When discussing about colours we always must have in mind:
- That we cannot remember colours, so we have to describe them, we have to use synonyms or analogies (or nowadays colour-codes like RAL, Pantone, RGB, CMYK). The words chosen in the past are quite a really good hint: brick-red, jonquille-yellow, caput mortum, antwerpen-blue... Some libraries supply colour-guides or colour-atlas with numbered samples and comparatative lists of names used in the past. This is a rare but very good source, probably the second best after the own eye-whitness of real textiles or sample-books in museums.
- In the second half of the 18th century some new colours appeared, following fashion-trends: bleu-mourant, pale green, pale pink, linzer-yellow - and of course they were chosen for distinguishing between the numerous regiments. Here fashion met practical military sense (this led to some of the most unusual but highly attractive designed colour-combinations).
- Colouring varies because of the process, the result is the better the earlier in the process the colouring is done. Wool can be coloured as wool, as spinned reels and as woven textile, quality differs in respect to equality of results.
- It was always a question of price, officers ordered much better textiles than privates because they could afford it. For the mass of soldiers in the 18th century much more cheaper quality textiles were brought. Regiment chief could save a lot of money! On the other hand, regiments tried to fit really good uniforms to their musicians, ensigns, NCOs....
- Colours vary on different basic-materials: wool, linen, silk, cotton, and leather accept the colours in different ways. This results in differing appearance!
- Unbleeched textiles (the natural tone) may change its colour after washing and exposure in sunlight. So there must have been differences in the appearance of a regiment with brand new uniforms in comparison to regiments wearing old uniforms in continuous service. This should be taken into account, especially with Austrian or French uniforms.
- Some colour-groups in our culture are more common than others: we have only one word for the colours around orange but dozens of words describing all kinds of red and blue-tones. This may show how much cultural care was kept on this things in the past.
- Contemporary dyeing processes did not fix colours very firmly and uniform colours tended to fade rather quickly.
Here is an attempt to create a standardized color chart. Alternative names are noted in foreign languages, where possible. These will be organized by hues: reds, greens, yellows, blues, etc. Names are given in various languages, each language separated by a forward slash. Languages in order are English, then German, French, Spanish, etc.
A note on the color coordinates: these are for their appearance on cloth--usually wool--rather than on idealized web colors. The latter tend to be much too bright compared to real-life equivalents. This is notably the case with scarlet, though other brighter colors here also have this trend. It cannot be emphasized sufficiently that these are approximations. Some are based on actual illustrations--or even surviving uniforms--but these still fall under the issues noted above.
A notable exception are colors taken from the CIELab coordinates provided by Dominique Cardon in her publications: these were taken directly from wool swatches found preserved in the workbook of one Antoine Janot--an actual French dyer from the mid-18th century. Janot compiled his notes and close to the time-period in question, and thus provides an invaluable insight into how mid-18th century people saw colors.
|madder red/Krapprot/Garance/Encarnandas or Garanza||141||30||24||Janot, 2021||Often called "brick red" in reference to British uniforms; a deep pink or blood-red color. If an army distinguishes between ponceau and "red", this would be the latter. Will fade to a dusty rose color, or brownish-crimson color. Original samples from the time consistently show this color.|
|Carmine or Crimson/Carmoisinrot/Carmoisi||103||33||47||Prussian infantry uniforms, 1806; Bavarian Uhlan uniform, 1910; Janot, 2016 and 2021|
|light crimson/Hellkarmoisinrot/Fleur de peche||181||88||85||Cardon, 2016; depiction of a Prussian soldier (IR 41), 1757; sample of Prussian wool swatch, 1806|
|flesh colored/Rosenrot/Couleur de chair||215||127||122||Prussian Infantry uniform, 1806; depiction of IR 40 (aka von Kreytzen Fusiliers), 1757||Roughly the color of a raw steak; can be slightly more purple or pink in hue.|
|Crimson/Bordeauxrot(?)||151||26||56||C.E.Franklin||This is the british meaning for crimson.|
|Tile red/(Hell)Ziegelrot||227||54||17||Prussian uniform guide, 1806||Not to be confused with British "brick red"; a red-orange color. This is the approximate facing color Baron von Schönaich Cuirassiers|
|Poppy Red/Poncearot or Mohnrot/Ponceau or Ecarlate de feu||185||49||52||Janot, 2021||A duller and slightly deeper version of scarlet; apparently most common Prussian facing color. Often fades to an orange color (As shown on surviving uniform of Buddenbrok Cuirassiers). Same as fire red.|
