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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the color. For other uses, see Grey (disambiguation).


Color coordinates

Hex triplet #808080

sRGBB (r, g, b) (128, 128, 128)

CMYKH (c, m, y, k) (0, 0, 0, 50)

HSV (h, s, v) (--°, 0%, 50%)

Source HTML/CSS[1]

B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

Grey (British English) or gray (American English; see spelling differences) is an

intermediate color between black and white. It is a neutral or achromatic color, meaning literally
that it is a color "without color."[2] It is the color of a cloud-covered sky, of ashand of lead.[3]
The first recorded use of grey as a color name in the English language was in AD 700.[4] Grey is
the dominant spelling in European and Commonwealth English, although gray remained in
common usage in the UK until the second half of the 20th century.[5] Gray has been the preferred
American spelling since approximately 1825,[6] although grey is an accepted variant.[7][8]
In Europe and the United States, surveys show that grey is the color most commonly associated
with neutrality, conformity, boredom, uncertainty, old age, indifference, and modesty. Only one
percent of respondents chose it as their favorite color.[9]


 1Etymology
 2In nature and culture
 3In history and art
 4In the sciences, nature, and technology
 5In culture
 6Associations and symbolism
 7See also
 8References
 9Bibliography

Grey comes from the Middle English grai or grei, from the Anglo-Saxon graeg, and is related to
the Dutch grauw and grijs and German grau.[10] The first recorded use of grey as a color name in
the English language was in AD 700.[4]

In nature and culture[edit]

Blocks of lead shielding a radioactive sample

Column of volcanic ash from vent on Crater Peak, Mount Spurr

Gibeon meteorite

A grey wolf

Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point wear grey.

Battleship grey or variations on this shade is the standard color for U.S. warships and those of many
other navies, since it is less visible from a distance. The battleship pictured is the USS Missouri, built
in 1944.

In history and art[edit]

Antiquity through the Middle Ages[edit]
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, grey was the color of undyed wool, and thus was the color most
commonly worn by peasants and the poor. It was also the color worn by monks of the Franciscan
order, Cistercian Order and the Capucine Order as a symbol of their vows of humility and
poverty. Franciscan monks in England and Scotland were commonly known as the grey friars,
and that name is now attached to many places in Great Britain.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk, wore robes of undyed grey wool

Portrait of Saint Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order, by El Greco. He also chose grey as the
color of humility.
Renaissance and the Baroque[edit]
During the Renaissance and the Baroque, grey began to play an important role in fashion and
art. Black became the most popular color of the nobility, particularly in Italy, France, and Spain,
and grey and white were harmonious with it.
Grey was also frequently used for the drawing of oil paintings, a technique called grisaille. The
painting would first be composed in grey and white, and then the colors, made with thin
transparent glazes, would be added on top. The grisaille beneath would provide the shading,
visible through the layers of color. Sometimes the grisaille was simply left uncovered, giving the
appearance of carved stone.
Grey was a particularly good background color for gold and for skin tones. It became the most
common background for the portraits of Rembrandt Van Rijn and for many of the paintings of El
Greco, who used it to highlight the faces and costumes of the central figures. The palette of
Rembrandt was composed almost entirely of somber colors. He composed his warm greys out of
black pigments made from charcoal or burnt animal bones, mixed with lead white or a white
made of lime, which he warmed with a little red lake color from cochineal or madder. In one
painting, the portrait of Margaretha de Geer (1661), one part of a grey wall in the background is
painted with a layer of dark brown over a layer of orange, red, and yellow earths, mixed with ivory
black and some lead white. Over this he put an additional layer of glaze made of mixture of blue
smalt, red ochre, and yellow lake. Using these ingredients and many others, he made greys
which had, according to art historian Philip Ball, "an incredible subtlety of pigmentation."[11] The
warm, dark and rich greys and browns served to emphasize the golden light on the faces in the

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz(1588) by El Greco is a swirling carousel of greys

