Smashing Color

with Maggie Maggio

Journey to Crayola

Yesterday I visited the corporate offices of Crayola in Easton, Pennsylvania. It was the first step in my quixotic journey to gain widespread recognition for magenta and cyan as primary colors.

Whenever I teach color workshops I find that most people don’t know that Red is not a primary mixing color in paint, polymer, dyes and inks. They struggle to think of Red as a secondary color that comes from a mixture of Magenta and Yellow. When I start explaining the CMY color system most of them can visualize Magenta but many don’t have a clue what Cyan looks like.

I have books from the early 1900’s that call the primaries Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. That’s over a century ago. I’m not sure why most people still think that Red, Yellow and Blue are the primaries but I think it would help tremendously if Crayola came out with a new package of eight crayons that included the cyan, magenta, and yellow of the CMY system, and the red, green and blue of the RGB system. CMYRGB. Smirgby?

Children learn color names from their crayons. Crayola knows this. I found out yesterday that the printed names on Crayola crayons are purposely not capitalized because lower case text is easier for children to read.

There’s already a red, green and blue in the traditional box of eight crayons. We grew up with these colors and it would be hard to change our memories of what these colors look like.  That’s why new names are needed. Whether Crayola makes new colors, reformulates old colors, or renames old colors, I’d love to see a modern box of eight on the shelves with these eight crayons:

spectrum red (a color similar to the current scarlet – an orange red)

spectrum green (the current green could work though a new color might come closer)

spectrum blue (a color similar to the current blue-violet)

cyan (a color similar to the current cerulean)

magenta (their violet-red is better than their current magenta but neither is quite right)

yellow (the current yellow is OK)



I’ve thought about visiting Crayola for a long time. Since I am staying with my sister in eastern Pennsylvania this week, I figured it was now or never. The package I prepared was passed on to Cheri Sterman, Director of Child Development. In my cover letter I said,  “This small box of crayons could open huge doors. Little by little the world would shift from ROYGBIV to CMYRGB and Crayola could say they helped make it happen.” I’m not sure what the next step will be but I’ll keep you posted on the journey.


  1. I think it’s so cool that my name is a color 😛

  2. This is really interesting Maggie.
    I missed out on one of your workshops in Stresa, Italy, a few years ago … and I’m so sorry that I did. Grrrr

  3. I recently decided to pick up the polymer again and needed to get some colors. I didn’t even buy blue, I don’t think…it was “turquoise” and magenta for me…they make the clearest color mixing!

    Very cool mission you are on!

    All you need to do is have people mix color with red, blue and yellow and then cyan and magenta and yellow and they’ll be sold on why they should be primary colors!

  4. Maggie Maggio

    November 6, 2011 at 4:32 am

    Thanks Jeanne. I’m waiting to see how Crayola responds and then I’ll take the next steps. They have so many products and keep coming out with new ones. It really should not be too hard to convince them. If it is – then I will need lots of help!

  5. After taking a second workshop with you last weekend here in Columbus, OH, I couldn’t agree more with your idea of changing the colors in the crayon box from Crayola. All of us in the Columbus Polymer Clay Guild are jumping on the color mixing we learned from you at the workshops and from the book you and Lindly wrote. Let us know if we can help in any way!

  6. What a fun trip! I have always wanted to go there. I hope you have influenced them to
    change their thinking, Crayons were so much a part of our childhood memories.

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