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What color is this? An interesting debate.

Contributor: jessica July 3, 2013

What color is this?

Recently a friend posted an image of a solid color on Facebook with a simple question:

What color is this?

Not a question you might ask yourself too often, but you may be surprised how many different variations, practices and methods there are to answering that question.

There were a variety of answers.

A few people posted Pantone® color names or numbers. Many commercial industries utilize the Pantone Matching System® (PMS) to easily identify specific colors based on their designated name or number. Another common tool is Color-aid®, a system of differently colored papers, which is often used as teaching tool in art and design classes, but has also aided (no pun intended) professionals in a vast array of industries.

Some people gave descriptive names such as “seafoam”, “aquamarine”, “cornflower blue”, “eggshell blue” and “baby blue”. Using descriptive names for values and hues is certainly not an uncommon practice. Probably the company most recognized for this would be Crayola. From an early age, we learn to identify colors utilizing Crayola’s rainbow of playfully named colors.

Do you remember these quotes from the “Malled” episode of MTV’s Daria?

Mrs. Bennett: Left at N Cranberry. Wait, is that cranberry or magenta? Jane, you’re an artist.
Jane: It’s cranapple.

Another person posted a hexadecimal value. In website design, colors are identified by their hexadecimal value, such as #6495ED, but they can also be identified by certain names, such as “CornflowerBlue”.

Someone even posted the RGB (160, 195, 240) and CMYK (35, 15, 0, 0) values of the color. The RGB color model is an additive color model, meaning that red, green, and blue are added together in various amounts to reproduce a broad array of colors. RGB is utilized by computer monitors, mobile phones, televisions, digital cameras, etc. Many printers, on the other hand, utilize CMYK. The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model which refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

And then some people tried to be more traditional with terms like “turquoise” and “cyan”.

Interesting responses, no?

There are many methods to identifying color, and these are just a handful of common practices. When selecting a color, it is important to remember that color is interpreted differently in different mediums and in different light. The difference in ink, paper, screen, printing process, etc. results in variations of value, hue and intensity. Different color identifying methods are appropriate in different situations in order to identify, match and coordinate colors to produce the best results.