Rembrandt Van Rijn self-portrait, 1629. Rembrandt placed his figures against extremely complex
greys, made up of many tones and hints of color to highlight the face in the center.
Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries[edit]
Grey became a highly fashionable color in the 18th century, both for women's dresses and for
men's waistcoats and coats. It looked particularly luminous coloring the silk and satin fabrics
worn by the nobility and wealthy.
Women's fashion in the 19th century was dominated by Paris, while men's fashion was set by
London. The grey business suit appeared in the mid-19th century in London; light grey in
summer, dark grey in winter; replacing the more colorful palette of men's clothing early in the
The clothing of women working in the factories and workshops of Paris in the 19th century was
usually grey. This gave them the name of grisettes. "Gris" or grey also meant drunk, and the
name "grisette" was also given to the lower class of Parisian prostitutes.
Grey also became a common color for military uniforms; in an age of rifles with longer range,
soldiers in grey were less visible as targets than those in blue or red. Grey was the color of the
uniforms of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, and of the Prussian
Army during the Franco-German War of 1870.
Several artists of the mid-19th century used different tones of grey to create memorable
paintings; Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot used tones of green-grey and blue grey to give harmony
to his landscapes, and James McNeill Whistler created a special grey for the background of the
portrait of his mother, and for his own self-portrait.
Whistler's arrangement of different tones of grey had an effect on the world of music, on the
French composer Claude Debussy. In 1894, Debussy wrote to violinist Eugène Ysaÿedescribing
his Nocturnes as "an experiment in the different combinations that can be obtained from one
color – what a study in grey would be in painting."[12]

Portrait of Captain Augustus Keppel(1752) by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Portrait of Charlotte Walsingham, Lady Fitzgerald by John Hoppner (18th century). Grey was a color
of high fashion in the 18th century.

Private Edwin Francis Jemison of the Confederate Army, (between 1860 and 1862), a soldier in
the American Civil War, wore a grey uniform. The war was sometimes called the war of the blue and
the grey.

An oak in the Forest of Fontainbleau, by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (about 1830)

Arrangement in grey and black no.1 by James McNeill Whistler, (1871), better known as Whistler's

Self-Portrait of James McNeill Whistler (1872), also called Arrangement in Grey was a virtuoso
concert of different tones of grey

Princesses Leopoldina and Isabel(seated), daughters of Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, wearing grey
gowns (1855)
Twentieth and twenty-first centuries[edit]
In the late 1930s, grey became a symbol of industrialization and war. It was the dominant color
of Pablo Picasso's celebrated painting about the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, Guernica.[13]
After the war, the grey business suit became a metaphor for uniformity of thought, popularized in
such books as The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955), which became a successful film in

Grey concrete was a popular building material for monumental works of modern architecture in the
late 20th century. This is the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959) by American architect Louis

The Christ the Redeemerstatue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1931). The Art Decomonument is made of
reinforced concrete and clad in soapstone.

In the sciences, nature, and technology[edit]

Storm clouds[edit]
Storm clouds towards Clare Island, Ireland.

