All you ever needed to know about crayons
August 1, 2007 4:44 PM   Subscribe


I predict this will be another of those complete genius posts that only attracts about 10 comments.
posted by kersplunk at 5:16 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ya know what drives me insane about crayola... WTF kinda color is jazzberry jam?

Frankly i think kids should get crayons with names of real colors.. not colors of lipstick or nail polish made up BS.
posted by MrLint at 5:30 PM on August 1, 2007

"Midnight Blue" is definitely less offputting than "Prussian Blue", so changing the name was a good call there.

I remember my mom being baffled by the lack of "flesh" in my box of 64. My kids have People Colors for all their skintone needs.
posted by padraigin at 5:40 PM on August 1, 2007

It's funny going through that second link, the one that lists the color chronology. It took me back to my times in elementary school where I was often faced with pressing dilemmas, such as should I go with orange-red or red-orange?

One thing about the naming of colors, though, that I find interesting is how we must create a vocabulary for colors (and with the occasional name changes from Crayola, recreate the vocabulary). But this vocabulary often doesn't tell you anything about the color. I mean, what color is "wild watermelon"? Is it a shade of green? Or a shade of pink? As the chronology points out, it's a shade of pink, but even though wild watermelon sounds cute and exciting, the original color name, ultra pink, does a better job of giving someone an idea of what the color might look like.

The thing is, though, as you look through the colors, you can get an idea that maybe "piggy pink" is a fleshier shade of pink from the normal "pink." I guess it's better than naming the colors #FF00FF
posted by snwod at 5:46 PM on August 1, 2007

Man, I wish that lost colors link was less disorganized. I never knew there was a Munsell and Crayola coproduction! I love Munsell charts.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:03 PM on August 1, 2007

Similar to the sentiment behind Play Doh perfume, I'd buy Crayola perfume in a *second*. This is a cool post. Thanks.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:06 PM on August 1, 2007

That lost colors link has some fishy spyware ad installer business going on.
posted by sciurus at 6:08 PM on August 1, 2007

Great post, bijou! And thanks for the Mr. Rogers link; I haven't seen that since I was a kid and I always remembered it.

Before it loaded, RealPlayer showed the name of the last file I watched, an interview with Isaac Asimov. I was like, "WTF? Asimov is going to narrate a crayon manufacturing video? Sweet!" Alas, not as cool as I was led to believe, but still pretty damn neato.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:18 PM on August 1, 2007

Crayola crayons smell like childhood.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:20 PM on August 1, 2007

Emo Crayons
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:27 PM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]

Because this post is altogether too interesting and edifying, here's Strong Bad's take on crayons. You know. To useless it up a bit.
posted by darksasami at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2007

Okay, out with my crayons. I think I've got a bible coloring book around somewhere.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:43 PM on August 1, 2007

As the father of a two and a half year old, I can say with certainty that there is no crayon better than Crayola. We've bought a few packs of random brands at the drugstore in a pinch, and they're always too hard and barely scratch out a line. I don't know what Crayola does, but they do it right.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:49 PM on August 1, 2007

Ohhh yeah.. I saw that Mr. Rogers video when I was little and never forgot it. It's the root of my crayon-eating fantasies.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2007

I find interesting is how we must create a vocabulary for colors
posted by snwod at 8:46 PM on August 1

When I worked at a check-printing factory as the custom check admin, I was constantly taking orders over the phone from people who didn't have Pantone guides,and it was really interesting trying to establish what shade they wanted on their custom check. (Often, they were in too great a hurry to get a paper proof, so proofing would be done via email, and of course their computer screen wouldn't give them a true idea of the colors being used.) A lot of people had definite ideas about the difference between blue-green and green-blue (although it's the same colour in Pantone), but none of them had coinciding ideas (i.e. your green-blue is a different shade than others' green-blue). The colours between red and brown were prone to a lot of debate as well.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:21 PM on August 1, 2007

Ah, what a gem of a post bijou.

