I have a real problem when someone asks me what my favourite colour is. It’s an impossible question for me to answer. It all depends on what sort of red, what sort of blue, and I can’t even generalise by saying bluish-green or orangy-red because it all depends…on the exact degree of bluish-ness or orangy-ness. And that’s just dealing with the pur-ish colour wheel spectrum of colours, and ignores the issue of how subdued or bright the colour is, and how light or dark it is.
Recently I noticed when filing my #adailyselfreflection on the laptop that the screen shows an irritating nuance of difference in hue in thumbnail images between .jpg format and .psd. In Photoshop, though, they look the same. Then when I upload, I see yet further changes. What I should do, I suppose is confront the off-putting task of checking my own screen calibration. Funnily enough, I manage to never have time to do this, which is slightly odd given how colour-fussy I am, and given how much I have done in recent years on Photoshop.
Working digitally and having to go out to print with professional printers is also always a bit nerve-wracking, and even after obtaining reassurance that they regularly calibrate their own printers and screens, I am still full of angst when I peel off the wrapping on a big piece. In the real world too, the infinitesimal differences matter. I am a huge fan of Farrow & Ball paint (both on the walls and on canvas) and on a couple of occasions I have had decorators trying to argue with me that they can get the ‘same colour’ for less. No, you can’t.
The other day I was happily mixing a vivid orange-red when I suddenly decided to see what Wikipaedia had to say on the matter. The search took me into a fascinating read on orange-red and the history of Vermilion, and led me to reminiscence about my first childhood paintbox with its scarlet, crimson, magenta and rose hues. I sat there trying to remember as many colour names for red as I could, and felt acute nostalgia for some unidentified something just by saying the names out loud. Do children today know about scarlet, crimson, magenta and rose? More worryingly, have I fulfilled my duty as a parent and ensured my own children can use these terms appropriately?
I compiled a chart of the main red colour terms in use, and have uploaded it below. Since I am willing to bet your screen is not calibrated either, there is no guarantee that any of these colours will show true, but context and relationships are just as important, and it is interesting to see how the characteristics of each are so apparent once placed alongside each other. “Red” is a quite inadequate description. I’m publishing a poll on your favourite red; it should show up in the sidebar opposite, so I do hope you can find your way to it and cast your vote. This is the first post in a regular series on colour, so I will reveal my favourite next time!