A process which comprises admixing in the absence of a solvent an amine of the formula R
and a first ester of the formula
is an electron withdrawing group and R
is an alkyl group; heating the mixture containing the amine and the first ester to form an intermediate compound of the formula
admixing the intermediate compound with a base and a second ester of the formula
said second ester being present in a molar excess relative to the intermediate compound, said base being present in a molar excess relative to the intermediate compound, and heating the mixture to form a pyridone compound of the formula
or a salt thereof. Also disclosed is a process for preparing diazopyridone colorants which comprises preparing a pyridone compound by the above process and reacting the pyridone compound with a diazonium salt to form a diazopyridone compound.