As a colour-lover, I’m often asked colour questions. Popular ones include ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ and ‘What colourful books do you recommend?’ I often buy books, simply for their bright covers, but I’m also partial to a book where the actual subject is colour itself. Here are The Colour File’s top 10 colourful tomes, in no particular order.
1 The Secret Lives of Colour
Starting from the gorgeous spotty cover, this book by Kassia St Clair is a feast for the eyes and a treat for the imagination. Kassia takes the reader through the rainbow, telling stories about the colours, from why purple became a regal colour through to the significance of yellow-covered books. As a lover of stories, I never cease to be enthralled by this tome.
2 The Anatomy of Colour
Patrick Baty’s book about the story of heritage paints and pigments also has a deliciously likeable cover that hints of the colourful delights you find as soon as you open it. It is packed full of facts, colour charts and stunning diagrams that help you to understand how colour and paint in interior decoration have been used over the past 300 years. A stunning coffee-table book but also an invaluable reference.
3 Love Colour
Be prepared to be blown away by Anna Starmer’s book. When it came out last October, I felt that the colour book to end all colour books was finally here. Renowned international colour expert Anna Starmer guides you through stunningly illustrated colour combinations, teaching you everything you need to know about putting colours together with confidence and panache. A truly wondrous book.
4 Recipes For Decorating
What Farrow & Ball’s Joa Studholme doesn’t know about colour probably isn’t worth knowing. Joa’s latest book works with three different ‘recipes’ – darker walls with white woodwork, trim darker than wall and same colour on walls and woodwork – and takes you through a range of case histories to show you how it works in real life. A ‘Colour solutions’ section included tried and tested F&B colour recipes.
5 Encyclopedia of Rainbows
This was one of the first colour books that I bought. It’s by color-mad American artist Julie Seabrook Ream who, unable to pick a favourite colour, set about showing the world that there is multicoloured beauty in everyday objects, from breakfast cereal and cheese through to butterflies and books. No reading required: just turn every page and let the colours speak for themselves.
6 The Day The Crayons Quit
This is definitely one of my favourite books of all time, full stop, not just one of my favourite colour books. It’s the story of a bunch of coloured crayons who are fed up with being used differently from the other colours and decide to quit. Their owner Duncan opens the box to a batch of letters from each colour explaining why they’ve had enough. It’s a funny and sweet book that will have you laughing about colour in a way you never have before. A great book for both adults and kids.
7 The Story of Colour
If you want to know about colour and colour meanings and would love to see pictures to illustrate them, this book by Gavin Evans for you. Whether you want to know why green is the colour of envy or black is ‘evil’ (and many more colour stories besides), you’ll find yourself going into this book with the intention of looking up a quick fact but will stay in there for hours. Well, that’s what happens round here! A stunning, accessible book.
8 Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours
This simple yet beautiful book is a classic taxonomic guide to the colours of the natural world. Before we had photographs, visual details were captured using the written word but this meant that when it came to all things visual, scientific observers were relying on accuracy and the avoidance of ambiguity. First published in 1814, Werner’s Nomenclature was an indispensable tool for many, including Charles Darwin who used it during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. Looking through the pages feels like a privilege. It’s for sale here through the Natural History Museum shop.
9 100 Years of Colour
I’m fascinated by how different colour palettes often become synonymous with different eras. This beautiful book by Katie Greenwood features 100 carefully curated images from the graphic arts (for example, from advertising hoardings and propaganda posters), each representing a different colour palette prevalent during key eras, starting from 1900 onwards. It’s a beautiful book to flick through, as well as being a great compendium of 20th century imagery and art.
10 Lliwiau Byd Natur
Sometimes the best books have no words and this is one of them. Although it’s a children’s book intended to help kids learn the colours in Welsh, my brother Tom gave it to me for my 50th birthday as a trip down memory lane. When I was a child, my Welsh grandmother who lived nextdoor to me would teach me the words for the colours in Welsh (see, I was even obsessed then) and they have never left me. This book by Luned Aaron is packed full of beautiful illustrations. You might not need a Welsh book but if you’re shopping for kids, look out for artistic colour books to fire up their imagination and give them colour memories to last a lifetime.
There are other colour books I love, too, but I’m going to save those for another post. I’m also excited about the book of applied colour psychologist Karen Haller that is coming out in October. I can’t wait to see it! You can pre-order it here.
Published 21 July 2019