In this Open Letter to Crayola, the Color Nerd proposes a new 24-pack that will better teach students about hue and complementary colors

Originally published at: In this Open Letter to Crayola, the Color Nerd proposes a new 24-pack that will better teach students about hue and complementary colors | Boing Boing


Make This Happen Do It GIF by Team Coco


He’s definitely got a point!

I’m wondering is it as it is currently simply because Crayola does not know/care, or is it for some deep manufacturing economy of raw materials/scale process that saves a billionth of a cent per crayon and, well, because shareholders must get that billionth of a cent?


I’m guessing it is more of a “we’ve always done it this way.”


Yeah - that’s my guess too - they don’t know/care simply because this is just how it is and has always been.

But my inner cynic fears some corporate shill popping up to explain why it is not ‘economic’ to fix this.


It hasn’t, though. They’ve changed the color mix before. The current 24 box includes Aprictot. It used to include Peach instead, and Peach used to be called Flesh Tint, Flesh, and Pink Beige. I think they could probably be convinced to produce a special “Art Teacher” or “Color Wheel” box with the Color Nerd’s suggestions, and if that box sold well enough, they could be convinced to make that standard.


Too bad the “open letter” is really a video.


I don’t know if these are the same colors growing up, but I too noticed as a kid colors being too similar. I never mapped it out like this guy, but yeah, spread out the hues more.


If they wanted to make the 24 pack more useful for their primary audience, they could eliminate one of the colors and double up the one crayon that gets the most use, by far; black.


I think they could attach one of those pocket color wheel guides to the package, too. Maybe an insert if a fold-out is too much.


even better it got about half way though and then switched to some video with audio of people screaming

( why tiktok why? )


I know they’ve changed both the specific mix and renamed colors over the last century or so, although I’d think a shift like this to create an even distribution would be pretty big.

Obligatory Bloom County:


I’m okay with changing the colours, so long as they don’t change the flavours.


And yeah, ‘tackytak’ in not a good place for videos that use diagrams because of the umpteen on-screen artefacts that obscure key parts of them!

You’d think by now someone would have made some ‘thing’ that let a user frame their video so as to avoid that problem.


Don’t worry, they’ll include a coupon for paste.


i think it’s supposed to be the equivalent of a sugar rush for the visual cortext. and yeah, it’s a lot

i like his analysis though. i’m guessing price ( or ease ) of manufacturing might be part of why they have the color set they do. though like other people say, it’d be great marketing to follow his advice

( and do they not have pumpkin spice versions for fall? )


I really don’t feel like “slightly uneven spacing around the color wheel” was a problem I ever had with Crayolas as a kid. Other problems like “horrible waxy texture” and “impossible to mix” dominated.

I mean, seriously, a large part of the reason we talk about color theory in art is because it makes it possible for us to select a small set of colors that we can mix to generate more colors.

His new colors are different - there’s a couple of lighter, more cyan blues - but they’re not superior in terms of being a small set of colors to carry around and use to draw anything one pleases, which I think is a major criteria for a thing like this.

Having a light, turquoise-y blue is a nice addition, but what’s the use of two that are only a few degrees apart on the hue wheel? Why are there still two nearly indistinguishable yellows? If his goal is to create a new set that’s more evenly spread out around the color wheel, why are there still a blue and green that are much darker in value than the colors adjacent to them?

Having a couple extra blues in the box is useful, at kid-level art all skies are always blue and this means a kid is going to need a lot of blue crayons to fill in the skies in their drawings. But what the heck is that extra yellow there for?

And if the goal is education about the shape of the color wheel, why are there still eighteen hues in his set? Color wheels usually get built out from three primaries - red, yellow, blue - which are mixed into secondaries - green, purple, orange - and then mixed into six more tertiaries between them. That’s twelve evenly spaced colors, arranged around the major color distinctions the English language tends to make. But here we are looking at his set with two fine shades of turquoise, and yellow + dirty yellow.

For utility, I’d consider replacing some of those nigh-identical yellows and blues with a couple more colors mixed to cover the range of hues found in human skin; right now the set includes “apricot” and “brown”, which stops around the middle of the range of skin values I see on the humans around me in New Orleans.

Also I wonder what kind of cost factors are involved in these pigment choices. Binney-Smith makes these things at a huge scale and I’m sure that they are sensitive to even the tiniest variances in the cost per hundred thousand crayons…


And for more thoughts on the “this is a good set of colors that’s small enough to carry wherever you go” front, have a look at this James Gurney blog post on his plein-air watercolor setup. He lists a dozen suggested colors, with eight more if you have the room, but then notes that he’s been “reworking his small metal box to have just nine colors”.

Obviously you can’t do this with the unmixable Crayolas, and there is a world of difference between what is appropriate for a child who is still figuring out how to hold their tools and put them where they want them to go, and what is appropriate for someone who has probably spent about an entire decade with a brush in their hand if you put every work hour of their life end-to-end, but if I was trying to build out a set of 24 Crayolas, I’d take the “what works for a travel kit” approach over the “mathematically precise spread across the color wheel” approach.

(I am a professional artist myself, I have Opinions.)


That’s shitty. Apricot is more yellow; peach is more orange.

Suspicious Monkey GIF by MOODMAN

Making me feel a bit guilty for having been introduced to Cray Pas at an early age…