A new antipyrine Schiff's base, 2-((2,5-dimethyl-3-oxo-1-phenyl-2,3-dihydro-1H-pyrazol-4-yl)imino)-1H-indene-1,3(2H)-dione (L) has been synthesized by simple condensation of ninhydrin with 4-aminoantipyrine. The sensing ability of L was studied with selected metal ions from s-block and d-block elements by visual and UV–Vis spectrometry in water: methanol (8:2, v/v) media. The naked-eye detectable colour change of L was occurred from pink to colourless upon interacting with Cr3+ while other metal ions did not change the colour of L. The two main absorption bands appeared at 425 nm and 540 nm of L were quenched upon interaction with Cr3+ while other tested metal ions failed to perturb the absorption bands of L. The Jobs plot and UV–visible spectral studies indicate the formation of a 2:1 complex between the L and Cr3+ with an association constant of 3.0 × 104 M−1. The limit of detection (LOD) of L for the analysis of Cr3+ found to be 5.4 × 10−7 M. The CrL2 complex formation in solution is reversed after treatment with ethylenediaminetetracetic acid (EDTA). The colorimetric sensing ability of Schiff's base L was successfully utilized in the preparation of test paper strips and solid supported silica for the real samples analysis to detect Cr3+ ions from 100% aqueous environment. © 2019 Elsevier B.V.