The Aztecs had many ways of creating the vibrant colors they used to dye their clothes with. As beautiful were their pigments for paintings, murals, and covers of their sculptures.

Here’s a small list of some of the materials and processes they used:

Color RED

To create beautifully sparkling red die, the artisans of Tenochtitlan used nocheztli, which is today called cochineal. Those are small red insects that feed on the juice of tender prickly pear cactus leaves.

The Aztecs scraped them off the leaf, dried and crushed them. Adding water to cochineal powder resulted in a bright red liquid. Cochineal is still used nowadays!


xochipalli was a yellow flower that grows in hot climates. It was probably dried and crushed to produce dye.

Yellow with a reddish hue was made out of zacatlaxcalli (cuscuta tinctoria or torta herbácea) – a type of a creeper that hangs from trees, especially the Pirú. It was also probably crushed.


to create black uitzcuáhuitl was used, which is a tree bark that was soaked repeatedly to produce a brackish black color. This color is not deep and was not considered to be very fine.


For the hues of blue flower named texotli was crushed to produce dye for huipiles (blouses).


chíotl is a flower that when ground and mixed with axin (the yellow ointment produced from a tree insect of the same name), gives a strong vermillion dye.


Material used: nacazcólotl – an inedible fruit that produced a very good ink for writing.

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