not as black as (one) is painted

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not as black as (one) is painted

Not as evil, malicious, or malignant as one is described or believed to be. Everyone is afraid of the old hermit who lives on the edge of town, but after having a few conversations with him, he's not nearly as black as he's painted. The biker gang plays up its tough demeanor and hellish reputation, but they're really just a bunch of regular guys and not as black as they're painted.
See also: black, not, painted