Learn About the 11 Rarest Colors to Ever Exist

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The colors of the rainbow make the color wheel seem simple— a couple reds, purples, blues and greens and you’re on your way. However, the color spectrum is actually a vast and complex beast. The human eye can only see a fraction of the colors on earth and, of those, we aren’t familiar with all of them. Scientists are also constantly innovating colors for a variety of applications, such as space travel and exploration.

Read the list below to discover some rare hues you might not recognize that would make any painter green with envy.

  1. Absolute Zero
  2. Color Family: Blue
    Complementary Colors: Oranges
     Found in Nature: Yes
    Absolute Zero
    photo source: iColorpalette

    Although absolute zero is mostly associated with temperature, it also describes a shade of blue. The shade rests somewhere between vibrant and muted since it isn’t as deep as midnight blue, but is also not as pale as baby blue. It is a mixture of blue and green that contains no red.

    Did you know

    In terms of temperature, absolute zero describes the coldest possible temperature. It is minus 273.15 in Celsius and minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.


  3. Xanadu
  4. Color Family: Blue and/or Green
    Complementary Colors: Red-Orange
     Found in Nature: Yes
    Xanadu
    photo source: ColorHexa

    Xanadu is very similar to another color on this list, glaucous, and, arguably, rests under the glaucous umbrella of truly blue-green hues. According to ColorHexa, xanadu is made up of almost equal parts red, green and blue. It comes off as grayish and is a little darker than glaucous.

    Did you know

    The word Xanadu actually means an idyllic or luxurious place.


  5. Sarcoline
  6. Color Family: Orange
    Complementary Colors: Blues
     Found in Nature: Yes
    Sarcoline
    photo source: Onceuponalexicon.wordpress.com

    Sarcoline might sound unfamiliar, but the shade is most likely recognizable to any makeup enthusiast or portrait artist. It resembles a pale skin tone with yellow undertones. Placing sarcoline within a color family is difficult since its lighter shades appear yellow and beige, the middle shades are orange, and the darkest shades are brown.

    Did you know

    Crayola released its first box of skin tone crayons in 1992 in response to feedback from customers and educators who wanted more diversity in art, especially based toward children


  7. Fulvous
  8. Color Family: Brown
    Complementary Colors: Blues
     Found in Nature: Yes
    Fulvous
    photo source: Maryland Zoo

    While fulvous is considered a shade of brown, it appears more as a dark orange. Fulvous is made of mostly red, a bit of green and no blue. Lighter versions of this color definitely fall into the orange scale, while darker shades become deep browns.

    Did you know

    The fulvous whistling duck is a great example of the color in nature. The color is evident in its brown orange feathers, which explains its name.


  9. Glaucous
  10. Color Family: Blue and/or Green
    Complementary Colors: Red-Orange
     Found in Nature: Yes
    Glaucous
    photo source: The Awl

    Glaucous describes a blend of green and blue— the kind of color that starts debates about which one it truly is. The term glaucous, which is etymologically related to the word glaucoma, comes from ancient Greek. The famous philosopher Homer used the term glaukos to refer to water, leaves, honey and eyes. Rather than a single color, the original term referred to an object’s ability to glisten or shine. Over the years, as language developed to include specific terms for colors, glaukos became glaucous and started to refer to blue-green colors. Since glaucous is archaic, it’s difficult to find accurate representations of the color today.

    Did you know

    Glaucous also refers to the waxy protective coating that fruits like apples naturally develop.


  11. Falu
  12. Color Family: Red
    Complementary Colors: Greens
     Found in Nature: Yes
    Falu
    photo source: Clarissa Wei via Smithsonian

    Take a trip to the Swedish countryside and you’ll notice that most of the cottages are the same shade of bright red. This particular shade is falu red, termed such because the color comes from the Falun Copper Mine in Sweden. It’s a waste byproduct of the mining process that rusts over time. Washing, drying and burning these rusted over ores creates the unique pigment. The temperature in which the byproduct is heated changes the shade. Higher temperatures result in darker pigment.

