McCormick or Wilton ?
Black Hints

The first of my black hints, if you want a hank of solid black wool - just go ahead and buy one. It is very difficult to dye large amounts of yarn a true black. (However, if you need a small hank or black accents on a multicolored hank, read on!).

Why is black harder to use than other colors? Because there is no true black food dye. All black food colors are very dark blends of many colors. Often dark green or purple.

This has little effect when making icing, but is problematic when dyeing wool.

To see what colors are really in black food color we put drops of black Wilton (original formula Black) and McCormick on coffee filters. As the water is pulled outward some of the dye color is left behind.

The colors move at different rates, usually the red stops moving while the yellow-green and blue continues outward. This effect is called a halo. Because black is a mixture, haloing is hard to prevent.

In the Wilton sample, a bright pink deposits in the center, a green ring forms around the center and aqua dye travels the farthest.

When dyeing wool black, Wilton is charcoal colored with a red halo on the surface of the yarn.

In the McCormick sample, there is a large area of reddish brown and a fringe of aqua.

A hank dyed in McCormick turned out a very dark chocolate with no color halo on the surface of the yarn. There is no streaking, but the hank isn't truly black.

Here is a comparison of Lion Brand Fishermen off-white wool dyed with Wilton and McCormick black

A Few More Black Hints

But, I really want black !

The second of the black hints is use gray yarn instead of white. This should make the yarn appear closer to black and also allow you to use less food color.

How to overdye gray wool yarn.


Other information about black food dye.

McCormick uses a blend of red40, blue1 and yellow5. It separates into a ruddy brown and aqua.

  • faster to mix, since it comes in a liquid
  • inexpensive (at about $3.50 per ounce)
  • contains red40, so it will not break
  • carried in many grocery stores, especially around Halloween



Wilton (original formula Black) contains blue1, red3 and traces of yellow5 and 6. It separates into green and red.

  • easier to use for small amounts of yarn
  • sold a single jar, and in sets
  • contains red3, so it will break



Dyeing wool a solid black with Wilton is tough.

But, it's easy to produce a wonderful effect called "breaking." Breaking is causing as much haloing as possible. You never know exactly how the colors will separate and that's the fascinating part.


See over 20 Wilton colors on wool yarn.


Need more red in your life?

Hints on dyeing wool yarn using red food color.

Need more green in your stash? Hints on dyeing wool yarn using green food color.

Not feeling blue enough? This will show you how to dye blue (yarn).

Go from Black Hints to Dye Your Yarn home page.

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