Lori Sokoluk Art

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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 collectionsHere’s a fun article about how commercial paint colors get their names. 


What are some of the most unusual color names you've encountered?

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