Art History Lab

Embracing Ugly Colors: How to Create Stunning Designs

Ugly Colors: How to Work with Them

Colors play a significant role in our lives; they affect our moods, shape our perceptions, and trigger emotions. Some colors are bold and bright, while others are soft and sophisticated, making them the preferred choice of designers and artists.

But what about the colors that are universally regarded as ugly or unattractive? Can these colors be used effectively in creating eye-catching designs and appealing color palettes?

In this article, we explore the topic of ugly colors, what they are and how to work with them.

Defining Ugly Colors

The term ugly colors is subjective since what one person may perceive as horrid, another person may find visually appealing. As such, ugly colors refer to colors that are generally not favored by many people.

While individual preferences differ, there are colors that are widely considered ugly or unattractive.

Creating Appealing Color Palettes with Ugly Colors

Color is an essential component of design, and combining colors is an art. Mixing colors can express various emotions, communicate a particular style, or evoke a certain mood.

Utilizing ugly colors creatively can evoke unexpected and delightful experiences. Ugly colors can work with other colors and enhance a color palette when used in the right way.

They can add a unique and distinctive touch to designs; however, their placement and use will depend on the intended effect and the audience. A color wheel can be useful in establishing successful combinations of different colors, including those considered ugly.

Using complementary colors, which are colors that are opposite to each other on the color wheel, can make an excellent contrast when paired well. For instance, rust or mustard yellow can pair well with teal or navy blue.

Additionally, colors that belong to the same family (analogous colors) can work well together. A color palette featuring beige, rust or dark brown, and dusty rose, along with other colors, can bring out a natural and cozy feel.

The Ugliest Colors in the World

According to research, Pantone 448 C is the world’s ugliest color. Pantone 448 C is a drab dark brown, which was initially used on Australia’s cigarette packaging to discourage smoking.

Besides Pantone 448 C, other colors that may fall under the ugly category include mustard yellow, pickle green, dark brown, lime green, beige, dark gray, rust, and white. Pantone 448 C: A closer look

According to Australian researchers, this color was identified from taking a poll of the world’s most ‘unappealing colors.’ People likened the color to death, filth, and decay, making it the perfect color for packaging to deter smoking.

Similarly, in 2012, the British government hired market researchers to come up with an impactful anti-smoking campaign, and the color that stood out was Pantone 448 C.

Mustard Yellow

Mustard yellow, a shade of yellow, is also considered an ugly color by many. It is regarded as gloomy and drab.

However, it can be highlighted and paired up with gorgeous colors like navy blue, teal, or even dusty pink.

Pickle Green

Pickle green is an ugly color due to its resemblance, as the name suggests, to pickles. It is the result of mixing a bright green with muted, mossy brown, resulting in an uninspiring color.

Dark Brown

Dark brown is typically thought of as dull and uninspiring. It rarely makes people energized or excited, making it a good option for corporate designs where neutrality is necessary.

Lime Green

Lime green, a bright green-yellow hue, is often related to poor taste and is typically associated with juveniles’ fashion. However, it works well when paired with complementary colors that can counterbalance the sharpness of the lime green.


While beige may sometimes appear useful in interior design for a sharp, minimalistic look, it is also regarded as uninteresting. Nevertheless, beige can create a calm, neutral environment, making it excellent for corporate color themes.

Dark Gray

Dark gray is mostly associated with gloom, industrial environments, and rainy days. However, together with vibrant colors, such as red, orange, or gold, dark gray can create a bold, modern color palette.


Rust has an earthy and rustic feel, making it a staple when it comes to creating a natural and cozy atmosphere. When paired with brown or red and green shades, this “ugly” color adds a comfortable, warm touch.


Finally, the color white, while typically associated with purity, cleanliness, and minimalism, can represent blandness when used excessively. Being too white in design spaces can lead to sterile or clinical feels when paired with bright colors like navy or lime green.


Colors are subjective; what may be considered ugly to one person might be attractive to another. Creatively incorporating ugly colors can evoke different and unexpected emotions, enriching designs while creating a unique experience for audiences.

Using color palettes that work well and incorporating Design fundamentals can make an extraordinary design experience out of a mediocre one.

Unusual and Amusing Ugly Color Names

Have you ever come across the color name “

Goose Turd Green,” “

Puke,” or “

Arsenic?” These are some of the unusual and amusing color names that exist in the world of color. From amusing to curious, some of these color names have strange and interesting backstories.

In this article, we dive into some of the most bizarre color names and their stories.


Arsenic, a dark grayish-blue color with the hexadecimal code #3B444B, is a color that many would associate with illness and fear. Despite its association with death and decay, this color has an intriguing backstory.

Arsenic is named after a toxic chemical element that was widely used in the fashion industry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Manufacturers used it as a dye for a range of fabrics, including wall coverings, artificial flowers, and clothing.

The most peculiar aspect of arsenic dye is that it could change color when exposed to sunlight or pollution. The once vibrant green hue would quickly turn to a dull grayish-blue after being exposed to the sun.

It is no wonder, then, that this color outlasted its dark origins in clothing.

Humorous Green

Humorous green is another weirdly named hue that has elicited numerous comments from all and sundry. It is part of the Sherwin Williams “Clayton Homes” paint collection, which includes other quirky-named hues like “Certain Peach” and “Parakeet.”

Humorous green is so named due to its association with environmental activism.

This hue is considered the evolution of green – a vibrant, lively green that is both memorable and humorous.

Goose Turd Green

Goose Turd Green’s name might turn your stomach, but the color itself is not unpleasant to the eye.

Goose Turd Green is a pale green shade that has an almost yellow undertone, giving it a vintage charm.

That is why it was a popular color for appliances and home items in the mid-20th century. The origin of its name traces back to the 1970s when an Ohio goose-thin house beer company was trying to create a nostalgic yet memorable color to attract more beer drinkers.

Looking outside, the brewery owner saw a group of geese flying overhead and found the color to be reminiscent of their droppings. And thus, the name

Goose Turd Green was born.


Puke is not a term you would associate with fashion, but that’s precisely what happened in the fashion industry in the 1970s.

Puke is an olive-brown shade that seems to resemble a throw-up so much so that it became a popular color used by designers at the time.

It was particularly prevalent in punk rock fashions, which aimed to subvert the status quo and challenge mainstream ideas of taste. Today, the color puke has appeared in the fashion industry in various forms, such as camouflage prints and military uniforms.

Ox Blood

Finally, ox blood, also known as Sang-De-Boeuf, is a deep red hue that has been in use for centuries. It is named after the blood of an ox and has a rich, classic feel to it.

Sang-De-Boeuf has its origins in ancient Chinese porcelain during the Ming Dynasty. Artisans wished to create a red glaze that resembled the color of fresh ox blood, and the result was a rich, deep hue that still remains popular in both interior design and fashion.


Color names can add to creativity and personal taste in design or fashion. The stories behind these names have helped shape our perception of color and have symbolic meaning in different cultures.

The above ugly color names might seem odd, but it adds fun and personality to an otherwise dull process. Thus, exploring unusual names can give your project or fashion ideas a unique and memorable touch.

In conclusion, ugly colors can provide a unique twist to designs and add personality through their unusual and amusing names. From

Arsenic to

Goose Turd Green and

Puke, these colors and their names have fascinating backstories that contribute to their appeal.

The use of different hues, whether considered ugly or not, can evoke emotions, sentiments, and cultural themes. As designers, we must explore the power of color, experimenting with unusual color names or hues to create something unforgettable, memorable, and unique.

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