There are always more LEGO colors than you expect.
With the help of a few other AFOLs, I’ve been attempting to catalogue every color that LEGO has produced. I’m not the first to do this (see Peeron, Isodomos, BrickLink, Brickset, LDraw…), but in combining the existing lists and frequent updates I hope to have a reference for the AFOL community that is as complete as possible.
One aim is to help buyers and sellers on BrickLink better identify part colors. I don’t know how many notifications I’ve gotten for 2x4 bricks listed as Light Blue that turn out to be Medium Blue (a much more common color). It’s nice to have a single reference to show people when the question “What is this color?” comes up. I prefer to use TLG’s ID system, since it is the most complete/authoritative. BrickLink, BrickOwl, and Peeron all seem to conflate certain colors, in an effort to be more buyer/seller friendly.
“Brick Colorstream” page. I’ve tried to keep the lighting/editing consistent, since it’s difficult to compare physical bricks with colors on a monitor. The photos are sorted by TLG’s color ID, with unnumbered/unidentified colors at the end.
For me, this project is an interesting look at the history of LEGO. When most people think of LEGO, they tend to think of the original basic colors: red, blue, yellow, green, and maybe white and black. In the early '50s, though, the first LEGO bricks came in many bright colors, with innumerable variations in shade and hue:
Once the slots disappeared, so did the wild colors, and it was mostly primary colors/grayscale for a while. In 1980, the Fabuland theme introduced many browns and tans, most of which are still around today. Starting around the mid-90s, TLG rapidly expanded their color palette, to a point where there were some 100+ different colors in active production. There were single-use colors, only used in one part in one short-run Duplo set. Slight variations of blues and transparent colors were treated as separate colors (Clikits!). At the same time, the number of different active parts was getting ridiculously large, and LEGO was headed for bankruptcy.
Between 2003 and 2005, TLG switched out several colors for brighter, more saturated versions that kids seemed to prefer in focus groups. 2 Grey / Light Gray, which had a bit of a yellowish tint and tended to age poorly, was replaced by the bluer 194 Medium Stone Grey / Light Bluish Gray. 27 Dark Grey / Dark Gray became 199 Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray. These changes alone sparked an uproar among AFOLs, but that seems to have died down now. Several less-apparent replacements happened at the same time:
Around 2005, TLG condensed its bloated offerings, reducing its colors and parts by about half. In the early 2010s, TLG has added a few new colors to the palette, but these are much less redundant and more widely-used than colors from the early 2000s.
Cataloguing these colors is an ongoing process, one that may never be complete. Just this month, WoutR (from BrickLink) found some old brown colors that were used before what BrickLink calls Brown (“old brown”, 25 Earth Orange) came into the picture. This was probably before TLG started numbering their colors. It’s surprising how many new-found colors came from parts we already had, but didn’t think anything of until we actually compared them.
Most of the #51-99 range is still missing, and elsewhere there are little pockets of unknown colors that may have never even been put into production. There are colors with known names (from internal colors charts or LEGO Digital Designer data), but no known parts: 8 Cobalt Blue, 193 Flame Reddish Orange, and 209 Dark Curry, to name a few. But the search is the fun part!