While Vantablack has long been locked up by Anish Kapoor, who secured the exclusive license to use it for art, Stuart Semple has been busy making his own version of the ultra-pigmented, super-flat black paint as an alternative for other artists to use. The newest version, Stuart Semple Black 4.0, comes as close to Vantablack’s potency as we’ve ever seen.
How close does it come? Well, Vantablack is listed to absorb 99.965 percent of visible light, allowing anything it coats to look absolutely pitch black, as if you’re staring straight at the insides of a cave (or the Batcave, with the lights turned off). Semple’s newest paint, on the other hand, is able to absorb 99.95 percent of that same light, which leaves the gap between them mostly negligible. On top of that, it’s sold as a paint that you can simply apply using any brush, which makes it much simpler to use compared to Vantablack’s complicated application process.
The Stuart Semple Black 4.0 is billed as the “blackest black paint in the known universe” and it’s actually not hyperbole, since other black coatings that do black better, such as Vantablack and the 99.995 percent black material Diemut Strebe developed with MIT engineers, aren’t available in paint form. And it’s real paint that you can apply using either a simple brush or an airbrush, allowing you to easily integrate it into any art piece you’re putting together, whether it be on a canvas, on a sculpture, or on an entire wall of an art installation.
According to Semple, it works on all surfaces, so there are no limitations to where you can use it, all while thinning with water if you need it to be a bit less dense than the default consistency. It’s supposed to be archival, too, so it should stay in place for many decades, much like any good quality art paint.
The Stuart Semple Black 4.0 also boasts better usability than previous versions, with this one requiring just a single coat, as it’s supposedly much more stable and durable. That’s because this new version actually uses an all-new formulation of the base resin, which gets both new ingredients and a significant change in the production process to realize its light-absorbing breakthroughs. Do note, the paint is still only meant for art pieces that will be kept indoors, as it’s still not rated to hold up to regular exposure to the elements. Basically, if you use it for a sculpture that’s installed at an open air park, don’t expect it to hold up for many years.
In case you plan to use it for your own projects, they do have some basic instructions for best results. If you’re using a brush, for instance, they recommend going for softer rather than stiffer ones, while porous surfaces are recommended to be sealed first using a mix of 25 percent PVA and 75 percent water. For shiny surfaces, you want to prime it first with either your own favorite primer or the original Black 2.0. When painting, they also advice to use as little as possible and spread evenly, as well as exercising patience to let the paint dry properly between coats.
The Stuart Semple Black 4.0 is available now, priced at $49.99 for a 150ml bottle and $259 for a full liter.