    Did you know

    The Falun copper mine has been around since the ninth century and was one of Sweden’s greatest income sources until the seventeenth century.


  13. Stuart Semple Pink
  14. Color Family: Red
    Complementary Colors: Greens
     Found in Nature: No
    Stuart Semple Pink
    photo source: Stuart Semple

    Stuart Semple’s self proclaimed “pinkest pink” is the result of art world controversy. After the creation and subsequent development of a usable vantablack, another color on this list, the company that invented the technology exclusively licensed it to an artist named Anish Kapoor. Other artists were upset that this color was being kept from them and one, named Stuart Semple, decided to respond in turn. Semple created the pinkest pink pigment and made it available to everyone except Kapoor. Kapoor got his hands on it anyway, posting a picture to Instagram with his middle finger dipped in the vibrant pigment.

    Did you know

    Much of Stuart Semple’s art is made in bright colors and styles similar to Andy Warhol’s pop art works.


  15. NTP Yellow
  16. Color Family: Yellow
    Complementary Colors: Purple
     Found in Nature: No
    NTP Yellow
    photo source: Kremer Pigment

    The Shepherd Color Company developed the Niobium Tin Pyrochlore (NTP) yellow pigment to bridge the gap between brightness and durability. Different versions of NTP yellow have distinct purposes— one is ideal for coloring plastic while another is better as a coating and/or paint. This invention demonstrates Shepherd’s focus on inorganic materials to mimic naturally occurring colors and innovate new pigments.

    Did you know

    Physicists and chemists invent new colors for a variety of applications by studying the natural world. New colors can help with heat absorbency, camouflage and reflectivity.


  17. RTZ Orange
  18. Color Family: Orange
    Complementary Colors: Blue
     Found in Nature: No
    RTZ Orange
    photo source: Kremer Pigmente

    The Shepherd Color Company also developed the Rutile Tin Zinc orange pigment to make other colors appear more vibrantly red. In addition to a stronger hue, RTZ orange also gives different paints and coatings increased heat stability and better weathering. Like NTP yellow, RTZ orange is also ideal for chemists and others working in scientific spaces because it works well in high pH environments.

    Did you know

    The color orange  is named after the fruit. The word has Sanskrit origins and was first used to refer to the fruit in English in the 1300s. References to the color in English didn’t come up until the sixteenth century.


  19. YINMN Blue
  20. Color Family: Blue
    Complementary Colors: Oranges
     Found in Nature: Yes
    YINMN Blue
    photo source: Oregon State University

    YINMN blue is a recently discovered vibrant shade of blue that occurs when the compound manganese oxide is heated at 2,000 Fahrenheit (1,200 Celsius). A graduate student at the University of Oregon discovered the color during this experiment and recognized it as scientifically interesting. Blue pigments tend to be unstable and dangerous, but YINMN blue is neither. The color is made of the elements yttrium, indium and manganese.

    Did you know

    Ancient cultures used chromotherapy, which is the use of colors to heal certain ailments.


  21. Vantablack
  22. Color Family: Black shades
    Complementary Colors: None
     Found in Nature: No
    Vantablack
    photo source: Electronicsweekly.com

    Vantablack is known as the darkest man made pigment. The color, which absorbs almost 100 percent of visible light, was invented by Surrey Nanosystems for space exploration purposes. The special production process and unavailability of vantablack to the general public makes it the rarest color ever. It now exists as a coating used in deep space imaging, automotive sensing, optical systems, and art. Some of its most notable properties include ultra low reflectance, UV absorption, and high thermal shock resistance. Vantablack’s visual effect is quite striking. Rather than a painted surface, objects coated in vantablack look two dimensional.

    Did you know

    Vantablack absorbs so much light that no spectrometer can accurately determine what percentage it actually takes in.

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