Colour lexicon

The history of dyeing

Dyeing is an ancient art

We love decorating our environment with colour—as much today as we did thousands of years ago. Even in early times, people knew of ways to dye textiles: pieces of fabric that were dyed with indigo (dark blue) or madder (red) and approximately 5,000 years old were found in Egyptian graves. Finds in Central Europe prove that indigenous plants such as woad (blue) or bloodroot (red) were already being used 3,400–2,800 years before the birth of Christ.


Secret recipes

Our forefathers created colourants from roots, flowers, wood, cochineal, purple sea snails, and minerals. The production of these colourants and the dyes themselves tended to be very time-consuming. Early dyers were faced with the problem of permanently fixing a colourant to the fibres without it fading after exposure to water or light. For this purpose, they usually had to stain the yarn or fabric. Many dyers therefore specialised in specific dyes and kept their recipes secret.


Purple sea snail (haustellum brandaris)

Colour as a symbol of power and wealth

The costly procedure for the manufacture of colourants and dyes meant that colour became a symbol of power: purple, the most expensive colourant ever, was only allowed to be worn by emperors, kings, or cardinals for a long time. It was a chance find that triggered a revolution in dyeing methods: while searching for an anti-malarial product, William Perkin came across mauve (aniline purple) in 1856. His experiments with tar elements led to the discovery of the first of many synthetic colourants.

The multi-coloured revolution

The “democratisation” of dyes started with the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century. Since then, scientists have continued to develop chemical textile colourants. Dyeing is now carried out worldwide almost exclusively using inexpensive, industrially manufactured products. The colour range for modern textile dyes is almost unlimited, their colourfastness is excellent, and the era of time-consuming dyeing using secret recipes is long gone. Nowadays, affordable dyeing is available to everyone. Simply try it out for yourself. simplicol can assist you.

The effect of colours

“Experience has shown us that individual colours can produce specific emotions.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), German writer, natural scientist, and statesman

Colourful energy

Colours are energy beams perceived by the human body. The colour oscillations that affect the human body trigger different feelings and reactions in our brain through our sense organs. Depending on our experiences, these feelings are either amplified or modified. Colours therefore have a great impact on our sense of well-being and our attitude towards life.


Colour circle according to Goethe

Strong symbolic power

Decisive factors in the way colour affects us are light oscillations, our experiences, associations, and the symbolism learnt in our own culture.

Yellow is the colour of the sun, of light: it radiates happiness and optimism, but is also a warning colour for poisonous, explosive, or radioactive substances and in traffic lights. Yellow is intellectually stimulating.

Red is the colour of blood, fire, and war—but also represents love and passion. Red stimulates our mood.

Blue is the sea, sky, and infinity. It is the colour of the gods and a symbol of purity and beauty. Blue has a calming effect on us.

Green is nature, spring, hope, and contentedness. Green symbolises fertility and growth—and sometimes immaturity too. A green environment is calming, regenerating, and assists concentration.

Light and colour

“When evening’s red glow disappears, no more cheerful colours remain.” Clemens Brentano (1778–1842), German writer

On the waves of light

It was Isaac Newton who made a fundamental discovery about the way colour is created during his experiments with prisms: white light can be split into colours. The light in our environment is a mixture of different wavelengths. Humans perceive light in wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometres as colours. Colour-sensitive photoreceptors (cones) are located in the retina of the human eye. They can differentiate between short-wave, mid-wave, and long-wave light and transmit this information to the brain. This is where the actual sensation of colour takes place.

The wavelength determines the colour

We see short-wave light as blue, mid-wave as green, and long-wave as red. Cyan, yellow, and magenta are the primary colours from which all other colours are produced. White is composed of the light of these three colours in equal proportions. And if our eyes do not receive any electromagnetic waves, we sense the colour black.
These five different colour sensations are the cornerstones of colour perception, which is why we also call them the primary colours.


Primary, secondary, and mixed colours

“Multi-coloured is my favourite colour.”
Walter Gropius (1883–1969), American architect of German origin

In kindergarten, every child learns that you can make almost any colour using yellow, red, and blue. Later, the child is taught that this red is a specific red called magenta, and that these three colours are called primary colours. If you mix two primary colours, you create secondary colours. They are often arranged in a circle:


When dyeing, you can also create mixed colours based on the same principles. You just have to be aware of one rule of thumb: the new colour must be darker than the existing colour of the fabric. And please remember:
the outcome is always a surprise. You can use our colour mixer to see what the potential colour results might be.

