Sienna is a shade of brown that has red-orange undertones. It is a rich, warm, earthy color that can vary in tone from yellowish brown to reddish brown. The name comes from the pigment made from the raw earth found around Siena, Italy, which has been used in art since ancient Roman times.
Definitions of Sienna
Here are some key definitions of the color sienna:
- A brownish-orange yellow. The color of the earth near Siena, Italy, which gives light sienna and raw sienna pigments.
- A medium to dark brown or yellowish-brown color that resembles the clay earth from Siena.
- A warm reddish brown color, sometimes with a slightly orange tinge.
Sienna sits between the colors of orange and brown on the color wheel. It is darker and contains more red undertones than basic orange, but is lighter and warmer than basic brown. When describing sienna shades, terms like reddish-brown, yellowish-brown, clay, orange-brown, and rust are commonly used.
The Origins of the Color Name Sienna
The name sienna derives from the Italian city of Siena, in Tuscany. The surrounding soil around Siena contains natural pigment minerals that create earthy brownish-red tones. During the Renaissance, artists began using the raw earth from Siena to create pigments for painting, referred to as terra di Siena in Italian. The English translation Sienna became the name for both the pigment and the reddish-brown hue it produced.
Sienna pigment has been around since ancient Roman times, but started being widely used during the Italian Renaissance in the 14th-16th centuries. Early Renaissance painters like Duccio and Botticelli used sienna for underpainting panels and frescoes. The Baroque period saw extensive use of sienna pigments in masterpieces by Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Caravaggio.
Types of Sienna Pigments
There are two main types of natural sienna pigment that painters have traditionally used:
- Raw Sienna – This is the natural iron oxide clay pigment that is extracted from the earth without any processing or heating. It produces a lighter, more yellowish brown.
- Burnt Sienna – The raw sienna clay is roasted at high temperatures to intensify the color and create a deeper, more reddish brown.
Today, most sienna pigments are synthetically produced rather than extracted directly from the earth. Modern sienna paint retains the color qualities of the original natural pigments with hues ranging from golden yellow browns to deep orange-browns with red undertones.
Sienna Color Meanings
Different shades of sienna evoke different meanings:
- Yellowish siennas signify warmth, earthiness, fall seasons, comfort
- Reddish siennas are associated with autumn, harvest, rust, fire
- Deep burnt siennas suggest maturity, weathered materials like leather or wood
Sienna is connected to the earth through its origin as an earthy pigment. It brings to mind images of clay, oxidized soils, autumn foliage and landscapes. Sienna shades are often described as “warm” – they seem to glow with undertones reminiscent of sunsets, baked earth, and flickering fires.
Uses of the Color Sienna
Here are some of the ways sienna is used:
- In painting as an earth tone pigment for underpainting, landscapes, wood, rock, skin
- As a paint color for walls and home furnishings
- In fashion, accessories, and jewelry that coordinate with brown, tan, orange, rust colors
- Cosmetics like sienna eyeshadows, blush, and lip colors
- Crayons, colored pencils, and markers labeled as sienna
- Haus paints like raw sienna and burnt sienna
- Leather goods in sienna shades
- Autumnal decor using sienna accents
Sienna is an extremely versatile color that can be used to create warm, inviting spaces. It works in color schemes for every season, but is especially perfect for fall. Sienna harmonizes beautifully with other earth tones like olive green, terracotta, mustard yellow, and sage.
Sienna Color Palette
There is an endless variety of sienna hues ranging from golden yellowish browns to deep reddish browns. Here is a palette of some quintessential sienna shades:
These colors showcase the range of sienna shades from yellowish brown raw sienna to fiery reddish burnt sienna. In between are transitional orange-browns like terra cotta, rust, and harvest gold.
How Lighting Affects Sienna
The way sienna is perceived is dramatically impacted by lighting conditions. Here is how different lighting affects sienna:
- Natural Daylight – Makes sienna lighter, emphasizes any yellow/orange undertones
- Indoor Halogen or LED Lights – Brings out the warmer red undertones in sienna
- Candlelight or Firelight – Creates a dramatic glow and deepens the red-orange tones of sienna
- Moonlight or Twilight – Makes sienna fade into darker brown with barely visible red undertones
Choosing the right lighting can really make sienna colors come alive. Candlelight and firelight showcase sienna’s cozy, autumnal personality. Natural daylight better highlights the golden brown side of sienna. Cool white fluorescents can drain out the warmth of sienna, so are not recommended.
Sienna Color Combinations
Sienna is extremely versatile in color combinations. Here are some recommended color schemes using different shades of sienna:
|Earthy & Warm
|Sienna + Olive Green + Cream
|Sienna + Turquoise + Tan
|Sienna + Rust + Plum
|Sienna + Burnt Orange + Limoncello Yellow
|Sienna + Charcoal Gray + Sage Green
|Sienna + Coral + Melon
Sienna pairs beautifully with other nature-inspired hues like greens, blues, and oranges. It also works well with neutrals like cream, gray, tan, and black. Use sienna as an accent color or make it the star with neutral backgrounds.
Matching Sienna Colors
If you have a sienna item and want to match corresponding colors, here are some options in different color families:
- Yellows – goldenrod, saffron, mustard, khaki
- Oranges – terra cotta, rust, burnt orange, peach
- Reds – rosy brown, rust, brick red, crimson
- Browns – chestnut, chocolate, coffee, tan, beige
- Greens – olive, moss, artichoke, sage
Any of these hues can complement and bring out shades of sienna. Rustic clay pots, terra cotta tiles, or fall foliage can provide color inspiration when decorating with sienna.
Sienna Color Codes
Here are some of the main sienna color codes and formats:
|209, 124, 68
|196, 116, 81
|138, 51, 36
|0, 41, 68, 18
|0, 41, 59, 23
|0, 63, 74, 46
|15-1145 TCX Sienna
|17-1340 TCX Rust
|18-1255 TCX Dark Cinnamon
These codes can be used for web design, graphic design, or matching paint colors to different shades of sienna.
In summary, sienna is an earthy reddish-brown color with origins dating back to the Renaissance. It comes from pigments found around Siena, Italy which create warm hues perfect for fall. Sienna can range from golden yellow-browns to deep orange-red rusty browns. Its red-orange undertones provide a cozy, inviting feeling. Sienna works beautifully in combinations with greens, yellows, blues, and as an autumnal accent color. Understanding the diverse shades and uses of sienna can help you utilize this rich color in your designs and decor.