J.A. Stinger

Words Can Inspire The World

Master List of Color Names and Color Descriptions

Photo by agsandrew/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by agsandrew/iStock / Getty Images

This is a list of color names as well as color descriptions that relate to specific objects. Sometimes I think of a list I wished I had included in my book Master Lists for Writers, so I put it here!

I’ve tried to list the more familiar or clichéd descriptions first and then the fresher descriptions, though I haven’t tried to get it in perfect cliché-to-fresh order. Characters may still use clichés when they are speaking — sometimes, that’s just realistic dialogue.

Some of these suggest other qualities in addition to color, such as texture. Please note that many of these are not appropriate to use in describing a person’s skin color.

Sometimes just adding a more specific word can make a description more striking. For example, “white as paper” is okay. “White as copier paper” is more evocative, and might be perfect if you’re writing about someone in an office setting. “Black as a moonless night” stirs up a little more mystery than “black as night.”

Some of the more common color descriptions and phrases are actually outdated and/or a bit weird. We say “pitch black,” but few of us refer to “pitch” in that way otherwise (it’s a kind of tar.) We say “powder blue,” but what light blue powder is that referring to? “Brown as a berry” makes no sense at all.

Color descriptions can even evoke the worldview of a character in a fantasy, science fiction, or historical novel, such as “white as the robe of a priestess” or “black as a model T Ford.” A few of the descriptions on the list are pretty specific to the United States.

In some cases, the object being evoked may come in different colors, and that’s okay as long as you’re referring to the most standard color.

I may add more to this later!

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BLACK

raven

ebony

obsidian

onyx

sable

black as coal

pitch black

jet black

black as tar

black as night

black as a moonless night

black as ink

black as soot

crow-black

black as a beetle

black as crude oil

black as basalt

black as a tuxedo jacket

black as a man’s dress shoes

black as a Sharpie

black as caviar

black as Kalamata olives

black as peppercorns

black as wrought iron

black as a nun’s habit

black as a model T Ford

black as a car tire

black as outer space

black as an abyss

black as a bat

black as mascara

black as a cannonball

black as a vinyl record

black as the screen of a computer turned off

black as the pupil of an eye

black as the movie screen after the final scene

WHITE

alabaster

ivory

white as snow

white as a sheet

white as a ghost

lily-white

milky white

creamy white

pearl white

bone white

white as porcelain

dove white

white as sugar

white as paper

white as copier paper

eggshell white

white as a hard-boiled egg

white as marble

white as paste

white as school glue

zinc white

white as salt

white as talcum powder

white as lily of the valley

cauliflower white

white as cotton

white as toilet paper

white like mayonnaise

white as cottage cheese

white as a powdered donut

white like birch bark

white as a flag of surrender

white as Crisco

white as a lab coat

white as a lab rat

white as bleached gym socks

white as a dress shirt

white as Styrofoam

white as dandelion fluff

white as a skull

white as a golf ball

white as Dairy Queen ice cream

white as a polar bear

RED

scarlet

crimson

vermillion

carmine

garnet

burgundy

blood red

rose red

beet red

ruby red

wine red

red as a lobster

cherry red

cranberry

tomato red

red as a strawberry

raspberry red

watermelon red

red as a pomegranate

lipstick red

brick red

red as raw meat

red as a stop sign

stoplight red

red as a ladybug

fire truck red

cardinal red

red as a poppy

red as Twizzlers

red as a Coke can

red as a Solo cup

red as a Target shopping cart

red as a Netflix envelope

red as a London telephone box

sriracha sauce red

cayenne pepper red

carnelian red

geranium red

red as Mars

BLUE

azure

cerulean

aqua

cobalt

turquoise

navy

royal blue

cadet blue

Prussian blue

sky-blue

baby blue

cornflower blue

periwinkle blue

robin’s-egg blue

sapphire blue

aquamarine

blue as lapis lazuli

Wedgwood blue

blue as the ocean

glacial blue

lake blue

swimming-pool blue

morning-glory blue

hyacinth blue

hydrangea blue

blue like faded jeans

blue as Curaçao

blue like Neptune

blue like cheese mold

blue as a morpho butterfly

Cookie Monster blue

YELLOW

flax

saffron

parchment

mustard

butter yellow

lemon yellow

canary yellow

sunshine yellow

yellow as a banana

daffodil yellow

yellow as forsythia

yellow as kernels of corn

sunflower yellow

taxicab yellow

yellow like a caution sign

yellow as a #2 pencil

yellow as a highlighter pen

egg-yolk yellow

yellow like urine

yellow as Kraft mac and cheese

yellow as a duckling

yellow as a rubber duckie

yellow as gingko leaves in autumn

yellow as a beak

tennis-ball yellow

golden as wheat

golden as a lion

golden as amber

golden as citrine

golden like sand

GREEN

viridian

emerald

jade

mint

sage

olive

avocado

celadon

green as grass

lime green

pea green

bottle green

peridot green

leaf green

moss green

ivy green

spinach green

algae green

celery green

pistachio green

dill-pickle green

green as a shamrock

green as edamame

wasabi green

green as watermelon rind

green as a kiwi fruit

green as a grasshopper

absinthe green

green like oxidized copper

green as malachite

green as a golf course

PINK

salmon

fuchsia

hot pink

shocking pink

shell pink

flamingo pink

bubble gum pink

pink as a tongue

pink as a rabbit’s nose

pink as cherry blossoms

cameo pink

pink like rosé wine

pink like strawberry ice cream

cotton candy pink

pink as a piglet

ballet-slipper pink

Pepto-Bismol pink

pink as a dragonfruit

PURPLE

violet

plum

mauve

maroon

amethyst

eggplant

lilac

lavender

grape

wisteria purple

pansy purple

ORANGE

tangerine

apricot

peach

coral

terra cotta

pumpkin orange

orange as a carrot

sunset orange

orange as a yam

tiger lily orange

orange as a basketball

orange as Cheetos (or Cheez-Its)

Creamsicle orange

orange as Tang

orange as a traffic cone

BROWN

sepia

sienna

khaki

tan

coffee

mocha

espresso

chocolate

bronze

camel

walnut

topaz

caramel

cinnamon

chestnut

hazel

raw umber

nut brown

dirt brown

tea-brown

cocoa brown

mink brown

otter brown

brown as polished mahogany

brown as whole wheat toast

brown like peanut butter

brown like maple syrup

brown as molasses

brown like corrugated cardboard

brown as a UPS uniform

brown as saddle leather

brown like dead oak leaves

brown as a sparrow

brown as bark

brown as an old penny

brown as a coconut husk

GRAY

charcoal

carbon

pewter

graphite

flint gray

ash gray

smoke gray

slate gray

storm gray

steel gray

gray as mist

battleship gray

lead gray

dove gray

gray as concrete

pigeon gray

gray as an elephant

gray as a dolphin

sharkskin gray

gray like Spanish moss

pelican gray

pussy willow gray

gray as a dust bunny

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I hope this was helpful for you. Happy writing!