|Dark Red||105||39||41||Austrian uniform guide, 1905|
|Lobster or Crab Red/Krebsrot||250||93||76||Austrian uniform guide, 1905|
|Rose/Rosa or Rosenrot/Rose||193||60||72||Janot, 2021||A very vivid shade of pink; not quite what the Prussians used for pink (see Flesh color).|
|Scarlet/Scharlachtrot||209||40||32||Based on Morier's depiction of various british officers and horse; Prussia uniform guide, 1806; depiction of IR 24 soldier, 1757||color varied signifigantly over time, and becomes slightly more orange over the course of the 18th century. "mock" or "half" scarlet simply refers to slightly duller and lower quality versions of this color (still brighter than Poppy red).|
|Scarlet/Ecarlate||175||40||49||Cardon, 2021||This was the color simply labelled "scarlet" in Janot's workbook.|
Yellows and Oranges
|Jonquil or Naples Yellow||250||218||94||Wikipedia|
|light Yellow/ Hellgelb||252||234||93||Prussian infantry uniforms, 1806||possibly the same as pale yellow|
|Lemon Yellow||250||236||23||RAL, sample of German uniform, 1806 Prussian uniforms||Exact color of a fresh lemon|
|philamot yellow||236||191||30||C.E.Franklin||The painting of the 13th by Morier depicts the unit prior to switching to this color; prior to then, the unit had deep yellow facings.|
|Deep yellow/Kaisergelb||244||174||29||Karsten, 1759, Hanoverian uniforms||Kaisergelb in English literature can also be translated as Gamboge; comparison between the "golden yellow" of Hanoverian uniforms with British uniforms matches best those regimetns with deep yellow. Later iterations are brighter (See Austrian uniform guide, 1905), but these postdate the period.|
|Saffron Yellow||244||196||48||Wikipedia||possible the same, or similar to deep yellow|
|Sulfur yellow/Scwefelgelb||235||232||103||Prussian Infatnry units, 1806; Austrian uniform guide, 1905||a greenish yellow color.|
|Apple green/Apfelgrün||129||143||66||Hanoverian Horse Regiment v. Dachenhausen, Cardon, 2021||Color of an unripened (or green) apple)|
|Celadon green/Apfelgrün||130||144||113||Cardon, 2016; Cardon, 2021||Color of jade.|
|Full Green||43||74||34||Morier's painting of a grenadier of the 11th regiment, 1750|
|Pale green (British)||45||113||102||C.E.Franklin|
|Deep green||0||84||61||Triangulated based on green and very deep green||C.E.Frankling gives a different shade; however, this appears too light and pale to be correct. Admittedly this is a matter of judgement.|
|Very deep green||0||84||61||C.E.Franklin|
|Gosling Green||94||157||68||painting of a Grenadier of the 5th regiment of foot, 1750; C.E. Franklin||initially called "Gooseturd Green"|
|Russian green?||0||71||31||Joachim Schultz|
|Sea Green/Meergrün||3||97||103||C.E.Franklin, referenced with depiction of grenadier of 2nd Regiment of foot (Morier, 1751)|
|Willow Green||74||80||70||painting of a Grenadier of the 24th regiment of foot, 1751|
|Yellowish Green/Olive||70||73||45||Painting of a Grenadier of the 19th regiment by, 1751; Cardon, 2016. These two sources independently show a similar color, though Janot's handbook illustrates a different color under the French name for "yellowish green".|
|Poppinjay Green/Papageigrün/Vert perroquet||166||194||57||Janot, 2021||Also called Pappelgrün (poplar green) in German sources; a bright, yellow-green color. This shade was taken directly from Antoine Janot's notebook. May be the same as Gosling Green, but if so, the British version of Poppinjay Green was closer to this: #82731C (taken from images of 54th regiment reenactors).|
|Dark Green/||91||179||93||depiction of Hanoverian uniform, 1759; C.E.Franklin|
|Steel Green/Stahlgrün||75||99||75||Austrian uniform guide, 1905||deep grey-green color.|
|Dark blue (Indigo)/dunkelblau/ aile de corbeau||37||46||66||Cardon, 2021||French name taken directly from Antoine Janot's workbook name. Facing color of Royal Regiments in British service.|
|Turkish blue/Turkischblau/ Bleu Turquin||36||54||76||Cardon, 2021; Album di Taccoli, c. 1760||Color and its name taken directly from Janot's workbook; close match to Taccoli's depiction.|
|Royal blue/Franzblau/ Bleu de Roi/||40||59||82||Cardon, 2021; Grenadiers de France depiction, 1757; Broglie's painting; Project SYW page on Generals' uniforms||Color and name taken directly from Janot's workbook. Further investigation of Delacre Bilderschrift and Albertina handschrift suggest Franzblau and Bleu de Roi are the same or similar colors.|
|Medium blue or celestial blue/Ganzblau oder Mittleblau/ Bleu celeste||41||67||91||Cardon, 2021; Sealand Regiment (Denmark), 1760; Hanoverian infantry, 1759; Ignaz Schiffermüller, 1771||Color name taken directly from Janot's workbook.|
|Azure blue/Himmelblau/ Bleu d'Azure||50||82||103||Wikipedia||widely seen as the color of Prussian Dragoon uniforms, and termed cobalt blue; however, depictions of Dragoons from 1759 suggests they had sky blue coats; the cobalt blue coats are likely postwar.|
|Sky blue/Himmelblau/ Bleu de ciel||62||96||113||Cardon, 2016; Cardon, 2021; original pair of Civil War pants||Correct color of Prussian Dragoon coats in this era.|