The basics of colour design

“My designs are about colour. The love for colour, sometimes even for colours that scream.”
Oscar de la Renta, (* 22 July 1932), Spanish fashion designer

FarbgestaltungTo use colours meaningfully, you first have to think about what you want to express. This is how artists, interior designers, and graphic artists operate—and this is also how you can approach the dyeing process. The design tools available to us are colour harmonies, colour contrasts, and colour tones. In addition, designing with colour is a question of taste for which there are no binding rules.

Warm and cold colours

Some colour shades are perceived to be cold or warm: we sense yellow, sunset yellow, red orange, and red as warm colours. A red room feels up to 4°C warmer than a blue room. We sense blue, green, green blue, and blue violet as cold colours.

The more unusual, the more striking

The more unusual the colour combination, the more interesting it is. Colours that lie opposite each other in the colour circle are described as complementary colours. They contrast with each other the most strongly, set each other off in terms of brightness, and therefore create a particularly intense effect.

Colour families

To create harmonious colours, we recommend using colours from just one “colour family”. Secondary colours are related to the joint “parents”—the primary colours. There are three colour families:

Red – Orange – Green
Yellow – Green – Blue
Blue – Purple – Red

We also perceive colours that only share one “parent” as harmonious, such as green and orange, which both are derived from yellow.

Which simplicol colour suits my type?

“Colour possesses me. I do not have to pursue it. It will possess me always. That is the meaning of this happy hour: colour and I are one.”
Paul Klee (1879–1940), Swiss-German artist

Colour selection is a question of type

You have black or dark-brown hair, the whites of your eyes are bright, and your skin burns very quickly—you are almost certainly a winter type. And your girlfriend? She has yellow, gold, or strawberry blonde hair, her eyes have a green glow, and warm, lively, bright, and fruity colours suit her particularly well? Then your girlfriend is most likely to be a spring type. There is a connection between our type and the colours that best suit us due to the natural pigmentation of our skin and hair. Colour advisors distinguish between four basic types: spring, summer, autumn, and winter types. If you would like to match your clothing and accessories (scarves, ties, caps, shawls) to your colour type, you will find suitable colours in our range.

Characteristics of the spring type

The skin is usually light, sensitive, almost pale, and transparent, but it can also have a yellow to delicate gold tone. The spring type is generally sensitive to the sun but can also tan quickly. If the spring type has freckles, these are mostly golden brown. Spring types tend towards reddening and red patches on the face.
The spring type has a light and radiant eye colour; the eyes are mainly blue, green, or amber brown.
The hair colour of spring types is often golden blonde, golden brown, golden beige, or light red. This type naturally has strands of hair in different shades, especially after frequent exposure to the sun. The spring type usually has fine hair.
Ideal colours
Warm, clear, and light colours such as apricot, lime green, gold beige, and soft turquoise emphasise the delicate characteristics of this type, give a radiant glow to the complexion, as well as smoothen tiredness lines.
Problem colours
Dark, heavy tones such as black, cool intense tones such as pink, mixed colours such as olive, or pastel colours such as light blue are less suitable for the spring type. They either dominate the appearance or make this type seem more inconspicuous.

Perfect simplicol colour shades for spring types

India orange 1702 Mango orange 1802
Lavender lilac 1707 Luscious berry 1806
Pacific turquoise 1711 Caribbean turquoise 1810
Apple green 1714 Spring green 1813

Characteristics of the summer type

The skin is a cool-bluish, light shade, and sometimes also rosy. The summer type tans well. If the summer type has freckles, these are more grey/ash brown rather than golden brown.
The eye colour of the summer type is blue, grey blue, grey green, or more often a mixture of all three. The eyes have a cloudy appearance; the whites of the eyes are not clear and contrast little with the iris. Depending on the light, the colour of the eyes may vary. Exceptionally, summer types might have brown eyes.
Summer types typically have ash tones: ash blonde, ash brown or silver, platinum blonde. Golden blonde is not part of the range; the hair does not have any golden highlights, but is either matt or has a silver sheen.
Ideal colours
Cool, subdued shades such as smoky blue, denim blue, mauve, raspberry red, lilac, pink, as well as powdery cool pastel colours and shades of brown that tend towards pink not yellow, are particularly suitable for summer types. These colours give the face a fresh look and perfectly complement the skin and hair.
Problem colours
Loud and intense colours such as acid green and bright blue, yellowish shades such as salmon and orange, yellowy beige shades, black, and pure white are less suitable for summer types: they create a wan and tired appearance.

