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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nameless Paint Set Helps Kids Learn Colors - Supposedly

Maybe it's because I'm older and no longer color as much as I used to, but I have always appreciated the fact that I could look at my crayons, pencils bottles of paints to know exactly what color I am using.

Cerulean Blue or Prussian Blue?

It's probably why I know what those colors actually look like… the same way I know multiple variations of purple (I'm wearing a Purpereus-colored shirt right now, hence that example): such as mauve, violet, veronica, mulberry, pizzazz, periwinkle, aubergine and much, much more. I had the big Crayola 128 set. 

In kindergarten—which I skipped entirely and went directly to Grade 1—so... in Grade 1 when I was four-years-old, I was taught again (my parents had previously taught me) how colors of all hues are derived from the three primary colors of: red, yellow and blue.

Not having my parents around, the Japanese design team Ima Moteki has created a set of Nameless Paints that aims to completely change the way children learn and think about color.

I will say, however, that I can still picture in my head, having a set of water colors from when I was three or younger… and it lacked labels for colors… and that I had to figure out on my own what colors needed to be mixed to create the colors I required to paint that replica of the Sistine Chapel.

Actually… I wasn't and am not that good a painter… though I did seem to prefer the abstract expressionist stylings of Jackson Pollock. No drip painting for me. I was the drip.

I was going to include a the painting I did when I was three here... I saw it as recently as two months ago, but I can't find it now! It was a psychedelic watercolor masterpiece I painted in England... it would also have shown how a wee lad mixed his water colors to create new colors from his eight-color kit.

Anyhow… perhaps more organized than my nameless waterpaint set, the Ima Moteki brand of Campus Nameless Paints (Isn't it called 'Campus', and therefore it has a name?) comes in a white tube, with each labeled with only a 'mathematical equation' to show the would-be Rembrandt which primary colors - and what proportion of each - was required to make the color inside.

No… we don't have to mix colors… that's why, as evidenced from the image at the top, the paint kit contains MORE than three primary colors.

These paint colors are pre-mixed… it just tells you how they were created. The tube won't physically tell you what the color is, however, but the mathematical equation will provide you with a means of determining the answer.
It seems more complex than it needs to be. I would have to explain to my kid that the dots on the tube mean that different amounts of paint were used to create the paint in—and I've lost him.

Now, for those parents who do not have a kid with a form of attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity (ADHD)… such as a girl (all boys have ADHD until they are teenagers - and then develop a focus on teenage girls (or boys))… this Japanese paint set might effectively teach your soon-to-be starving artist how colors are created… just not what the name is of said color.

Does teal contain more blue, or more green? Back in 1993, I rocked Japan with a teal-colored dress coat… a color never-before seen in Japanese men's fashion.  It was not yet in fashion in Toronto when I bought it… but it was weeks later. I used to be a cloths horse… a metrosexual before that term existed.

By the way... does the large dot on the tube mean it is 50% more than the small dot? How much (measurement) of each paint is actually required? To me this Nameless Paint kit creates questions which could put off a child from the wonderful world of painting.

Conversely, the paint set's designers: Imai Yusuke and Moteki Ayami (surname first) say that pre-existing labels on colors create their own set of problems. 

Says Imai: "By not assigning names to the colors, we want to expand the definition of what a color can be, and the various shades they can create by mixing them."

It's true... I've never understood that 'flesh' color in my crayon set? 

Basically, the Japanese design duo want to simplify colors by expanding what defines a color… ergo, and I may not be using that word correctly, my Purpereus-colored shirt is, according to Imai and Moteki merely a purple-colored shirt.

While I would lose that little bit of ego-soothing superiority over my comrades who say they like my purple shirt, it is true that most people would look at my shirt and say it is purple… not what hue of purple it is.


According to Imai, by placing the equations on the label, painters can learn color theory. It helps kids (and adults) learn the basic concepts behind color theory, as well as how to mix and create new colors not included in the paint set.

This is a way of getting kids to understand colors while removing or not allowing them to develop the preconceptions that names like “green” and “blue” create.

I suppose… aside from the 'equation' denoting large, medium or small amounts added, I know I had to figure that out on my own when I was creating colors.

I also knew that while water in the ocean looks blue, that muddy water in the creek near my house wasn't blue - and neither was the stuff coming out of the faucet and into my bathtub (and that's before my four-year-old self sat down in it!).

I think these guys have just glommed onto what kids have always been doing and attempted to smartly market into a learning and teaching tool.

And that's where they will get people.

Upon first glance, the nameless paints sounds brilliant and a fantastic teaching aid—it is—but your little Einstein isn't going to learn color theory any better than if they had just experimented on their own, as I, and millions of other children have done over the years.

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. It has to want to change itself.

That means that your kid still has to want to figure out how to create new colors… and I think that by making it more complex, as is the situation with this nameless paint set, it has done just that.

Somewhere seeing red,
Andrew Joseph
PS: I am tickled pink to Alice for the nod in my general direction with this article topic.  


  1. Alice tickles back, as she does whenever she finds a blogpost she tipped a nod to ;)