|baby blue/??/ Bleu mignon||102||129||139||Cardon, 2016; Cardon, 2021. Name taken directly from Antoine Janot's book.|
|whitish blue/??/ Bleu deblanche||118||142||141||Cardon, 2016; Cardon, 2021. Name and color taken directly from Antoine Janot's book.|
|Prussian/Saxon blue/Bleu de Prusse||154||172||175||Cardon, 2016||This was the 18th century understanding of the term "Prussian" Blue. Extremely unstable as a color, as it first fades to a blue-green, then yellow-green.|
|Cornflower or Hungarian blue/Ungarischblau||106||155||211||-||Commonly assumed to be color of Bavarian coats after the war; true color so-called "Savoy blue"--a shade similar to either Azure or celestial blue.|
|Medium Blue (Swedish)||35||69||202||Sample of the Swedish lifeguard uniform|
|Pale blue(British)/NA/NA||76||95||137||C.E. Franklin|
|Bleumorant||22||116||146||Depiction of Hanoverian von Ahlenfeldt Regiment||Ignaz Schiffermüller describes this color as a medium desaturated blue, as depicted here.|
|Steel blue/Hellblau(?)||70||130||180||Wikipedia; depiction of Hanoverian Artillery, 1759||Possible color of Hanoverian artillery coats; might have also been Hechtgrau.|
|Lavender blue||108||119||181||-||Polish guard facing color; similar to pale blue, and may even be the same.|
|Pompadeur purple||84||48||60||sample of cuff of a British officer's uniform||Troupes du Roi, Infanterie française et étrangère, année, illustrates the French Regiment Belzunce with facings of this color.|
|Violet||55||51||72||Cardon, 2016||from coloremetric analysis provided in source.|
|Yellowish-buff||252||248||201||-||Often translated from German to "yellow-Straw" or "straw-yellow"|
|Pale buff/Blaßpaille||241||216||153||Paintings of several Grenadier regiments, Morier 1751; Prussian uniform depiction from 1806||Often translated from German to "pale straw"; often depicted as a near-white color, or simply left unpainted. Pale straw may be slightly more yellow, though Morier himself depicts a yellowish color. This color was tested and found appropriate.|
|Buff/Paille/ventre de biche||253||225||178||Author's personal buff crossbelt||the German term literally means "straw", but correspends to English Buff; the color may have been more yellowish than in Britain, though Morier also depicts this color as being yellowish. It and other shades of buff vary considerably. Antoine Janot's notebook illustrate's a similar color.|
|Fawn||149||128||112||http://www.tx4.us/nbsnotes.htm||Often assumed to be shade of Austrian Artillerists coat.|
|Chamois||223||199||121||Prussian infantry uniforms, 1806||A shade of buff.|
|Slate Grey||47||79||79||Wikipedia||deep, cyan-grey color.|
|Pike Grey/Hechtgrau||141||169||197||Austrian Uniform guide, 1905||color of Austrian Jaeger uniform. Can also be considered a shade of blue.|
|Ash Grey/Aschgrau||182||196||187||Wikipedia||A bright, slightly green shade of grey; color of fully-burned wood ash.|
|iron Grey||67||75||77||-||Deep, slightly bluish grey.|
|Black||33||30||30||-||Pure black as generally understood was very rare prior to industrial dyes.|
|White (natural)||235||231||219||-||Bleached white wool was expensive, and reserved for the well-off.|
|Pearl Grey||208||208||201||-||general color of wool; also considered grey-white.|
- Philemot yellow and Feuille Morte may in fact be one in the same color, or have similar descriptive meanings (i.e. describing the color od dead leaves). If so, the different interpretations of this color may be related to the uneven dying of the period, a difference in shade between continental European and British definitions.
- Some confusion exists regarding the nature of Bottle, Rifle, and Deep green: They may be one in the same, or three similar shades of green.
- Strangely, Contemporary depictions of regiments faced in "grass green" (e.g., 36th regiment of foot), reveal color much darker than expected for the term. This is supported by the 1905 Austrian Uniform guide, which also defines the color as a shade of darker green.
- according to the research of Kochan and Phillips, Popinjay Green and Gosling Green may have been referring to the same color.
- Regarding "straw"; period depictions of units described as wearing straw--Notably those of Hanoverian units--often show a color similar to the buff leather equipment they may wear.
Austrian Uniform guide, http://www.mlorenz.at/Bewaffnete_Macht/Uniformen.htm
C.E. Franklin, 2012, British Army Uniforms from 1751 to 1783, Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
Cardon, Dominique, 2016, The Dyer's handbook: Memoirs of an 18th century master colourist, Oxbow books.
Cardon, Dominique and Bremaud, Iris, 2021, Workbook, Antoine Janot's colors, CNRS Editions.
David Morier, 1751, Paintings of Various soldiers for the Duke of Cumberland, http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/search?search=morier
Kochan and Phillips, 2013, http://www.historicaltextiles.com/
Prussian Infantry uniforms of 1806, http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/Prussia/infantry/Schema/c_Schema1.html
Ibrahim90 for the initial version of this article and Joachim Schulz for the initial version of the introduction.