World First: Paint colours generated by AI

2016 brought us the world’s blackest black, Vantablack, while 2017 has already introduced us to Harvard’s collection of the world’s rarest colours. We now have the first group of colours created by AI. Research Scientist, Janelle Shane, who took a neural network (for non-sciencey brains, that’s an artificial network made up of a number of computer systems), and tasked it with creating a unique set of colours with accompanying names. Janelle states, “for this experiment, I gave the neural network a list of about 7,700 paint colours along with their RGB values. (RGB = red, green, and blue colour values). Could the neural network learn to invent new paint colours and give them attractive names?”.

The answer was yes (well, almost!) Janelle created an algorithm for the network that completed two tasks: the creation of the RGB value of the colour and the selection of letters to form the colour name. The first results were promising, and the AI had managed to produce valid RGB values, however, the punchy and eye-catching names were lacking a little, and it seemed to be favouring brown, blue and grey hues.

The network developed further and could soon spell green and grey and was expanding its palette of colours, however it was failing to place the green and grey terms alongside the relevant colour.

Then the more creative (we’re not sure we’d be able to pronounce them!) names began.

Finally, the network reached a level of intelligence where colours matched names (almost!). You could see some of the below being right at home alongside the likes of Farrow & Ball’s Elephant’s Breath!



Gemma has grown up by the Dorset seaside, and adores any colour that can be found on a sunny shoreline or in the perfect sunset. She has a crafty eye, and is always looking for that perfect project to channel her inner upcycler. Her weaknesses are stationary (notebooks with a foil finishes), profound song lyrics and film soundtracks, and she can frequently be found stalking her way around floral pictures and stunning snaps on Instagram.

The Chromologist 2018 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist