Following recent racial equality events around the world, we have received a lot of correspondence regarding the bias towards caucasian skin and flesh tones, among colour ranges supplied by colour manufacturers. We couldn’t agree more that this is wrong and we decided to investigate further, change our own colour names and ask our suppliers for their comments. Many had already undertaken changes.
Statements from Art Materials Companies
Here is a list of responses from art materials manufacturers that we received when we asked them if they had plans in place to update their colour ranges (please note that for many English is not their first language).
AV Vallejo have expressed to us that they believe ‘flesh colours should be renamed’, and that adding the word Caucasian alone does not solve a problem as their ranges do not cater for other ethnic groups. They said, ‘we will take a look at this matter as we agree with the point and something needs to be done’.
‘All our pencils where Tint or Flesh are mentioned, these will change to Naples Yellow Red going forward’.
‘We are addressing this issue. Portrait Pink was implemented one or two years ago to replace Flesh Pink, but this is clearly not enough.
We will be changing this shade to Peach. This is a growing concern that we should have been addressed already in the past and that we will address now’.
‘It is an important issue to us and we are already in the process of reviewing all product names which we consider to be sensitive and updating them as a running change. The next production of any single pencils and tins referring to skin will have the new names’.
‘Last year (we) made the decision to drop the word skin from all of (our) packaging and on the individual colours. (We) did have Dark Flesh, Medium Flesh and Light Flesh and they have now become Salmon, Coral and Beige Red’.
‘Robert Gamblin developed Caucasian Flesh Tone back in 1989. At the time, it felt wrong to call it Flesh Tint or Flesh Tone. So what to do? The honest path seemed to be to call it what it was, as best we could. Over the last thirty years, the feedback from artists regarding our approach has been overwhelmingly positive. But did we ever really like the name? No. We didn’t. So much so that we haven’t talked about the color in many, many years. Interestingly, however, it’s been our fastest growing color over the last five years. So it’s clearly doing the work and has earned its place on many painters palettes – both for figurative work and for landscapes.
We’ve been working on some new colors and had been planning to change the name as part of that introduction. But there’s really no better time than the present to make a change. So, we’re changing the name to Naples Orange. In value, opacity, tint and texture the color relates very closely to Naples Yellow. It also felt right given that so many landscape painters have the color on their palette for warm light situations.
There are a couple of other changes we are going to make at this time as well. Indian Red and Indian Yellow are fabulous pigments whose origins trace back to India. If you know the stories of these pigments (and they’re good ones), then you get it and no worries. Absent the story, however, the color names could feel quite different and, basically, not good. That’s no good for us. No one’s asked us about this, but it always bothers us, and so we’re changing these two colors to India Yellow and India Red to more clearly reflect the stories of these pigments’.
Japan-based company Holbein were receptive to our suggestion that some colour names could be changed in order to make the range more inclusive, and are working to implement changes for the future.
Jackson’s is committed to equality, and so we felt it essential that we look at our product lines to ensure they were in line with our company values. We have renamed our Flesh Tint oil colour Pale Terracotta and are working to add more shades to Jackson’s Handmade Soft Pastel Portrait set so that it caters for all skin colours.
‘Due to the discussion about names of colors in respect of skin tones that arose in the general market, also MOLOTOW™ started to have a look at its own color assortment while analyzing the color shade names. Color scales with color terms existing for more than 25 years in the general art market, never were investigated in depth and/ or inspected critically.
As MOLOTOW™ is a dynamic, liberal-minded and international brand with a sustainable brand core and long-established company philosophy, the brand with an urban character wants to distance itself from all kinds of presumed, politically-questionable facts of the case. As a sign of brand positioning, the existing ONE4ALL color shade skin pastel will be changed into powder pastel as soon as possible.
Due to a long chain of corresponding processes and several platforms in prints, at b2b partners and online, a change of a color name is a very complex, extensive and partially long-drawn-out measurement. Therefore, MOLOTOW™ asks consumers to show leniency: a complete conversion of all labels and corresponding digital and non-digital images and medias will take its time’.