"People colors". About time. :)

When I was a kid a friend had one of those deluxe 64 color Crayola boxes with *every* color, including, wow, silver and gold. Seemed enormous at the time. Oh I deeply coveted that box of crayons. As a present to my inner kid I bought one of those great crayon sets in my late 30's and got huge satisfaction out of it. What delectable names for colors: Aquamarine, Copper, Lavender, Raw Sienna, Blue Gray, Forest Green, Mulberry, Raw Umber, Burnt Orange, Goldenrod, Navy blue, Sepia, Cadet Blue, Indian Red, Plum, Sky Blue... Periwinkle, Sea Green...crayon bliss.

They've invented a couple of exciting additions to kids' art tools: the multicolored crayon and multicolored pencil.

Joseph Barbaccia made a self portrait using actual crayons as pixels, quite neat.

A crayon fractal.

Jamie Shovlin's art, using crayons, is wonderful. Crayola Color Theory.

Crayola birthday cakes.
posted by nickyskye at 7:34 PM on August 1, 2007

As we are talking about crayons in history, I think it is important to point out that crayons played a role in encouraging the Japanese to have separate words for green and blue [PDF], although even today it seems like green and blue in Japan are somewhat interchangeable.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 7:58 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

The good thing about people colors is that there are already long-established vocabularies we can use to describe them. Although to match the Crayola-style color names, maybe we should add some sort of fruit names into the mix.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:16 PM on August 1, 2007

A lot of people had definite ideas about the difference between blue-green and green-blue (although it's the same colour in Pantone), but none of them had coinciding ideas (i.e. your green-blue is a different shade than others' green-blue).

Colour names and different perceptions of colour have fascinated me ever since I was five years old and my mother gave me what she said was a red bowl, although to me it was clearly orange :)

I did an informal poll amongst my friends once just for fun. What's the difference between lavender and lilac? I see lavender as bluer and lilac as pinker, but not everyone agreed. Most people saw crimson as a blue-toned red and scarlet as an orange-toned red, but one friend believed the opposite. And then there's teal, turquoise and aqua, or magenta, cerise and fuchsia; and I was astonished on AskMe some time ago to find that some people see "grey" and "gray" as two different shades.
posted by andraste at 9:17 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just looking at the names in the Crayola chronology brings back so many memories. No, Neon Carrot is not a terribly descriptive or accurate term for the crayon that, despite the vivid color of its wax, produced an insipid and creamy tint on white paper. But I loved names like Neon Carrot; they register in a kid's imagination in a way that Yellow Green never really could. To this day I think about things as being Purple Mountain's Majesty or Bittersweet.

Also, the way the Crayola page displays for me gives the illusion that "Razzmatazz Timber Wolf," "Shamrock Tumbleweed," and "Tickle Me Wisteria" are actual crayon colors. Which would be totally awesome.
posted by bookish at 9:34 PM on August 1, 2007

thirteenkiller, just a warning: I believe that I saw in my research that eating too many crayons can cause intestinal blockages.

nickyskye, thanks for an awesome contribution. Silver and gold were big, huge deals for me when I got my first 64-color box as well.

Oh, and here are some online coloring books for everyone. Enjoy!
posted by bijou at 9:47 PM on August 1, 2007

According to your profile, this is your first FPP, bijou. Good work!... I luuurve Crayola crayons. I remember when I was old enough to make the big jump from the 16-box to the giant 64-box. What a treat! I savored those crayons... I still buy them every once in awhile (even though my kids are past crayon-age) just for fun. :)
posted by amyms at 11:50 PM on August 1, 2007

If you remember, back in 1990, Crayola announced that they were going to retire eight of the old colors. At the time, I lived in Phillipsburg, NJ, just across the river from Easton, PA, home to Binney and Smith.

Being an out-of-work radio DJ at the time (and having a history of media hoaxes and stunts), I decided to involve myself with this somehow.

