My Grapheme Syn: An Introduction

In my post about St. Patrick’s Day dates, I mentioned my grapheme synesthesia, so I thought I’d do a more detailed post about it.

The header image features my grapheme colors, but here they are again. They are as close as I could get them to correct. The O and the zero are both white, so they don’t show up in the picture. That’s why there’s a blank space there.

This image was created from a synesthesia test I took. I had to choose the color of each letter multiple times, and the test compiled those selections into what you see below.


Now, let’s talk specifics.

Letter Differences

As you can see, I have a lot of letters and numbers with similar colors. My alphabet is filled with navy blues and rusty colors. (I should point out that I hate navy blue. It is my least favorite color of all time.) I don’t choose what colors my letters are. The colors choose me. Some people have alphabets full of neon colors, bright letters, and even ones with stripes, polka dots, or blends of colors. Some say they have colors they’ve never seen before!

My alphabet is less exciting than that. I only have a couple of “interesting” letters. Otherwise, the lowercase letters are almost always the same as the uppercase letters. (You can read more about how they interact in words later on.)

My letters that are similar colors are not the same color. R is a navy blue, and so is B, but B is darker than R. F is a dark indigo, almost black. So are G and W. G is slightly darker than F; F is slightly more purple than G and W; and W is slightly lighter and has a touch more grey. Z is slightly darker than G but with less purple. It’s almost black. X is so dark navy/grey that it’s basically black.

T is brown. N is brown/rust red. Lowercase “r” is between T and N and is a bit dark. J is a medium/light brown with some rust. D is a dusty orange. L is the most red of my letters, but it can be dark and dusty sometimes. All these differences are subtle and hard to display in pictures, so I’ll move on to my “interesting” letters.

Lowercase “a”. You’ll read all about this letter in the “Words and Names” section. Suffice it here to say that lowercase “a” changes colors depending on what word it’s in.

Rr. Uppercase R is as you see above–a navy blue. However, lowercase “r” is rust red. That said, uppercase R can take on a tint of rust red it its right leg (and sometimes right at the edge of its curve). It’s as if the rust red is seeping in but can’t make it far before the navy blue overpowers it. Lowercase “r” doesn’t have a similar thing happen to it.

Vv. These letters are both the same color. However, they are a blend of colors. It is a medium/light grey, but at the bottom, it’s a medium/dark green. That green seeps up into the V, fading out by the time it’s about halfway or two-thirds of the away up. Since that’s impossible to show on the synesthesia tests I do, I usually say it is grey because that’s what it originally was. I don’t know how, when, or why the green appeared, but it’s been that way ever since.

How I See Them “On the Page”

You’ll read more about this in the next section, but it’s good to know this next bit before that. I don’t see the colors as physically on the page. I see them in my mind’s eye. For me, that means I also recognize the color the letter is actually typed in–black if it’s black, red if a sign has it in red, and so on. In essence, I see both at once. I see that the letters I’m typing right now are all black. At the same time, though, I see them in their colors when I look at the words.

The best explanation I’ve heard is this. Imagine you’re watching a black-and-white television show. You see that everything is in shades of grey, correct? But you know that a very light or white shade means that the object is a light color or white. You know that the grass is green and the sky is blue. So, in your mind, you might be able to see both the greyscale of the actual show and the colors you “know” that the objects and scenery are. That’s how it is for me and letters.

Words and Names

Here are some images I created on Paint many years ago. The colored strips are roughly the colors of the letters in each name, and I typed the letters over top of each strip so you knew what was going on. They are just random names that I like that I put together.


It’s important to note that I don’t see the words as strips of color. I see each letter as the color I’ve made each strip. Some letters are more noticeable than others depending on the word. For example, thin letters like “l” and “i” can go fairly unnoticed while wider letters–like “e”, “h”, and “n”–nudge them to the background and take the spotlight.

Also, depending on what letter they are next to, some letters shift color slightly. Lowercase “a” is my shiftiest letter. Most others stay the same, so I’ll use “a” as the example.

In the word “all“, the A is more like you see uppercase A in the pictures above. The “a” is beside two Ls, which are red, it has more of the orange tone of uppercase A.

However, if you put lowercase “a” by an M or a P, then it takes on a light pink tone. Map. Even among darker letters, it takes on a lighter pink tone usually. (See “Xavier” above.)

However, in words beginning with “aero–” (O is white), the “a” is a deeper orange with only a touch of light pink.

Howeverwhen it is in the word “Easter“, the A is mostly light pink, but a darker version of it, with a hint of orange. It’s very hard to explain, as you might have guessed.

Other letters don’t change colors, but their tones can be emphasized when near similar letters. For instance, S and C are both shades of green, but in school, the C is a touch darker than the S. In the Hungarian word for “cat”, macska, the S is darker than the C (because of the dark K).

For some synesthetes, their words take on the colors of predominant letters or of the first letter. Some might even become a beautiful blend of the predominant colors, or of all the colors! So for someone with a yellow E, “Easter” might be an entirely yellow word. Or in the word “Mississippi”, the word might take on the color of I or of S. My words don’t work that way. I see each letter individually. What you write is what you get.

Words and Numbers I Like

There is one exception I’ve found to the “what you write is what you get” rule. It’s a word I love the sound and the look of.  “Acid”. Now, if you follow the image above, “acid” looks like this:


For some inexplicable reason, though, I get the most beautiful, rich, vivid purple color seeping in from the bottom corner by the D then tapering out by the I and C. It’s as if someone spilled a small cup of the most wonderful purple color I’ve ever seen in my life, and the color trickled over into the word “acid”. The purple even has a bright, shiny, or glistening tone to it, which is weird but cool!  I get this image even when I hear the word “acid”, and I love it. It’s one of my favorite words.

My favorite letter is my golden yellow-orange Uu. Other words and numbers I like, with approximated colors:

(Sometimes 534, but rarely 435)

I’ll stop here for now. I plan to do another post about how my grapheme syn works in my daily life, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, feel free to ask me any questions you have about synesthesia or about my grapheme syn in particular.


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