Writing With Color
So the same old reds and greens are giving you the blues. You want to make your settings more vibrant, but you just don’t know where to start. Wake up, and open your eyes.
Color is everywhere, and it’s the easiest way to add a little pizzazz to an otherwise bland description. Choose the right word, and your reader will have an instant association. Think about it. If you wanted to write about a memorable sunset, would you rather use words like red and orange or scarlet and tangerine? Which gives you a more visual connection?
Tired of writing my own reds and greens and dying for more than just scarlets and tangerines to choose from, I sat down one day and compiled my very own roster of “colorful colors.” I began by writing the major colors into categories: neutral shades first then all the major colors on the spectrum in rainbow order (who said that junior high school science wouldn’t come in handy one day?).
Once my categories were established, it was time to devise the actual list. First, the two most obvious: food and gems. Everyone can picture the color of an avocado or an amethyst. I tossed in some flowers: rose and daffodil are two distinct examples. Added a few animals to the mix: cardinal and panther fit the bill.
Are you exhausted from the possibilities yet? I was only getting started. I thought to myself, why not try a box of crayons? I went right to the Crayola website and achieved amazing results. Next stop, the local home improvement store’s paint department. Those square paint chip samples offer a multitude of choices, like driftwood or moonlight.
I see your eyes glazing over. Who has time for all that? Fear not, my droopy friend, for I have always been taught to share. Hence, I offer you, no strings attached, my list of “Colorful Colors” for your perusal. I hope they inspire you.
Remember, these are just a few of the thousands of possibilities. Some are descriptive of the larger color group, such as funereal black or rain slicker yellow, and others stand alone, such as ebony or banana. Still others, like neon and bisque, can be used with more than one shade on the color wheel. Get imaginative and string two or more together as in, “The wallpaper was a hideous shade of green somewhere between moss and lime.”
Whether you use one or all of them, let these words be a guide for you–a jumping off spot, if you will. Certainly, there are many more. All you have to do is look at the world around you.
Black: asphalt, brimstone, burnt toast, carbon, coal, crow, earth, ebony, espresso, funereal, graphite, ink, jet, Jolly Roger, licorice, mascara, night, obsidian, onyx, panther, pepper, pitch, priestly, raven, soot, tar, tea, tuxedo, witch’s hat, zinc
White: alabaster, arctic, atrium, birch, bleached, bridal, cameo, cauliflower, chalk, cloud, cotton, cream cheese, diamond, dove, fluorescent, frost, gardenia, ghost, halogen, ice, lace, lightning, lily, milk, moonlight, onion, opal, paper, peppermint, piña colada, polar, quartz, rice, snow, sodium, sugar, swan, titanium, vanilla, waterfall, whitewash
Beige/Off-white: almond, antique, bisque, bone, buff, champagne, cream, driftwood, ecru, eggshell, ivory, jute, khaki, linen, moonlight, mother of pearl, muslin, natural, oatmeal, opal, papyrus, parchment, pearl, percale, putty, seashell
Brown: Amaretto, apple butter, ash, bark, beaver, bronze, brunette, butterscotch, café au lait, camel, caramel, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, cognac, cola, copper, cordovan, dirt, earth, fawn, feldspar, ginger, hamster, honey, leather, mahogany, maple, moccasin, mousy, mushroom, nutmeg, oak, peanut butter, pumpernickel, raisin, roan, saddle, sandy, scorched earth, sepia, sparrow, spice, syrup, tan, taupe, tawny, timber, toast, tumbleweed, umber, wheat, wicker, wren
Gray: ash, battleship, charcoal, dove, driftwood, dun, metallic, nickel, pewter, pigeon, putty, salt and pepper, shadow, slate, smoke, steely, storm clouds, timberwolf
Silver: aluminum, armor, foil, glass, mercury, mirror, platinum, steel, sterling, tinsel, titanium
Red: adobe, apple, auburn, beet, blister, blood, Bordeaux, brick, burgundy, candy apple, candy cane, cardinal, cherry, chili pepper, claret, cooked lobster, cordovan, cranberry, crimson, currant, dragonlady, fire, fire engine, garnet, hooker, Irish Setter, ketchup, licorice, loganberry, marinara, maroon, matchstick, mulberry, pomegranate, puce, putana, raspberry, rose, ruby, ruddy, rust, scarlet, stop sign, sunburn, sunset, tomato, valentine, vermilion, wine
Orange: apricot, burnt, cantaloupe, carrot, cheddar, cheese puffs, coral, lifevest, Mandarin, mango, marigold, marmalade, melon, neon, peach, pennant, persimmon, pumpkin, russet, sherbet, sienna, sunrise, sweet potato, tangerine, terracotta, tigerlily, traffic cone
Yellow: amber, banana, blond, brass, butter, canary, caution, citrine, citrus, corn, cornsilk, custard, daffodil, dandelion, egg yolk, flaxen, gold, goldenrod, highlighter, honeysuckle, lemon, maize, moonlight, mustard, pear, pineapple, rain slicker, saffron, school bus, straw, sun, sunflower, sunny, tiger’s eye, topaz
Green: algae, allium, aloe, apple, Army, artichoke, asparagus, avocado, cabbage, celery, chartreuse, chive, dishsoap, dragon, emerald, fern, fir, forest, grass, hazel, honeydew, hunter, Ireland, jade, kelly, khaki, kiwi, leaf, lime, lizard, mallard, meadow, mint, mistletoe, moldy, monster, moss, neon, Nile, olive, pea, pear, peridot, pickle, pine, pistachio, reptilian, scallion, sea, seafoam, seaweed, serpent, shamrock, spearmint, spring, teal, wintergreen
Blue: anil, aqua, aquamarine, azure, baby, bay, blueberry, cadet, Caribbean, cerulean, China, cobalt, cornflower, crystal, cyan, denim, electric, hydrangea, ice, indigo, iolite, lagoon, lapis, Mediterranean, midnight, Navy, ocean, Pacific, peacock, periwinkle, powder, robin’s egg, royal, sapphire, sky, stonewashed, turquoise, Wedgwood, wisteria
Purple: amethyst, Bermuda onion, eggplant, elderberry, grape, indigo, iolite, iris, lavender, lilac, magenta, orchid, plum, puce, royal, tanzanite, violet
Pink: ballerina, bismuth (aka Pepto-Bismol), bisque, blush, bubble gum, carnation, cerise, cotton candy, flamingo, fuchsia, hibiscus, mauve, peony, powder puff, primrose, raspberry, rose, rosé, salmon, shell, shrimp, slipper, strawberry, thistle, tourmaline, watermelon, white zinfandel
Colorless: crystal, glassy, onionskin, translucent, transparent, quartz, water
Multi-colored: prismatic, rainbow, tie-dyed