Long story short, I invented C.R.A.Y.O.N., the Committee to Reestablish All Your Old Norms, which "protested" the retirement of the eight colors.

It generated TV, radio and print stories about the "protest" for months, actually well over a year. According to the CEO of Binney and Smith, the promotion (which didn't cost them a dime) helped them get several million dollars in additional sales. It got me on CNN, the Today Show, in hundreds of newspapers via the A.P., Time and Seventeen magazines and other outlets. It was a wild ride!
posted by Cranky Media Guy at 12:15 AM on August 2, 2007 [5 favorites]

"People colors". About time. :)
Back in the mid-late 90's, Crayola, themselves, released small, themed collections of colors. One of those small boxes was a "multicultural" set. It was a really good range of skin colors. I have a box of them somewhere in this mess here...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:49 AM on August 2, 2007

There is nothing, in the universe, so full of potential as a giant box of brand-new crayons, none of which are broken, all of the points uniform and perfect (oh, those edges on the round factory point, so perfect for outlining). Combine those with a new, detailed coloring book, and it is like, heaven. Or, at the very least, a great way to keep occupied on long airline flights.
posted by mckenney at 5:26 AM on August 2, 2007

Last year I got to take a production-line tour at the Crayola factory (the real one, not the tourist attraction in Easton). As soon as we walked in the door, everyone stopped, inhaled that wonderful scent, and smiled. Amazing tour too.
posted by djb at 6:56 AM on August 2, 2007

Ooh, speaking of detailed coloring books, remember these?

The "retired colors" site has some icky popups and stuff at it, be warned. I miss blue gray. It had such a nice skritchy texture. And I loved the fact that they had both red orange and orange red.

I was just looking at a box of 24 yesterday, and wondering if they still had pine green. I always liked that one too, probably more because of the texture than the color.

I remember having a massive set of crayons when I was in the first grade, bigger even than the 64 box with the cool sharpener. It was a flat box like board games came in. Haven't seen one since.
posted by bink at 6:59 AM on August 2, 2007

Anyone remember Sesame Street having a clip inside a crayon factory once? You know, one of those few-minute segements they did on a seemingly random topic, complete with crazy music?
posted by cardamine at 8:09 AM on August 2, 2007

Cardamine, are you sure it isn't the Mr. Rogers one under bijou's sixth link?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2007

It wasn't that one...i don't think there was a voiceover...
posted by cardamine at 10:26 AM on August 2, 2007

I miss Violet Blue. Somewhere in all my old art supplies, I think I have a bunch of Violet Blue crayons that I took from my many boxes and squirreled away when they announced its retirement in 1990. Blue Violet just does not cut it, I say.

I too have always been fascinated with differing perceptions and naming of colors from a very young age. Violet Blue/Blue Violet and Red Orange/Orange Red always bothered me, even when I was very young, because the color of the crayon was closer to the first color in the name. For instance, Red Orange was redder than Orange Red. It seemed to me it should be the opposite. That the second color should be the core color, and the first color is just an adjective. Red Orange should have been Orange that was kind of Red. Then again, maybe they did name them that way, but I saw the colors differently than they did. Hard to explain, but art and language were clearly central to my thinking, even back then.

Ambrosia, I always color Bible coloring books. It's one of the few themes of coloring books that is widely available, non-licensed, and yet still has the same feel/quality of the licensed coloring books (not fancy, not too cheap either). Bible coloring books are like blank slates. It's all robes, just waiting to be colored insane colors. With licensed characters, even if I do decide to color Nemo a different color on every page, my brain is going to be saying "THAT FISH IS ORANGE" the whole time. Bible coloring books come with surprisingly little baggage.

