I’ve just done a color mixing workshop, so color and color names are on my mind. I often wonder how colors get their names.
Older pigment often reflect the organic/mineral origins of the color:
- Ochre: ochre is naturally tinted clay containing ferric oxide, and produces an earthy pigment varying in colour from cream and light yellow to brown or red.
- Sienna: earth containing iron oxide. Raw Sienna is yellowish. When burnt, it becomes an orangish mid-brown.
- Umber: umber is a natural brown clay pigment containing iron and manganese oxide. Heating intensifies the colour, resulting in "burnt umber".
- Indigo: a deep blue colour pigment, traditionally made from the Indigofera family of plants.
- Madder: originally created from the family of Madder plants.
Sythetic pigments new and old often incorporate the chemical as part of the name:
- dioxazine purple
- phthalocyanine blue
- quinacradone gold
- cadmium red
- cobalt blue
Once you leave the art store and enter the world of interior design or fashion, naming colors becomes a whole other ball game. In my days as an architect, I once specified that rowhouses be painted in “squirrel”, which was a light lavendar-grey. And I’d love a job naming colors for one of OPI’s nail polish collections. Here’s a fun article about how commercial paint colors get their names.
What are some of the most unusual color names you've encountered?