The Color Thesaurus

I love to collect words. Making word lists can help to find the voice of my story, dig into the emotion of a scene, or create variety.

One of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow.  Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.

So for fun, I created this color thesaurus for your reference. Of course, there are plenty more color names  in the world, so, this is just to get you started.

Fill your stories with a rainbow of images!













176 thoughts on “The Color Thesaurus

    • Yes, cyan would also work for that color. But arctic could be a more evocative word, depending on the context of the sentence and story. The point of this color thesaurus wasn’t to 100% match the word with the color, so much as explore different evocative and sensual word choices that push past one’s first word choice of blue.

  1. Hello Ingrid!

    I just love this! I am a Makeup Artist obsessed with Color Theory, so this just lit my fire!

    Thank you so much. I shared it in Social Media with links to your blog. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Sarvodaya and commented:
    The nuances of color are as fascinating as they are practical. Whether you’re an artist, writer, or just someone who enjoys word collecting, this is great to have on hand.

  3. I appreciation for word list also. I have large notebooks filled with them. Thank you for sharing your color list. It will come in very handy.

    You have my favorite color in your hair, purple. I think people look outstandingly with unusual hair colors. Don’t change it because it makes you look unique.

  4. I can’t thank you enough for sharing these. These would be excellent printed and hung on the wall besides my story board. I thank you, and my readers thank you. 😉

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  6. This is fantastic! Kids often don’t know what a color word means, so this would be great to help them use color words more precisely in their writing. The only one that threw me was sapphire, which is my birthstone. I always associated it with a deep, cool blue instead of the more tealish color on the chart.

    Thanks again for a great resource. Pinning for sure!

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  10. Oh, wow, these charts are incredibly helpful. I prefer writing in English, but it is not my native language … So even though my vocabulary has grown leaps and bounds since I started writing in English, every now and then I struggle a little when it comes to descriptions. Thank you so much for creating and sharing these!

  11. Thank you very much for this, our daughter has difficulties with imagery – this will definitely be a joy for her to learn that she can always place a name to a color and bank it into her memory.

  12. Ingrid, just discovered this and appreciate this information. I have posted it on my Pinterest Home Staging board ( and on Google+. Thanks for writing about this and creating this information. Eileen

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  14. Was just pointed to this and …. Wow! I was compelled to look for one of my favorite colors since I was a kid — and there it was. Magenta, the word, on Magenta the color, not on some other bright pinky red that is *not* the color I love.

    • John! I love this link. Thank you for sharing more great color names. An naming is always subjective. Plus we all see color differently due to our color acuity. So what I see as pink, you might see a peach. But I adore this link!

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  16. Lovely. I disagreed with some of the names. But lovely anyway. I’m guessing no two people who really love colour would totally agree on what each could be called.
    Black was interesting because I could only differentiate a few of them. And I thought this must be how men perceive colours…

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  19. I love this! I’m an artist whose work primarily deals with color. Have you thought about turning this concept into a poster? If you make a poster, please let me know. I’d likely buy one to put in a child’s room. Nice concept!

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  21. I have a five year old who wants to become a “book writer” and is in love with her thesaurus. I am going to print these off so she can save them to memory. Cheers!

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    • Hi Xaraxia,

      Jade is a stone that comes in many colors (yes, green is the most prominent). But it also comes in black, white, blue, purple, and red as well. You’re right, most people will associate jade with green. However, my personal association with jade is a black color (and this is a subjective color thesaurus). I used to love looking at the ancient Chinese sculptures made of black jade at the museum near the art school I went to.

      • Ah, fair enough. I was thinking of it from the perspective of writing for someone else, so I was thinking colour names rather than what jade actually is.

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  38. Hello, thank you for sharing. I took the liberty of linking to this post on a French quilters forum (we love colours too!). I hope you don’t mind. If you do, let me know and I’l remove it. Beatrice.

  39. Hello, Ingrid!

    I found this post after it was suggested to me by a friend when I confessed to having some difficulty with my color-themed naming scheme for a certain story I’m working on, and I find it write helpful for me. I’ve even bookmarked it for any future color problems I may have!

    I noticed, though, that there was a color missing from either the red or purple charts (really, it could fit into either).

    Therefore, if it doesn’t trouble you, I believe I’ve got a color that you may or may not know for if you update this list in the future:

    Carmine, a shade of dark red with purple undertones typically used to describe the color of blood.

    I used carmine as the family name of a protagonist of mine who hails from royal lineage, because I thought it worked really well in that regard.

    So, there you go. Provide some useful info for me, and I give (maybe) useful info back in return.

    Thanks, and best regards,

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  43. Reblogged this on chrismcmullen and commented:
    Wow. When I clicked the link, it was far more impressive than I was expecting. It’s amazingly comprehensive and useful, and the further you scroll down the more of a visual treat it becomes. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

  44. Thank you for this. Probably do need to expand my colour descriptions. That said, I wrote a post which referred to Australia’s Dame Edna Everidge where I described her hair as being “pink” or “purple”. After reading your chart, I thought about changing that but then I thought that when it comes to hair that the pink and purple were out there in themselves and these are the words we use out of I guess a sense of shock. I think I might need to have some practice on the colour front.xx Rowena

  45. Hey that’s great especially useful to me because……….like a large number of men I have some colour blindness, which is a pain if I am in a hardware store looking for a particular shade, say a pale grey, and everything is called by some idiotic name which bears no resemblance or suggestion to its colour palette.
    For instance I have no comprehension of what basic colour ‘Windy Shore’ is. Neither does’Willow Wisp’ or ‘Decedent Night’ help. Oh, these are genuine paint shade descriptions! Can you tell what they are…..NO…neither can I when I have the can in my hand.
    So until the manufactures add a hint, like (this is a pale blue) in writing on the label your colour thesaurus would be an absolute godsend……Providing each section was noted as ‘blues’ browns’ ‘greys’ etc. to help us inflicted souls with this condition.
    Maybe you have the beginnings of a business there?

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  49. Thank you for your beautiful color words! My students had a great time picking one for their tangram animal we created in class.

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  51. This a beautiful resource. I have laminated it and hang it in the classroom for my pupils. They fight over it constantly, and already their writing has been elevated by using it. Thank you!

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