Let’s play a game, how many colours can you name?

khbd 200522 colour game

If you’ve read my book, The Little Book of Colour, you’ll have read the colour naming experiment I took part in run by Assistant Professor in Computer Science, Dimitris Mylonas, from University College London.

Whilst we might have been brought up knowing the 11 main colours, it’s the colours in between these colours, those that blend from one into another that fascinates Dimitris.

He’s on a mission to discover what names we give to those colours. Those blends of colours like yellowish red we now call orange, or soft bluey purple we call lilac, or the pinky orange we call coral or salmon.

I first took part in this experiment at his lab several years ago where I was shown around 600 different colours in quick succession and asked to give a name to each of them. I found I had the most names for green like grass green, lime, emerald, forest, olive, sage, mint and aqua and the least for different variations of purple, other than the common ones such as lilac, lavender, aubergine, royal purple and mauve. When I had finished, it certainly felt as if I had just run a colour naming sprint!

Dimitris is conducting his next series of in-person colour naming experiments and I jumped at the chance when he invited me back. So on Tuesday, I found myself back at the Colour Vision Research Lab in the colour ‘hot seat’ to do it all again.

Sitting in front of the screen (the lights were off), the fun challenge was to give a name to the colour within 10 seconds before the next colour flashed up. This time Dimitris added in an extra layer of complexity where he used different coloured backgrounds. It was interesting to see how the same colour appeared different depending on the background colour which then led me to give it a different name.

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In the colour ‘hot seat’ during the colour naming experiment at the Colour Vision Research Lab, London
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Colour Vision Research Lab of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, East London | Lab controlled environment: Colour naming experiment
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Dimitris Mylonas, Assistant Professor in Computer Science, Course Leader of Data Science, Director of BA in Philosophy & Cognitive Science, Chair of Study Group on the Language of Colour of the AIC

Want to take part?

The great news is, Dimitris asked me if my colourful community would like to participate and so here is my invite to you. There are two ways, either in person, in the laboratory controlled environment like I did or online.

In person:

The in-person experiment sessions take place in the Colour Vision Research Lab at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, East London.

If you’re able to come to London, all you need to do is email Maria Federica Norelli at mn2122@students.nchlondon.ac.uk to schedule an appointment up until Friday July 29th 2022.

The sessions take about 2 hours to complete and as a thank you, Dimitris will be compensated you £10 per hour for your time.

A heads up, the first thing Maria will do is check that you have good colour vision by conducting a quick test.


No matter where you are in the world, if you would like to take part in this colourful experiment, then all you need to do is go to Colour Naming app where you can participate online.

I’d love to know which one you decided to do and how you got on. Drop a comment below.

And as always, wishing you a colourful day,

Banner image credit: An Online Colour Naming Experiment by Valero Doval.
Other images: courtesy Dimitris Mylonas.

Extract from The Little Book of Colour

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