Perfect simplicol colour shades for summer types

Corn yellow 1701 Sunburst yellow 1801
Reed green 1715 Safari khaki 1815
Dolphin grey 1717 Elegant grey 1817
Marine blue 1708 Night blue 1808
Gentian blue 1709 Royal blue 1809
Azure blue1710
Lavender lilac 1707 Lavender lilac 1807
Blackberry red 1706 Luscious berry 1806
Cherry red 1704 Ruby red 1804

Characteristics of the autumn type

The skin of the autumn type usually has a yellow-gold, warm undertone. Depending on the predisposition, the complexion either has a transparent appearance (sometimes with light-reddish freckles) or a champagne tone. Alternatively, the skin of the autumn type is a strong golden, beige, or peach.
The eyes of the autumn type are often quite striking, as they almost always have an intense look and are sometimes crystal-clear or almost glowing. The most common eye colours are light blue, brown (amber or intense dark brown), and green, occasionally steel blue. Many autumn types typically have a speckled iris with a golden hue.
The characteristic hair colour of the autumn type is red—from carrot red to copper red and chestnut brown. There are also autumn types with medium blonde or dark blonde hair, but they always have golden or light reddish highlights. Like the complexion, the hair always has a warm shimmer.
Ideal colours
All natural autumn colours that have a warm, earthy, and golden glow are suitable for this type. They harmonise with the skin and hair as well as liven the complexion. These include terracotta and rust, orange red, yellow green, moss green, and all warm brown and beige tones from chestnut, mahogany, and bronze to camel. The autumn type is the only type that is able to wear subdued mixed colours such as khaki and curry.
Problem colours
Cold, garish shades such as pink and lemon yellow, cool blue shades such as navy blue and black. These colours often make autumn types look sickly, give the skin a less even appearance, and accentuate dark shadows and wrinkles.

Perfect simplicol colour shades for autumn types

Corn yellow 1701 Sunburst yellow 1801
India orange 1702 Mango orange 1802
Deep sea green 1712 Opal turquoise 1811
Ivy green 1713 Forest green 1812
Olive green1814
Reed green 1715 Safari khaki 1815
Nut brown 1716 Espresso brown 1816
Cherry red 1704 Ruby red 1804

Characteristics of the winter type

The skin of the winter type is mostly cool-bluish, porcelain-like, and does not tan easily. Alternatively, it is slightly olive-coloured and tans quickly. The winter type rarely has freckles, and if so, they appear grey.
The eye colour of the winter type is always cool and intense, such as blue, dark brown, green, or grey. The colours stand out in contrast to the whites of the eyes. Typically, winter types have dark hair colours, such as brown (ash), black, and blue black. However, hair may also be cool blonde, e.g. platinum blonde.
Ideal colours
Clear, cool, and strong colours, such as royal blue, fuchsia, pink, scarlet, cherry red, bottle green, black, white, and strong lemon yellow, are suitable for the winter type.
Problem colours
All washed-out pastel shades, brown-beige shades, and warm colours do not particularly suit the winter type.

Perfect simplicol colour shades for winter types

Corn Yellow 1701 Sunburst yellow 1801
Azure blue1710 Caribbean turquoise 1810
Pacific turquoise 1711
Deep sea green 1712 Opal turquoise 1811
Ivy green 1713 Forest green 1812
Marine blue 1708 Night blue 1808
Lavender lilac 1707 Lavender lilac1807
Poppy red 1703 Rose red 1803
Cherry red 1704 Ruby red 1804
Fuchsia pink 1705 Cheerful pink 1805
Dolphin grey 1717 Elegant grey 1817
Nut brown 1716 Espresso brown 1816
Midnight black 1718 Black velvet 1818

The colours of the rainbow

“Look at the rainbow! It is only when the heavens weep that you can spot the colours in the light.”

Painted by sun and rain

Rainbows are created when the sun is reflected by billions of droplets of moisture in the air: when white light encounters a raindrop in the air, the raindrop reflects the light on its surface. The light is split into different wavelengths, which we recognise as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.


Children love these bright rainbow colours. We now know that strong colours have a positive impact on the development of children. Treat your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews: bring out bright and colourful accents quickly and easily with simplicol dyes.

Life is multi-coloured (or black)

When I recently “spring-cleaned” my wardrobe, “it” found its way back into my hands—a pair of flared, stretch-fabric, cord trousers in BEIGE! Given the drama, I have to stress this once again—BEIGE! I am mystified as to why I bought them for myself a few years ago. Firstly, BEIGE is absolutely not my colour, and it shows every single mark. And secondly, the stretch fabric particularly highlights the problem area around my thighs—if anyone has not yet noticed my tendency towards saddlebags, I can make this shortcoming rather obvious by wearing beige stretch fabric! Fantastic! And the said breeches have bobbed about unloved and unworn in the depths of my wardrobe for the above reasons, only spared from the bag of old clothing on account of their newness … and now during the said sorting of the contents of my wardrobe into three categories—“super stuff”, “OK, shows some promise”, and “for GOODNESS’ sake, get rid of it!”—I am once again holding these cord trousers helplessly in my hands. My hands are itching towards “for GOODNESS’ sake, get rid of it!”, when I suddenly remember a relic from my past—simplicol true textile dye from Brauns-Heitmann.