Coloring is calming.
posted by lampoil at 10:39 AM on August 2, 2007

TheyCallItPeace, That's so fascinating about the Japanese not differentiating between blue and green. When I was learning to speak Tibetan as part of studying Buddhist texts, it was natural to ask the names of the various colors. Since I grew up with Crayolas and knew about color variations, it seemed likely other people would know about colors but no. Maybe no Crayolas, then color names not widely known among non-artists? I took knowing lots of color names totally for granted. Never dawned on me how much Crayolas taught in using them.

But most Tibetans do not use color names other than red (marpo), white (karpo) and black (ngakpo).

Never learned the word for brown in 25 years, 6 of them living with Tibetans, had to look it up on the internet now. Brown among Tibetans is usually called red. Every other color is basically ignored verbally, unless specifically a part of the academic reading of a scriptural text, like the name for Green Tara or the colors associated with the five buddhas (white, blue (ngonbo), yellow (serpo), red, green (janku)).

The stone, turquoise (yul), has a name but the color associated with the stone was not used commonly. And subtle variations of colors, connected with plant or landscape life at high altitudes, the mossy greens, sage, frosted, silvery blue greens, mauve, purple, mustard yellow, ochre, cobalt blue twilight, grey blue, deep blue, Alpen glow pink orange and brick orange of Himalayan words for it in Tibetan. Mute bliss.

It seems other people also had no names or few ones for colors.

Always thought that was a Tibetan thing. huh, the things one learns in a thread about Crayolas...

And bijou welcome to MetaFilter.
posted by nickyskye at 11:23 AM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

How do mefites pronounce crayon? My roommates and I (who represent 6 US states) discovered that some people actually say "cray-on", whereas others say "cran".
posted by !Jim at 12:56 PM on August 2, 2007

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:19 PM on August 2, 2007

"Crayon" has two syllables. Two! CRAY-on.
posted by houseofdanie at 1:26 PM on August 2, 2007

ive been collecting crayola crayons, not the tins, the toys, dolls or whatnot, since forever. i have them unused, dating back to the early 20s. i have unused "flesh" colored crayons, old ones that have since been renamed, ones that have just voted out of the box...
i even have a tattoo of the 8 pack from the 80s on my left forearm. i even got to show the ceo of crayola the tattoo at the 100 year celebration in easton pa to which he replied "hey wow! we are almost as cool as harley!" to which of course i replied "not really, im just a crayon dork."
relevant to this post? i dont know. i guess this is a sort of confession... YES! I AM A CRAYOLA CRAYON DORK!
so there.
posted by stackmonster at 3:08 PM on August 2, 2007

!Jim: Cray-on. Rhymes with rayon.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:34 PM on August 2, 2007

So happy that my prediction of few comments was way off the mark, but on another note, what were the dud colours in a typical box? I have far off memories of my sister's Crayola set with the black, red and a few others worn down to the nib, while snot green (warning - may not be actual colour name) stood there majestically in the box, tall as the day it was bought.
posted by kersplunk at 8:08 PM on August 3, 2007

I don't think I ever used periwinkle. Even once. Maybe girls found a use for it but I never did.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:17 AM on August 4, 2007

...what were the dud colours in a typical box?

I don't think I ever used periwinkle. Even once. Maybe girls found a use for it but I never did.

I used periwinkle all the time (not that it was necessarily a prettier color than the other blues, but because I liked the name of it)... I think the "duds" for me for the muddy brownish-greenish hues, and the burnt-umber and other brown-ish oranges.
posted by amyms at 10:14 AM on August 5, 2007

Sweet, I've been looking for an excuse to link to The Black Panther Colouring Book, thanks bijou!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:35 PM on August 6, 2007

Anyone remember Sesame Street having a clip inside a crayon factory once? You know, one of those few-minute segements they did on a seemingly random topic, complete with crazy music?

A lurker contacted me through Flickr mail and suggested this. I'm at work and blocked from YouTube, so for all I know there be goatse behind that link. But if I can't trust a MeFi lurker, who can I trust?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:10 AM on August 30, 2007

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