Colour Names: Talking About Hue

Recently, I watched a podcaster hugging a skein of fuchsia yarn and exclaiming how much she loved this ‘chartreuse’ colour. Okay, as she is an indie-dyer, she probably knew that the colour was fuchsia and not chartreuse.  I assume that she simply misnamed it whilst her heart was beating quickly when blinded by love. But this made me think about the naming of colours.

A week or two ago, I was asked to dye up some yellow yarn.  My immediate thought was “ would you like an orange yellow, a bright sun yellow, a green yellow, a soft yellow …”.  You get the idea.

Those of us who work with colour in our creative life realize that it is very difficult to name a colour in such a way as to easily convey to another person the exact image of the colour that we envision.  We strive to find a name that will project an image of the exact hue, saturation, and value.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Albert H. Munsell developed a system to help us accurately communicate color by establishing an orderly three-dimensional system to identify every colour that exists.

Using numbers and letters, he was able to define a system that clearly identified the hue, the colour name, with familiar letters such as Y for yellow, R for red, etc.; the value, the degree of lightness of the colour, identified numerically from 0-10, ‘0” for black and “10” for white; and chroma, the degree of deviation from pure saturation of a colour, also identified numerically starting at ‘0” but with no definite end number. So, can I interest you in 7 skeins of 5R 6/14?  Or would you prefer 7 skeins of ‘Heart Throb’?

Today, designers have found a way to identify a colour by creating names that are mash-ups of universally recognized hues to which most people can relate, thanks to our many years of experience with our Crayola Crayon sets.

‘Grellow’ is one of those colour name mash-ups.  So what do you think Grellow looks like?  Is it a green and yellow mixture or a grey and yellow mixture? I asked Google and discovered that some sites claim it to be one while other sites insist it is the other.  The online Urban Dictionary describes Grellow as “the colour of a tennis ball”. So there you have it.

Another popular mash-up colour name is Greige.  This one is definitely a grey/beige mix and not a green/beige mix.

So, I have decided to come up with some names of my own, although I may have deviated from my Crayola Crayon set in order to give this a good go.  Turque is turquoise and blue, Chellow is charcoal and yellow, and Bleal is a blue and teal.

And here is a picture of my favourite H’ewePhoria colour mash-up. It is a mix of blue and pink which I have called Blink.


As creative as today’s mash-up colour names are, they do have the advantage of being very descriptive as well as being recognizable to anyone who has fond memories of their first set of Crayola Crayons.


Rhonda Kellett

H’ewePhoria, Hand-Dyed Fibres


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