‘We already implemented a “silent” change for those color names and even more in our assortment. The first ones will be
Black 8030 Skin -> Iced Coffee
Gold 4040 Babyskin -> Pale Pink
We didn’t communicate this yet as it may take some time until all colors with the old names are sold out but we are aware and adjustments are in progress.’
‘We will be changing the names of these colours and we will announce these soon. The changes will roll out as new labels and colour charts are printed’.
In a bid to provide further information on the history of the colour Flesh Tint, Roman Szmal has added the following information to all tubes of Flesh Tint colour: ‘Shade traditionally used in medieval times for portrait painting of the wealthy, formally known as Flesh Tint’.
‘Creating art can be a medium for expression and a voice for those who need it now more than ever. 2 years ago we were emboldened and reviewed our product lines to ensure they were in line with our core values, and took the decision to stop, review and amend colour names. Furthermore we looked at further ways to support organizations which engage with communities in need of assistance and exposure, as we have been doing since many years with royaltalensfoundation.org. Our commitment to ‘Empowering Creativity’ is strongly tied to empowering equality and celebrating diversity.
‘Thank you for your note on the name Skin Colour, which we use in some of our assortments. This is a traditional, historical designation in the international artists’ colours sector. We take your concerns about the perception of this designation and also unintentional possible associations very seriously and will change them in our future developments of the assortments concerned. However, we also ask for your understanding that any adjustments (labels, brochures, remaining stocks in the trade) and conversions will take some time. We thank you for your comments’.
‘Artists Oil and Oil Sticks will definitely be amended in 2021 and the rest will follow as a rolling change’.
‘Long term we are looking at ways to make changes across all ranges. We have added a Skin Tones [B] set in the TOUCH Twin range (comprising the following colors YR27 / YR29 / BR107 / BR112 / BR93 / R139 ). Also we’ve recently decided to change the color composition of our TOUCH TWIN 12 MARKER SET [Skin Tones] & TOUCH TWIN 12 BRUSH MARKER SET [Skin Tones]. We will share the details soon’.
‘Here at STAEDTLER we think it is right to question traditional terms for products such as “flesh”. That is why we are already in the process of renaming products from our FIMO and coloured pencil ranges to remove any reference to skin tone and instead, use colour names such as “peach” and “pale pink” in our product ranges in future.’
‘A really important point you make and we had already contacted Tombow HQ regarding the ABT single pen called Flesh and we have suggested that they change this to pinkish cream. The only other product we have is our Skin Tone pack from Tombow with contents… Peach (ABT-020), Blush (ABT-772), Baby Pink (ABT-800), Pinkish Cream (ABT-850), Coral (ABT-873), Pale Cherry (ABT 912), Tan (ABT-942), Chocolate (ABT-969), Saddle Brown (ABT-977), Light Sand (ABT-990), Blender Pen (ABT-N00) and Black (ABT-N15)’ .
Winsor and Newton
‘Following the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, as a company, we have reflected on how we can make a positive change in our industry. While Flesh Tint is a historical colour name, this is not a part of our history that we will be carrying forward.
We have made the decision to change the name to Pale Rose Blush across the different Winsor & Newton ranges and are working to ensure our products have the same colour with the new name to be available late August.
In addition to the Flesh Tint colour range, we are also continuing to review all product and colour names to ensure we remain inclusive at all times.
As a company, we are committed to be a positive force for change, and we are continuing to identify actions we can take to eradicate injustice, racism and inequality from our business and industry as a whole’.
The History of Flesh Tone as a Colour Name
The term Flesh Tone, with reference to portrait painting, is known to have existed since the 17th century, when resources including Roger de Piles’ Dialogue sur le Coloris was written. In a chapter titled De la Peinture à Huile, he offered advice on how best to lay out colours on a palette for portrait painting. At this time the subject of western portraiture was almost exclusively white men and women – wealthy people who had the means to commission the work. The suggested method of laying out the colours on a palette was based on the assumption that the portraits would be of white men and women.
The availability of a pre-mixed Flesh Tone paint in oil paint ranges is a twentieth century development; a blend of the pigments often used by portrait painters throughout art history. Although different brands of Flesh Tone contain different pigments, most of them contain a mix of traditional pigments such as Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson and Zinc and/or Titanium White.