The whiteness or darkness of clouds is a function of their depth. Small, fluffy white clouds in
summer look white because the sunlight is being scattered by the tiny water droplets they
contain, and that white light comes to the viewer's eye. However, as clouds become larger and
thicker, the white light cannot penetrate through the cloud, and is reflected off the top. Clouds
look darkest grey during thunderstorms, when they can be as much as 20,000 to 30,000 feet
Stratiform clouds are a layer of clouds that covers the entire sky, and which have a depth of
between a few hundred to a few thousand feet thick. The thicker the clouds, the darker they
appear from below, because little of the sunlight is able to pass through. From above, in an
airplane, the same clouds look perfectly white, but from the ground the sky looks gloomy and
The greying of hair[edit]
The color of a person's hair is created by the pigment melanin, found in the core of each hair.
Melanin is also responsible for the color of the skin and of the eyes. There are only two types of
pigment; dark (eumelanin) or light (phaeomelanin). Combined in various combinations, these
pigments create all natural hair colors.
Melanin itself is the product of a specialized cell, the melanocyte, which is found in each hair
follicle, from which the hair grows. As hair grows, the melanocyte injects melanin into the hair
cells, which contain the protein keratin and which makes up our hair, skin, and nails. As long as
the melanocytes continue injecting melanin into the hair cells, the hair retains its original color. At
a certain age, however, which varies from person to person, the amount of melanin injected is
reduced and eventually stops. The hair, without pigment, turns grey and eventually white. The
reason for this decline of production of melanocytes is uncertain. In the February 2005 issue
of Science, a team of Harvard scientists suggested that the cause was the failure of the
melanocyte stem cells to maintain the production of the essential pigments, due to age or genetic
factors, after a certain period of time. For some people, the breakdown comes in their twenties;
for others, many years later.[16] According to the site of the magazine Scientific American,
"Generally speaking, among Caucasians 50 percent are 50 percent grey by age 50."[17] Adult
male gorillas also develop silver hair but only on their backs, see Physical characteristics of

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund

Actor Donald Sutherland

Over the centuries, artists have traditionally created grey by mixing black and white in various
proportions. They added a little red to make a warmer grey, or a little blue for a cooler grey.
Artists could also make a grey by mixing two complementary colors, such as orange and blue.
Today the grey on televisions, computer displays and telephones is usually created using
the RGB color model. Red, green, and blue light combined at full intensity on the black screen
makes white; by lowering the intensity, it is possible to create different shades of grey.
In printing, grey is usually obtained with the CMYK color model,
using cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Grey is produced either by using black and white, or by
combining equal amounts of cyan, magenta and yellow. Most greys have a cool or warm cast to
them, as the human eye can detect even a minute amount of color saturation. Yellow, orange,
and redcreate a "warm grey". Green, blue, and violet create a "cool grey".[18] When no color is
added, the color is "neutral grey", "achromatic grey" or simply "grey". Images consisting wholly of
black, white and greys are called monochrome, black-and-white or greyscale.

Warm grey Cool grey

Mixed with 6% yellow. Mixed with 6% blue.

RGB model
Grey values result when r = g = b, for the color (r, g, b)
CMYK model
Grey values are produced by c = m = y = 0, for the color (c, m, y, k). Lightness is
adjusted by varying k. In theory, any mixture where c = m = y is neutral, but in practice
such mixtures are often a muddy brown (see discussion on this topic).
HSL and HSV model
Achromatic greys have no hue, so the h code is marked as "undefined" using a dash: -- ;
greys also result whenever s is 0 or undefined, as is the case when v is 0 or l is 0 or 1
HTML Color Name Sample Hex triplet

(rendered by name) (rendered by hex triplet)

gainsboro #DCDCDC

lightgray #D3D3D3

silver #C0C0C0

darkgray #A9A9A9

gray #808080

dimgray #696969

lightslategray #778899

slategray #708090

darkslategray #2F4F4F

Web colors[edit]
There are several tones of grey available for use with HTML and Cascading Style
Sheets (CSS) as named colors, while 254 true greys are available by specification of
a hex tripletfor the RGB value. All are spelled gray, using the spelling grey can
cause errors. This spelling was inherited from the X11 color list. Internet
Explorer's Trident browser engine does not recognize grey and renders it green.
Another anomaly is that gray is in fact much darker than the X11 color
marked darkgray; this is because of a conflict with the original HTML gray and the
X11 gray, which is closer to HTML's silver. The three slategray colors are not
themselves on the greyscale, but are slightly saturated towards cyan (green + blue).
Since there are an even (256, including black and white) number
of unsaturated tones of grey, there are two grey tones straddling the midpoint in the
8-bit greyscale. The color name grayhas been assigned the lighter of the two shades
(128, also known as #808080), due to rounding up.
Until the 19th century, artists traditionally created grey by simply combining black
and white. Rembrandt Van Rijn, for instance, usually used lead white and
either carbon black or ivory black, along with touches of either blues or reds to cool
or warm the grey.
In the early 19th century, a new grey, Payne's grey, appeared on the market.
Payne's grey is a dark blue-grey, a mixture of ultramarine and black or of ultramarine
and Sienna. It is named after William Payne, a British artist who
painted watercolors in the late 18th century. The first recorded use of Payne’s
grey as a color name in English was in 1835.[19]
Animal color[edit]
Grey is a very common color for animals, birds and fish, ranging in size from whales
to mice. It provides a natural camouflage and allows them to blend with their

