My Dream Job: Naming Paint Colors

Paint chips
What’s in a name? You tell me. These chips represent the following paint colors: File Cabinet, Egg Yolk, Sugared Pansy Pink (no thanks), Toasted Marshmallow, Kalamata Olive, Love-in-a-Mist, and Pup Tent.

As time has ticked by, I’ve given up on many childhood aspirations, including certain dream jobs: astronaut (I’m prone to motion sickness), shark hunter (I’ve grown accustomed to having fingers), Yankees center fielder (darn you Mickey Mantle), and swimsuit-model suntan applicator (I’m cocoa butter intolerant). But, there’s one more dream job that I covet: I want to be the person who names paint colors.

It seems like a great job. There’s no heavy lifting, you’re not likely to be mangled by machinery, and apparently it’s impossible to do wrong. While shopping for interior paint recently I became quite bemused—and slightly confused—by the names assigned to paints.

Paint chips hanging on a wall in paint store.
The average home center offers a dizzying array of paint colors, and each store often carries two or more different lines of paint from several manufacturers.

Here are just a few actual paint colors: Poetic Princess, Ruffles, Spoonful of Sugar, Bride to Be, Messenger Bag, Jogging Path, Cargo Pants, Squirrel Tail, Tippy Toes, Grandma’s Sweater, Kitten Whiskers, Going to the Chapel, Un-Teal We Meet Again, Yin Yang, Squish-Squash, and Sticks & Stones. (Want to bet they’re working on a color called, Break Your Bones?)

Some paints sound as if they were named after condominium complexes: Maple Valley, Whispering Woods, Cedar Ridge, Crystal Springs, Harbor Town, Laurel Woods, and Warren Acres.

It’s also strange that so many paint colors have food-related titles: Spinach White, Apple Crunch, Celery Sticks, Salmon Peach, Pale Shrimp, Mixed Fruit, Bana-Appeal, Steamed Milk, Portobello, Flan, White Raisin, Fresh Guacamole, Hearts of Palm, Creamy Oat, Toasted Pumpkin, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Sonic Plum. Are displaced chefs working for paint manufacturers?

Animal names are big, too, even though they don’t make much sense: Fawn’s Leap, Crocodile, Box Turtle, Horsehair, Black Fox, Yellow Warbler, Tiger Eye, White Duck, Illusive Fawn, and Roaming Pony.

Fan deck of paint colors.
A typical fan deck of paint chips contains over 400 different paint colors, and each has its own unique name.

Like most of us, I suspect the folks who name paint colors have days when their hearts—and heads— just aren’t into their jobs. Otherwise, what sensible explanation could there possibly be for the following clueless paint names: Fusion, Mysterious, Stunning, Balmy, Anonymous, Brainstorm, Vibrant, Enchanting, Composed, Outrageous, Retreat, Grounded, Enigma, Breathless, Howard, Claude, Gymnast, and Someday (as in, “someday” I’ll eventually get around to painting this room).

None of these names give the slightest clue as to the shade of paint. Plus, who wants to admit to painting their bedroom a lovely shade of Bagel. (Yes, there actually is a paint color named, Bagel; I guess you’d have to find a paint called, Cream Cheese for the room’s trim.)

If I were ever fortunate enough to get the call from Behr’s Paints or Sherwin Williams, I’d introduce my own line of signature paints, based on delicatessen cold cuts. You know, something like, German Bologna Brown, Carefree Corned Beef, Heavenly Hard Salami, Pouty Prosciutto, and Obstinate Olive Loaf.

Hey, those names make as much sense as Marry Me, Fringed Jacket, I’ve Got the Blues, Cowboy Boots, Once Upon a Time, Dream I Can Fly, Cheerful Hue, Scrubland, or Knubby Wool, which are all real paint colors.


  1. I would like a job naming colors, do you create a line to do so or is it that a line will be created and then there will be the need? How do I go about naming red leftover tomato soup? 🙂

  2. Actually, paint namers put a huge amount of effort into their jobs. They travel to new locations every year for every new paint line, taking photographs of even the weirdest of things. That’s partially why the names can get a little abstract. Paint names are a huge part of marketing for the paint industry. Almost half of paint customers say that the name of the paint directly influenced their choice.

  3. So just how do I go about getting the “dreamed of since I was young” job of naming paint? I’m retired, creative, artistic and have a great sense of humor, and I have a keen sense of color appreciation. Let me know!

    • That’s a good question, Deb! Joe mentioned how nice it would be to “get the call” from Behr’s Paints or Sherwin-Williams.
      We’d recommend calling them and inquiring about it.
      Let us know how it goes! 🙂


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