How Do Paint Colors Get Their Names?

We spoke to a color expert at Glidden to get to the bottom of this vibrant mystery.

Disco Nap. Humorous Green. Dead Salmon. Snugglepuss. The names of paint colors can range from delightful to bizarre.

Recently, interior and exterior paint company Glidden named its 2024 Color of the Year “Limitless.” In a promotional video for the warm neutral shade, a group of consumers tried to describe the color themselves, with the instruction to call it “anything but yellow.”

Fans come up with names like “Pretty in Pancake,” “Electric Harvest” and “Boujee Beige.” Those less enamored with the shade name it “Better Than Gray,” “Grandparents’ Kitchen” and “It’s a Choice!” Each person appeared to offer a singular emotional response to the modern paint color.

So how did Glidden ultimately decide on the name “Limitless”? To learn more about the role of color experts, the process of naming paints and the power of the perfect color, we spoke to Ashley McCollum, a color expert at Glidden. Our interview, lightly edited for clarity, follows.

Q: First off, could you please describe what it means to be a color expert at Glidden?

A: For Glidden, being a color expert means that you keep a constant pulse on color trends and all facets that influence color trends — demographics, lifestyle societal influences, runway, textiles, etc. — and use that expertise to forecast color for architectural spaces and translate it into engaging palettes and stories.

Q: What responsibilities does your role encompass?

A: Strategic ownership of color for the Glidden brand; staying-up-to-date on the latest trends within architectural color and design; selecting color for all facets of Glidden’s business, from the colors on the in-store display and take-home brochures to the colors you see displayed online; [and working as a] member of the global forecasting team that selects the annual Color of the Year and accompanying trend palettes.

Q: What criteria are used to select Glidden’s Color of the Year?

A: Glidden’s color forecasting process is unique, as it leverages PPG’s global expertise to accurately and authoritatively predict global color trends spanning multiple industries.

Each year, 25 of PPG’s global color experts come together from 11 different countries to share emerging trends from their regions and business unit sectors. These insights are gleaned through local design shows, […] runway trends, and textile, wood and metal creations, as well as lifestyle directions, demographic changes [and] societal and other macroeconomic influences rising to prominence on a regional level.

The outcome of the annual Global Color Forecasting Workshop is the prediction of the color that will be most dominant in the market in the year to come, so that our customers, specifically in the architectural space, can use that color and create a cohesive space with it.

When the global color experts come to consensus on the Color of the Year selection, they are confident that the color they have chosen will appear across all sectors — home decor, furnishing, automotive and consumer electronics, to name a few — in the coming year.

The Color of the Year is the most usable, on-trend color identified by our color experts from around the world. For this reason, DIY customers and pro painters alike have come to rely on PPG and Glidden’s color expertise to inform their color decisions.

Q: How does the 2024 Color of the Year, “Limitless,” embody its name?

A: Limitless is a modern neutral that is adaptable, as its name implies, and is taking the place of cool neutral tones that are a thing of the past. Its versatility allows it to work with both new and existing décor, making the application possibilities truly limitless.

Q: What is the process for naming paint colors?

A: We draw inspiration from the world around us to help us create connections with colors, including our families. Pony Tail has been one of our top-selling neutral colors for years and it is named after an employee’s daughter’s blonde ponytail.

Color names are intentional, and at Glidden, we strive to have color names that evoke emotion and create a memorable experience. We want people to remember the colors on their walls.

Q: How, in your opinion, do modern, intentional paint colors affect the atmosphere of a home and the well-being of those who live in it?

A: Modern, intentional paint colors can have a profound impact on the atmosphere and well-being of a home’s occupants. By carefully selecting colors that align with your desired mood and function of each room, you can create a harmonious and comfortable living environment that supports your well-being and enhances your overall quality of life.