A grey whale travels as much as 11,000 kilometers annually between its breeding
waters in the Gulf of California and its feeding grounds in the Bering Sea.

The grey wolf (canis lupus) is the largest wild member of the Canidae family.

The African elephantis the largest land animal.

The grey heron is a large bird found in Europe, Asia and Africa. A large colony of grey
herons lives in the center of Amsterdam.
Grey matter of the brain[edit]
The substance that composes the brain is sometimes referred to as grey matter, or
"the little grey cells", so the color grey is associated with things intellectual. However,
the living human brain is actually pink in color; it only turns grey when dead.
Nanotechnology and grey goo[edit]
Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario, also known as ecophagy: out-
of-control self-replicating nanobots consume all living matter on Earth while building
more of themselves.[20]
Grey noise[edit]
In sound engineering, grey noise is random noise subjected to
a psychoacoustic equal loudness curve, such as an inverted A-weighting curve, over
a given range of frequencies, giving the listener the perception that it is equally loud
at all frequencies.

In culture[edit]
In the Christian religion, grey is the color of ashes, and so a biblical symbol
of mourning and repentance, described as sackcloth and ashes. It can be used
during Lent or on special days of fasting and prayer. As the color of humility and
modesty, grey is worn by monks of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Franciscan
order and Cistercian order.[21] Grey cassocks are worn by clergy of the Brazilian
Catholic Apostolic Church.
Buddhist monks and priests in Japan and Korea will often wear a sleeved grey,
brown, or black outer robe.
Taoist priests in China also often wear grey.

A Franciscan monk in Israel

Young Buddhist monks in Korea.

Taoist priest in Wudang, China

Grey is rarely used as a color by political parties, largely because of its common
association with conformity, boredom and indecision. An example of a political party
using grey as a color are the German Grey Panthers.
The term "grey power" or "the grey vote" is sometimes used to describe the
influence of older voters as a voting bloc. In the United States, older people are
more likely to vote, and usually vote to protect certain social benefits, such as Social
Greys is a term sometimes used pejoratively by environmentalists in the green
movement to describe those who oppose environmental measures and supposedly
prefer the grey of concrete and cement.
During the American Civil War, the soldiers of the Confederate Army wore grey
uniforms. At the beginning of the war, The armies of the North and of the South had
very similar uniforms; some Confederate units wore blue, and some Union units
wore grey. There naturally was confusion, and sometimes soldiers fired by mistake
at soldiers of their own army. On June 6, 1861, the Confederate government issued
regulations standardizing the army uniform and establishing cadet grey as the
uniform color. This was (and still is) the color of the uniform of cadets at the United
States Military Academy at West Point, and cadets at the Virginia Military Institute,
which produced many officers for the Confederacy.
The new uniforms were designed by Nicola Marschall, a German-American artist,
who also designed the original Confederate flag. He closely followed the design of
contemporary French and Austrian military uniforms.[24] Grey was not chosen for its
camouflage value; this was not appreciated for several more decades; but because
the South did not have a major dye industry and grey dyes were inexpensive and
easy to manufacture. While some units had uniforms colored with good-quality dyes,
which were a solid bluish-grey, others had uniforms colored with vegetable dyes
made from sumac or logwood, which quickly faded in sunshine to the yellowish color
of butternut squash.
In the last twelve months of the war, the South was able to import uniforms made
with good-quality blue-grey dye from Ireland, made especially for the Confederacy
by a firm in Limerick, but by that time the war was on its way to being lost.
The German Army wore grey uniforms from 1907 until 1945, during both the First
World War and Second World War. The color chosen was a grey-green called field
grey (German: feldgrau). It was chosen because it was less visible at a distance
than the previous German uniforms, which were Prussian blue. It was one of the first
uniform colors to be chosen for its camouflage value, important in the new age of
smokeless powder and more accurate rifles and machine guns. It gave the Germans
a distinct advantage at the beginning of the First World War, when the French
soldiers were dressed in blue jackets and red trousers.
During World War II, most German soldiers wore the traditional field grey. The
soldiers of the Afrika Korps of General Erwin Rommel wore a lighter grey uniform
more suitable for the desert.
Some of the more recent uniforms of the German Army and East German
Army were field grey, as were some uniforms of the Swedish army. The Army of
Chile wears field grey today.

