The Art of Color in Fine Area Rugs

The Art of Color in Fine Area Rugs
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“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” ~Marcus Aurelius

What makes you want to purchase a fine handmade area rug?  Is it the texture?  Is it the design? Or is it much more intuitive, such as the love of color?  Whether we are picking out furniture, bath towels or a new car, color is usually a BIG part of why we purchase something.  This is why we have a lot of different color choices in our 100% hand knotted area rugs showroom, so that we can appeal to the sense of color.


The colors represented in wool area rugs change the look and feel of a design.  We often choose colors based on sentimental value, our attraction to it, what we wear as well as social and cultural influences.  The next time you purchase something, ask yourself the reason why you chose the color?

Psychology aside, the way dyes are made is a fascinating subject which we want to clear up here.  First lets talk about two types of dyes used to make fine hand knotted area rugs.


Although often called “vegetal” or “vegetable” dyes, this term is not exactly accurate.  The better word is natural, for not all these dyes are from plant sources, which you will see below.  Naturally sourced colors have been around for thousands of years and have been used in many textiles. From ancient Egypt and Persia to today, we still do some things exactly the same. Even still, there are some people that believe that vegetable dyes are less stable than synthetic ones.  This is simply not the case, as there are 400 year old antique area rugs in museums that are still as vibrant and beautiful as ever today, all made with natural dyes. For instance, this Persian sickle-leaf vine scroll and palmette “vase” carpet below, circa 1600 to 1650, the most expensive carpet ever sold for $33 million is a beautiful example.



The first synthetic dye was created accidentally by a chemist in the mid 1800’s.  By 1860, synthetic dyes were introduced, called “aniline” dyes and used up to 1900. However, these dyes turned out to be a bit of disaster because they often bled, lost their color and worse yet, degraded the wool.  This problem proved to be devastating to the rug industry.  However, by 1940, a new dye had been created which is still in use today called “chrome” dyes.  These dyes soon gained popularity because they were inexpensive to make, stable in reaction to light and water and produced a wide range of color.


We want to give you an idea of the colors, their sources and why natural colors are still used today.  The effect of natural dyes are simply magnificent in a handmade area rug. Despite the fact that they take longer to make, from collecting them from their natural source, to drying and grinding, the beauty of the natural dye is in the end product. Some even say that natural dyes have a glow that just cannot be reproduced synthetically. That’s a pretty good reason to use natural dyes and why we love them here at Artsy Rugs.

Color Plant Photo

madder plant root
produces orange red or orange 
cochineal (dried insect)
produces red to burgundy
lac resin (secreted by insect)
produces blue red to purple red
indigo (from the indigo plant)
produces light blue to navy
  larkspur or isparuk
produces pale yellow to yellow brown
  weld (a flowering herb known as Reseda luteola)
produces pale yellow to yellow brown
  Quercus oak bark, tree galls
produces brown
  Tannin from oak tree galls, iron
produces black 
  Combination of larkspur and indigo


Artsy Rugs has a unique area rugs showroom with the best area rugs in Palo Alto.  Choose from a wide range of home decor rugs in many sizes and colors.  Are you looking for a special color or combination of colors in a rug?  Need some help finding what you are looking for?  Or perhaps you have a design for a custom rug and need some color assistance.  We can help!  Just contact us at or 650-656-8007 and  schedule a consultation.  Let us help you find or make the rug of your dreams!