The Many Meanings of Blue


The meanings of blue are often associated with serenity, calm andspirituality. But color symbolism can be strangely contradictoryand Blue is no different. Blue also brings to mind sadness and loneliness for many.

Surveys show it is most people’s favorite color especially men. For many the darker shades such as navy blue, are thought of as ultra-masculine, associated with success, authority and corporate color meanings. We also think of cool crisp blues in relation to water sports such as sailing.

Optically, Blue appears to recede when placed beside another color. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, artist Hans Hoffman developed and taught the ‘Push – Pull Theory of Abstract Expressionism’. Using his theory, an artist would use Blue if he wanted to give the impression that a dab of paint appeared further away than the others.

A pure Blue hue is a Primary Color on the Basic Color Wheel. That means pure blue is made directly from pure pigments and can’t be created by mixing any other colors.

It is the next darkest color after Violet. Yet oddly enough, it is the easiest color to distinguish in the dark. Artists often use an ultra-dark blue called ‘Paynes Gray’, instead of black to darken their palette paints. However, Paynes Gray is simply made up of pre-mixed pure Blue and Black.

In my paint swatches above you can see how the Primary Color Blue can be varied by adding more Green or more Violet to create Tertiary colors. Notice how adding Green makes the Blue lighter and warmer. Violet makes the Blue darker and cooler.

Then of course, you can change the look and feel even more by adding White, Black or Gray to make it a Tint or Pastel, Tone or Shade. Keep in mind that each change will shift the color meanings of blue a bit.

When choosing color schemes, think about the basic psychology of Blue. Use it for areas or projects where you want to project calmness or corporate strength. Lighter tones will be more feminine and darker shades will be more masculine.

Because Blue recedes optically and is psychologically associated with air, lighter Blues have a calming effect and can make a room appear more spacious. Be careful that you don’t use too much, or the psychological meanings of blue could be chilling.

Positive Meanings of Blue

  • Spirituality, Faith
  • Calmness, Serenity
  • Void, Vastness
  • Cleanliness, Fresh Air
  • Unconscious, Subconscious
  • Calming, Contemplative
  • Contentment, Fidelity
  • Trust, Security
  • Intelligence, Confidence
  • Technology, Futurism
  • Success, Power

Negative Meanings of Blue

  • Sadness, Depression
  • Ambiguous, Insubstantial
  • Cold, Aloof
  • Austere, Formal
  • Immoral, Chilling
  • Staid, Old-Fashioned
  • Authoritarian, Conservatism

Meanings of Blue in Other Cultures

  • In Christianity the Madonna is usually clothed in Blue to symbolize virtue.
  • In the Jewish faith, Blue is the color of holiness.
  • In Hinduism Blue is the color of the god Krishna.
  • In China Blue represents immortality.
  • Philosophers in Ancient Rome wore Blue robes to show their rank.
  • In Japan Indigo Blue is often used in art and clothing and symbolizes the vast ocean surrounding the islands.
  • In Ancient Egypt the skin of the god Amun was painted blue to signify the divine.
  • In Germany employees being dismissed are given Blue Letters or “Blaue Briefe”.
  • In France deep Blue is strongly associated with Royalty and Aristocracy.
  • Some Native Americans believe the color symbolism of Blue means using intuition to serve and teach.
  • In Iran Blue is the color of mourning.

Meanings of Blue in English Phrases

  • ‘Feeling Blue’ refers to being sad or depressed.
  • Singing ‘The Blues’ refers to a folk music genre associated with African Americans.
  • Another folk music genre is Blue Grass’ which is associated with the banjo and Southern U.S.
  • The ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ is a phrase which evokes vast distances or an unknown void.
  • X-rated movies are sometimes called ‘Blue Movies’.
  • Christian laws to curb immoral behavior are called ‘Blue Laws’.
  • A person who tries until they’re ‘Blue in the Face’ are extremely frustrated.
  • A ‘Bluenose’ refers to an excessively puritanical person.
  • Someone who is unquestionably loyal is called ‘True Blue’.
  • A working-class laborer is referred to as a ‘Blue Collar’ worker.
  • A prototypical elected official is sometimes called a ‘Blue Suit’.
  • Corporate stock which is solid, stable and profitable is called a ‘Blue Chip Stock’.
  • People born into aristocratic families are referred to as ‘Blue Bloods’.
  • A ‘Blue Ribbon’ is awarded to the winner of various types of competitions.
  • The ‘Blue Book’ is a publication which lists socially prominent people.
  • Something moving very fast is sometimes described as a ‘Blue Streak’ or ‘Blue Lightening’.
  • Denim fabric is referred to as ‘Blue Jean’.
  • When an unexpected event takes place, we say it came ‘Out of the Blue’.
  • When something happens very infrequently we say it takes place ‘Once in a Blue Moon’.
  • Earth is often referred to as the ‘Blue Planet’ because of its oceans.

Uses of Blue in Popular Culture

  • The computer company IBM is known as ‘Big Blue’.
  • The largest Canadian travel and medical insurer is called Blue Cross.
  • Picasso is known for a series of blue paintings during his ‘Blue Period’.
  • Blue is most often used in all forms of Religious and Spiritual Art.
  • According to the International Color Council, Blue is the color of the “21st Millennium”.
  • Blue is commonly used for Police Uniforms.
  • Blue is commonly used for Navy Uniforms.
  • Factory equipment being repaired is coded in Blue by OSHA to caution against starting, using or moving it.
  • English brides traditionally wear ‘something borrowed, something Blue’ to represent fidelity.
  • In Eastern philosophy the meanings of Blue is associated with the Throat Chakra at the base of the throat which rules speech and the power to communicate.
  • Blue is the color associated with the Astrological sign of Aquarius.
  • The Blue Topaz is the birthstone for those born in December.
  • Movies with Blue in the title include ‘Blue Lagoon’, ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘The Blue Dahlia’, ‘Blue Crush’, ‘Deep Blue Sea’ and ‘My Blue Heaven’.
  • Music Titles with Blue include ‘Blue Bayou’ by Linda Ronstadt, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Elvis Presley, ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ by Bill Monroe and ‘Blue on Blue’ by Bobby Vinton.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays are a baseball team in Toronto, Canada.
  • Frank Sinatra was nicknamed ‘Old Blue Eyes’.
  • During their performances the ‘Blue Man Group’ are completely covered in blue latex except for their eyes.
  • One of the most popular series on TV is ABC’s NYPD Blue.

Blue in Nature

  • ocean, water
  • sky, night
  • the body can have blue eyes and blue veins
  • fruit such as blueberries and blue plums
  • blue cheese
  • birds like bluejays, bluebirds, Blue Heron, robin’s egg
  • jewels like lapis lazuli, blue sapphire, blue topaz
  • flowers like forget-me-nots, cornflowers

Uses of Blue in Color Therapy

The conscious and subconscious meanings of Blue create calm. This soothing color is often used in spas for this very reason.

It is also used to heighten spiritual contemplation. Blue is known to decrease blood pressure and can actually decrease respiration. Blue also decreases appetite.

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