A lot.

One word has the ability to fire our imagination – a few words can open our minds to a world of possibilities.

But I want to talk about colour words – words that immediately give us an emotional response to colour and perhaps how we can use colour in our work.

We all know that colour is powerful, emotive and eye-catching – but it can be a difficult mistress.

So when you’re battling to find colour inspiration, why not just use words?

This idea came to me as I was writing a teaching plan for a new embroidery workshop – and I’m the worst workshop attendee because I want to have every option available which means I pack everything.

The idea was to try to control that for students so that they could focus on just one colourway and pack accordingly – and perhaps purchase new threads as one is want to do…

So let’s jump straight into descriptive words that could promote an entire colour palette for new work – or one that could at least begin a new creative journey:

  • Alabaster – dreamy hues of white and creamy white tones, milky, chalky, snowy – rich, elegant and extremely sophisticated
  • Amber – yellowy, golden, caramel to burnt browns – decadent, luxurious and earthy
  • Apricot – golden yellows tinged with luscious layers of pink – fresh, pretty and youthful
  • Azure – from sky blues to ultramarine and deep, dark blues – moody, watery and calming
  • Burgundy – warm shades of brownish/purplish reds, ruby, berry – deep, dark and oh so mysterious
  • Canary – bouncy light to moderate yellows – bright, young and uplifting
  • Chartreuse – yellow-green – exotic, sophisticated and eye-catching
  • Ebony – dark, rich tones of black – avant-garde, complex and sensuous
  • Roseate – pink, pink and pinker, uplifting, daring and eye-popping
  • Saffron – deliciously yellowy-orange – bright, fresh and energetic
  • Vermillion – orangy red tones – brilliant, romantic and seductive

Then think about these types of words that also help describe colour:

  • Ablaze
  • Bleached
  • Bold
  • Clean
  • Dappled
  • Electric
  • Fiery
  • Flamboyant
  • Fluorescent
  • Glittering
  • Jazzy
  • Opalescent
  • Restrained
  • Rich
  • Vivid
  • Watery

So when you have a design idea, think about the power of a few simple words, sentences or paragraphs to help you nail a purposeful and supportive colour palette for your narrative.

For instance, I’m currently working on another white embroidery describing coral bleaching – how would I describe the colour palette I want/need to use?


  • Watery
  • Icy
  • Milky
  • Bleached
  • Pearly
  • Clear
  • Ivory
  • Silvery
  • Wintery

And while most European connotations associated with white reference innocence and purity – in this case, the meaning is just the opposite – it means death and eventual decay.

But I still want to make it beautiful, because, in an odd way, it is, and perhaps these embroideries may bring further light to this global concern.

So what’s in a word?

The power of your imagination.


All views and opinions expressed are my own, except where acknowledged information is included from other sources.