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How to choose colours everybody can agree on

The Colour Council

If your mum asked you for a green jumper for her birthday, how would you make sure you get the green she likes? If you had to make a cinema advert for Coca Cola, how would you make sure that distinctive red came out accurately on screen? Hmmm… The safest thing with your mum would probably be to ask her if she’s got a specific green jumper in mind and buy that. If not she might say something like “that green on a Waitrose bag” (er… which one, mum?) or “a grassy sort of green” (ditto) and you’d have a bit more to go on. If it was my mum I’d probably keep the receipt – just in case. Horticultural_01.jpg Coca Cola on the other hand would be much easier than your mum, because as a worldwide brand they’ve already worked out the red that looks best on screen and they’d give you a specification on exactly the colour to use. Horticultural_09.jpg It’s not a new challenge. Flag makers needed the right dyes to make sure Nelson went into the battle of Trafalgar under the right red, white and blue. And you can bet the designer for Tutenkamen’s death mask showed the Pharaoh’s team a few samples before they agreed on those blue stripes. Today it’s much easier. Graphic designers specify Pantone colours built into their computer programs. The colours aren’t 100% accurate on screen but it doesn’t matter, because they use printed Pantone colour charts that show exactly how the colours will look in print. pantone.jpg On a recent foray into the Lewes junk shops we unearthed a 1940 Horticultural Colour Chart based on flowers, herbs, plants and fruit. Colours include examples like Mimosa Yellow and Azalea Pink, and British Colour Council standard colours like Vermilion and Brick Red found in plants. Horticultural_03.jpg Instructions on using the chart are incredibly complicated, but it doesn’t make the colours any less lovely, and we’re going to share them with you bit by bit, matching them up with paints and papers. This week we’ll start with the lovely Primrose Yellow, available in the same name and a perfect match from the highly desirable Designer’s Guild colour card. Horticultural_07.jpg And if you wanted to venture outdoors and paint your shed Primrose Yellow, or your window frames, the Horticultural Examples part of the chart points out the lovely Rose “Mermaid” you can plant as a perfect match. Horticultural_13.jpg Of course no designer’s toolkit is complete without a complete range of colour cards, and the best way to get them all in one go is to buy a designerpaint colour card pack. At £5.95 it gives you an indispensable reference for every paint from every designer paint brand. And Brewers own Albany card includes the British Standard colours too, passed down from the original British Colour Council all those years ago. Horticultural_11.jpg Happy painting!

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