The average human can perceive about one million different colors, but figuring out how to manufacture the many pigments that exist today wasn’t so innate. In fact, it took thousands of years for people to create emerald green, and even that turned out to be better used as rat poison.

Korwin Briggs of Veritable Hokum turned the human history of color recreation into a vibrant infographic. Arranged in chronological order, the image is a fascinating look at where different hues originated and how they’re made. As it turns out, “poison” is a common theme, with arsenic, mercury, and lead all making appearances as raw materials. There are also a lot of toxic metals, dirt, and organic materials such as cow urine and snail shells.

As the map progresses, however, science and synthetic materials begin to account for more and more colors. Things also get less deadly (somewhat). Word nerds and Pantone addicts will be happy to know that the color names stay delightful throughout.

Be sure to visit the original post for more in-depth information on colors such as Egyptian blue, widely considered the very first artificial pigment. The shade nearly went extinct after the fall of the Roman Empire simply because people forgot it was a thing in the first place.

As for the accuracy of the tints in the graphic, Briggs writes: “I considered actually buying, using, and scanning all of these colors, but I didn’t because a good chunk of them are expensive, toxic, and/or no longer exist. What you’re seeing is a digital approximation of paint-blobs-on-paper.”


Click to enlarge. Via Veritable Hokum

[h/t Fast Company]