Straight Forward Design Journeys in Colour, A brief history of Orange
12th March 2019


Orange – what came first?

The fruit came before the colour, the word “orange” derives from the Arabic “naranj.” The first recorded use of orange as a colour name in English was in 1512. Before this, the colour was described as “yellow-red”.

Orange is a secondary colour, mixing red with yellow and blue is the complimentary colour – or azure to be exact. Sat together, these two colours appear much brighter.

The colour orange has appeared in many paintings across thousands of years. Cave paintings in Iraq have been found to have traces of Saffron. The Ancient Egyptians used an orange mineral pigment called realgar (a semi-precious gemstone) for tomb paintings. And in medieval times, the same mineral was used to add colour to manuscripts.

When the mineral crocoite was discovered this led to the invention of the synthetic pigment chrome orange (however this did contain lead). Artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh used this energetic colour in various ways.

Orange radiates warmth and energy but it can also be used to draw attention in dangerous circumstances. This is because orange is the colour most easily seen in dim light or against water. Because of its symbolic meaning as the colour of activity, it is popular with political and social movements.

Love it or hate it, orange is a strong, confident colour.