The large variety of color hues in the artist world is pretty amazing! Beyond “blue”, “green”, “yellow” and so on… the names of some colors have become a lot more specific. Ever wonder where those elaborate color names come from?
From flowers and foods… to chemical compounds and plenty of good ol’ Latin… to natural minerals, as well as some rather unconventional sources of being manufactured- colors have gotten their names from all over the world. Some are hard to pronounce, and even harder to spell correctly- and many of them have existed for centuries.
We’ve done a little research for you and made this list of a few colors of products that we carry here at Marker Supply with names/prefixes that may be unfamiliar to some. Which color they are, how they were named, and how the colors themselves are made is all fun information to explore!
Alice Blue- A pale tint of Azure Blue that was a favorite color of Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice, who helped the color rise to popularity via fashion trends.
Alizarin Crimson- A deep red. From alizari, the French name for the Madder Root, Alizarin became the first natural pigment to be recreated synthetically in 1869.
Azure- Named from a mineral with an intense blue color, the Lapis Lazuli. The French called the color azur, and from there it was taken & first used in English in 1374 within a work of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Bordeaux- A dark rose color that represents Bordeaux wine, a color also known in English as Claret.
Cadmium- A chemical compound that is widely used in making nickel-cadmium batteries. Most of the remaining cadmium supplies are used to make brilliantly colored red/orange/yellow pigments. Before the use of Cadmium, these color shades were troublesome to produce. This chemical allows these colors to be much more stable and lightfast.
Caput Mortuum- A variety of brownish purple, sometimes called Cardinal Purple. These Latin words literally translated mean “dead head” or “worthless remains”- as with similarly-colored rust being a useless residue left as some materials age.
Carmine- The word itself stems back several languages- from French carmin, taken from Persian carmir, which means “red, crimson”, taken from Sanskrit krimiga, meaning “insect-produced”. Carmine is a natural red dye extracted from dried, boiled insects.
Celadon- A pale green that is said to have come from the character Celadon, a shepherd in the 17th century French romance novel L’Astree who always wore green clothing.
Cerulean- First named as a color in 1590, from Latin caeruleus, meaning “dark blue, blue, or blue-green”- and is also thought to be derived from the Latin word caelum, which means “heaven” or “sky”.
Chartreuse- A color halfway between yellow and green that was named after a French liqueur of the same name.
Delft Blue- A color name also known by the brand name Delftware. Delft Blue is a world-famous blue and white pottery type that has been produced in the city of Delft, Netherlands since the 17th century.
Esterel Brown- This color name comes from the Esterel Massif, a mountain range in France.
Hooker’s Green- This green got its name from botanical artist William Hooker, who in the 1800s created a special pigment for leaves.
Indanthrene- Sometimes spelled Indanthone, this bluish color was made from combining anthraquinone (an organic dye) with indigo.
Kelly Green- Came around in the early 1900s, as both the color green and the family name Kelly were both super popular in Ireland.
Lapis Blue- Named from a mineral with an intense blue color, the Lapis Lazuli.
Madder- Common name for a species of Rubia plants. A red dye is harvested from their roots and when made into a paint colorant, is called Madder Lake.
Marseille Yellow- Named after the city of Marseille in France.
Mummy Brown- Originally made from… yep, you guessed it… ground-up Egyptian mummies. When artists became aware of these origins in the 1800s, its popularity greatly decreased. Pigments with this name are modernly made with natural minerals.
Naples Yellow- First made in the Naples region of Italy. In its true form, rarely used today, it is a highly toxic pigment due to lead. One of the oldest synthetically-made pigments, it got its English name in 1738.
Ochre- From a Greek word meaning pale yellow. A natural “earth pigment” that was a popular paint for prehistoric man. Evidence of it being used in cave paintings has been dated to 75,000 years ago.
Peridot Green- A gemstone that is found in only this one color, an olive-green. The name has been suggested to have come from classic Latin paederot, a type of opal.
Phthalo Blue/Green- Synthetic blue pigments made from Phthalocyanine dye.
Rhodamine- Stemming from the word Rhodo, Latin for rosy pink.
Saffron- A golden yellow found in the saffron crocus flower.
Sanguine- A reddish-brown color that comes from the Latin sanguis, meaning blood.
Sedum- A pale blue that comes from the Sedum plant family.
Sienna, Raw/Burnt- A naturally occurring pigment, one of the very first to be used by humans with cave paintings, etc. In its natural state (raw) it is a lighter, more yellowish-brown. When heated up (burnt) it darkens and becomes more reddish-brown. Officially named in 1760, it gets its name from the city Siena, where it was produced in Renaissance times.
Ultramarine- Named in English in 1598 from Latin ultramarinus = “beyond the sea” (since it had to be imported into Europe via ship). In the Middle Ages, this was the finest and most expensive blue pigment.
Umber, Raw/Burnt- An earth pigment taken from the Umbria Mountains in Italy. Similar to Raw/Burnt Sienna, except darker in color.
Veridian- A blue-green pigment that was translated into English in the 1860s from the Latin word for “green”- Viridis.
Vermilion- A brilliant red color that got its name from its resemblance to a similarly-colored red dye made from an insect, the Kermes Vermilio. First used as an English word in 1289.
Wild Heather- A purplish color named after Heather flowers, which are famous throughout Europe.
Wisteria- First used as a color name in 1892. Named after the flower, which is light lavender in color.
Interesting stuff, eh?! How many of those colors were you aware of their origin?
(*Side note: You can find many of these interesting colors in our newly-added line of Faber-Castell Polychromos Oil-Based colored pencils!)
The drabness of wintertime is almost at an end and the amount of color outside is about to come back… but if you can’t wait for things to turn green and be in full bloom, or if you spend a lot of your day inside at school or the office, add some extra color back into your world with the cool customizable color pen- the Cocoiro!
The ZIG Cocoiro Lettering Pen stands out from the rest of the pens you use every day with a variety of colors and interchangeable tips! Pick the one you like best from the 16 body color choices, or grab a few and mix ‘n match the top and bottom halves to create a 2-tone pen! Then chose an ink cartridge to go inside- which also come in a range of different colors- and are available as a ball point, extra fine flexible, or brush tip! So as your project styles change, your pen style can change to accommodate it. And when you run out of ink, just pop in a new ink refill without having to say goodbye to your favorite pen!
Or start with one of the all-in-one basic combos.. try the Roller Ball Packs HERE!
From cards and letters, to homework, to sketching and doodling, to just making your to-do lists a little more fun- the Cocoiro can brighten things up any and every time you write!