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Chancellorsville(1863). He was

mortally wounded seven days after the picture was taken.

Confederate soldier Andrew J. Winn (1838-1864), died from his wounds after the battle
of Spotsylvania Courthouse (1864)

German soldiers wearing field grey at the First Battle of the Marne (1914)

Uniforms of German Army (1939–45), (U.S. National Archives)

The Afrika Korpsuniform of General Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox" (1941–42).

Soldiers of the East German Army wore grey until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The grey suit[edit]
During the 19th century, women's fashions were largely dictated by Paris, while
London set fashions for men. The intent of a business suit was above all to show
seriousness, and to show one's position in business and society. Over the course of
the century, bright colors disappeared from men's fashion, and were largely replaced
by a black or dark charcoal grey frock coat in winter, and lighter greys in summer. In
the early 20th century, the frock coat was gradually replaced by the lounge suit, a
less formal version of evening dress, which was also usually black or charcoal grey.
In the 1930s the English suit style was called the drape suit, with wide shoulders and
a nipped waist, usually dark or light grey. After World War II, the style changed to a
slimmer fit called the continental cut, but the color remained grey.[25]
By the second half of the 20th century, men's fashions in suits were determined as
much by Hollywood as by London tailors. The 1950s and 1960s were the age of
glory for the grey suit; they were worn by movie stars, such as Cary
Grant and Humphrey Bogart, and by President John F. Kennedy, who wore a two-
button grey suit. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson was the first U.S. president to
be inaugurated wearing an Oxford grey business suit; his predecessors had worn a
formal cutaway coat with striped trousers for their inaugurations.[26] Grey suits also
became the unofficial uniform of Madison Avenue in New York City, the center of the
advertising industry.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the style was beginning to change; grey was
considered monotonous and without character. Gradually the dark blue suit gained
supremacy. At recent meetings of the G-20 and other international organizations,
nearly every head of state of the world was wearing a blue business suit.

William Holden and Humphrey Bogart in grey business suits in the 1954 film Sabrina.
Bogart, as the serious older brother in the film, wears the darker grey.

The official portrait of President John F. Kennedy, in a grey suit. (1963).

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseffwearing a grey suit. (2009).

In ethics, grey is either used pejoratively to describe situations that have no clear
moral value; "the grey area", or positively to balance an all-black or all-white view;
for example, shades of grey represent magnitudes of good and bad.
In folklore, grey is often associated with goblins, elves and other legendary
mischievous creatures. Scandinavian folklore often depicts gnomes and nisser in
grey clothing. This is partly because of their association with dusk, as well as
because these creatures were said to be outside traditional moral standards of black
and white.
The writer J. R. R. Tolkien made use of this folkloric symbolism of grey in his works,
which often draw upon Scandinavian folkloric names and themes. Gandalf is called
the Grey Pilgrim; settings include the Grey Havens and Ered Mithrin, the grey
mountains; and characters include the Grey Elves.

Illustration of goblins by Goya


 In baseball, grey is the color typically used for road uniforms. This came about
because in the 19th and early 20th century, away teams didn't normally have
access to laundry facilities on the road, thus stains were not noticeable on the
darker grey uniforms as opposed to the white uniforms worn by the home team.

