from any angle and doesn't really sheen on a bend at all. So from the "wrong" angle the serge is actually blacker to look at.


Does anyone have any experience on something that works well for Black Art?


Many thanks,


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Agree that managing the lighting is a large part of the solution.


If time permits, rig lanterns as initially seems best, station several observers in different audience seats and observe the prop for any unwanted reflections. If any such are observed, then turn out the lanterns one at a time to ascertain which one(s) are causing the reflections. Then decide if the lighting is acceptable without those lights, if not found acceptable then experiment with other lighting layouts or with the prop slightly differently positioned.


I agree that serge is preferable to velvet, but suggest the above experiment in addition.




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From a technical point of view the fabric doesn’t matter - the best fabric possible with an uncooperative lighting designer will be terrible; cheap poly cotton with a understanding and committed lighting design can be mind blowing. 99% of all black art in the real world is done using the venue generic surge and twill curtains.


Contrast is the secret to successful black art. Over illuminate everything else on the stage and your “black” spaces will be even blacker - often the answer to “visible” black art props is to slap more lights on to the stage (either pointing at the audience or actively over-illuminating other props on the stage) to increase the contrast and thus make things more invisible.

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As posted above, the material is immaterial (ahem) as it's the contrast that does the work. I've worked with a range of materials doing Black Art and while there is a commonly held belief that something with a nap such as velvet or velour is 'the best', this is kinda only partially the case in practice. The idea behind the black of a velour being 'blacker' is only the case when the viewer and/or light is looking 'down' the tufty bits rather than across them. This slightly confuses the eye in determining where the focal plane actually is and therefore seemingly sucks light into the fabric by having no definable shine to pick up. As we have only some control over the exact angle each viewer seems it, it's barely worth worrying about.


In practice, anything black and not shiny along with consideration to contrast and controlling the viewers irises will make the art work.

Edited by indyld
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