This true textile dye makes it child’s play to dye and redye almost any textile in the washing machine. My dear mum will certainly still remember these dyes with sadness, because I spent my early teens dyeing in a batik fever anything that wasn’t nailed down—the stylish Sunday favourite was mercilessly coloured purple-blue-yellow, and later, when I entered my black phase, almost every well-meant gift from grandma, auntie, or mother became a victim … oh, a sweet little pink jacket “so that our child has something sensible to wear” …, simplicol purchased, popped in the machine, and the gift was resplendent in deep black! I thought simplicol was absolutely FANTASTIC … my mother was somewhat less enthusiastic!

These textile dyes can be obtained from chemists’ shops or larger department stores in a variety of different colours; there are three different types of dye—liquid dyes for 60/95°C textiles, 30/40°C textiles, and a powder for wool, silk, and polyamide. You can dye in the washing machine as well as in a bowl (mum LOVED it when I used her Tupperware bowls for my batik dyeing). Once my batik phase ended, I preferred to dye in the washing machine because it is cleaner and simply more practical.  With one packet, you can—depending on the colour intensity you want to achieve—dye between 300 g and 1,800 g of fabric, with GUARANTEED colourfastness.

I decided to dye my unloved beige stretch-fabric cord trousers, stemming from my saddlebags days, with one packet of liquid dye for 30/40°C textiles in the colour shade “bottle green”, which I bought from the Schlecker store for €4.39. The packet contains 100 ml of dye in a small plastic bottle and 500 g of “true fix granules” … a white substance similar to salt, which fixes the dye. In addition, a further 500 g of normal salt is necessary for each dyeing cycle.

The textile to be dyed must be clean and free of marks, as well as evenly damp—to make sure of this, I first washed the trousers without fabric softener in the washing machine. Next, sprinkle the entire contents of the “true fix” packet (don’t inhale, this stuff is IRRITATING!) to the piece of clothing in the drum and add the salt—if you use more than one packet of dye, however, you do not need any salt, because the rigmarole of adding the large quantity of true fix replaces the need for any extra salt. Hurrah!

Now programme the washing machine at 30°C or 40°C, depending on the temperature recommended for the fabric, and start the wash cycle WITHOUT PRE-WASH. After the water intake, add the liquid dye to the machine via the detergent compartment, and flush through with one litre of water. So far, so good—this is when you have to sit back and let the machine take over! Great, isn’t it? When the wash, or in this case DYE CYCLE is complete, wash the dyed item once again without detergent to remove any excess dye.

And the outcome?! Flared cord trousers in a beautiful, even, dark bottle green, just what I had hoped for—the bag of old clothing can wait. NOW I can finally wear these trousers!

The freshly dyed clothes should still be washed separately for the next three times, because it may still contain residual dye that could decorate other items of clothing with beautiful COLOURFAST blotches, which is rarely a good look!

Something to be aware of when dyeing is that polyester or polyacrylic are NOT dyed with this liquid dye, i.e. seams, embroidery, or anything similar remain in their original colour—this CAN look good, but MAY NOT! (The pink blouse my mother gave to me still had pink seams after I dyed it black … not particularly attractive and something that I was not too happy about!) When dyeing jeans, they lose their typical jeans character (faded seams, etc.) and take on an even colour—this CAN look good, but MAY NOT!

In principle, the simplicol true textile dyes are not completely wholesome in a jute-sack way, so you should wear gloves when dying in the bowl and avoid inhaling or swallowing the true fix granules … or the dye, tee hee!

simplicol dyes can also be mixed together, which MAY create exciting new colour shades … but MAY NOT—you should learn to navigate around the colour guide, because BLUE AND GREEN are really not good together…

Although it goes without saying, for the sake of completeness I will mention the obvious: DARKER items cannot be dyed LIGHTER … that’s clear, isn’t it? And if you want to dye a piece of clothing because it is adorned with a mark that won’t budge, the colour you choose should also be somewhat darker … a red wine stain on a white shirt will still be obvious if said shirt is dyed pale yellow … but what am I talking about, you can THINK for yourself, can’t you?!

Otherwise, there is nothing more to say. simplicol dyes are even and colourfast, the whole process is extremely easy and practical … and children—next time granny tries to palm off a little pastel jacket on you—GET TO WORK! You can always dye it black!