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees wearing a typical grey road baseball
Believers in parapsychology say that those who are suffering from the mental
illness of depression have grey auras.[27]
Gay culture[edit]

 In gay slang, a grey queen is a gay person who works for the financial
services industry (this term originates from the fact that in the 1950s, people
who worked in this professionoften wore grey flannel suits).[28]

Associations and symbolism[edit]

In America and Europe, grey is one of the least popular colors; In a European
survey, only one percent of men said it was their favorite color, and thirteen percent
called it their least favorite color; the response from women was almost the same.
According to color historian Eva Heller, "grey is too weak to be considered
masculine, but too menacing to be considered a feminine color. It is neither warm
nor cold, neither material or spiritual. With grey, nothing seems to be decided."[29]
Grey is the color most commonly associated in many cultures with the elderly and
old age, because of the association with grey hair; it symbolizes the wisdom and
dignity that come with experience and age. The New York Times is sometimes
called The Grey Lady because of its long history and esteemed position in American
Grey is the color most often associated in Europe and America with modesty. [31]

See also[edit]
 Shades of grey
 Black
 Black-and-white
 Eigengrau
 List of colors
 Vin gris (grey wine in French)
 White

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10. Jump up^ Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, 1964.
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214–215 (French translation).
12. Jump up^ Weintraub, Stanley. 2001. Whistler: a biography (New York: Da Capo
Press). ISBN 978-0-306-80971-2. p. 351
13. Jump up^ Stefano Zuffi, (2012), Color in Art, pg. 310
14. Jump up^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur- effets et symboliques, pg. 236-
15. Jump up^ Research Frontiers Site of the University of Arkansas Archived 2012-12-
20 at the Wayback Machine. (retrieved December 17, 2012)
16. Jump up^ Library of Congress Science Reference Services Archived 2013-01-02 at
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17. Jump up^ Scientific American, "Why does hair turn gray?" Archived 2013-11-14 at
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18. Jump up^ Color Palette Archived December 14, 2010, at WebCite
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201; Colour Sample of Payne’s Grey: Page 117 Plate 47 Color Sample A9
20. Jump up^ "Leading nanotech experts put 'grey goo' in perspective" (Press release).
Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. June 9, 2004. Archived from the original on
September 6, 2014. Retrieved 2006-06-17.
21. Jump up^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur- effets et symboliques, pg. 235
22. Jump up^ The Bonus Years: The 'grey vote' may take the cake on
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23. Jump up^ Grey vote Archived 2012-10-30 at the Wayback Machine.
24. Jump up^ "Nicola Marschall: Artist of the Deep South". Alabama Department of
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26. Jump
up^ Archiv
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27. Jump up^ Arthur E. Powell The Astral Body and Other Astral
Phenomenon Wheaton, Illinois:1927—Theosophical Publishing House Page 12
28. Jump up^ Rodgers, Bruce Gay Talk (The Queen’s Vernacular): A Dictionary of Gay
Slang New York:1972 Parragon Books, an imprint of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Page 99
29. Jump up^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur, effets et symboliques. (Pg. 226)
30. Jump up^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur- effets et symboliques, pg. 234.
31. Jump up^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur, effets et symboliques. (Pg. 226)

 Heller, Eva (2009). Psychologie de la couleur - Effets et symboliques. Pyramyd
(French translation). ISBN 978-2-35017-156-2.
 Zuffi, Stefano (2012). Color in Art. Abrams. ISBN 978-1-4197-0111-5.
 Gage, John (2009). La Couleur dans l'art. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-2-
 Gottsegen, Mark (2006). The Painter's Handbook: A Complete Reference. New
York: Watson-Guptill Publications. ISBN 0-8230-3496-8.
 Varichon, Anne (2000). Couleurs - pigments et teintures dans les mains des
peuples. Paris: Editions du Seuil. ISBN 978-2-02-084697-4.


Shades of grey


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