Blue Color Meanings

The Sky Above, The Sea Below. Using Blue in Design

Blue yoga mats
 Getty Images/ by Sigi Kolbe

A universal favorite of men and women and businesses, blue is friendly, authoritative, peaceful, and trustworthy. - Jacci Howard Bear's Desktop Publishing Colors and Color Symbolism

Explore the meaning of the popular color blue: how to use shades of blue; subtle changes in symbolism from dark to medium to light blues; and colors that go with blue.

These terms are synonymous with or represent shades of the color blue: azure, baby blue, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, cornflower blue, corporate blue, cyan, indigo, midnight blue, navy, Prussian blue, robin's egg blue, royal, sapphire, sky blue, slate and steel blue.

Connection With Nature

Blue is calming. It can be strong and steadfast or light and friendly. Almost everyone likes some shade of the color blue.

In 1999, Pantone named the sky blue color of cerulean as the color of the new millennium. Pantone selected the color blue iris as the 2008 Color of the Year telling us, "Combining the stable and calming aspects of blue with the mystical and spiritual qualities of purple, Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement."

A natural color, from the blue of the sky, it is a universal color. Its cool, calming effect makes time pass quickly, and it can lull you to sleep. It's a good color for bedrooms. However, too much blue can dampen the spirits.

Culture and Symbolism

In many diverse cultures, blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace or is believed to keep the bad spirits away.

Blue conveys importance and confidence without being somber or sinister, hence the power suit of the corporate world and the uniforms of many police officers. Long considered a corporate color, blue, especially medium and dark shades, is associated with intelligence, stability, unity and conservatism.

Just as "seeing red" alludes to the strong emotions invoked by the color red, "feeling blue" or getting "the blues" represents the extremes of the calm feelings associated with this color—sadness or depression and lack of strong emotion. Dark blue is sometimes seen as staid or stodgy.

In Iran, blue is the color of mourning, while in the West the "something blue" bridal tradition represents love.

Awareness ribbons that use shades of blue include: 

  • Diseases and conditions including osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, Huntington's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, colon cancer, arthritis, bowel cancer, Down syndrome, PKU and Reyes syndrome
  • Eating disorders, pulmonary hypertension, stomach cancer, GERD and IBS
  • Pregnancy and infant loss, SIDS and male breast cancer
  • Education
  • Free speech 
  • Crime victims rights, domestic violence, child abuse prevention
  • Water safety 
  • Hurricane support 
  • Police officers lost in the line of duty 
  • Loss of a son (black and light blue)

Using Shades of Blue in Print and Web Design

When designing with blue, combining light and  dark shades of blue creates a conservative but sophisticated look with subtle contrast. Although it is a year-round color, pastel blues, especially alongside pinks and pale yellows suggest springtime, while deep blue is a colder weather color.

A deep royal shade, indigo, or azure conveys richness and perhaps even a touch of superiority in designs, while almost-black navy is a bit warmer than lighter blues. Combine a light and dark blue to convey trust and truthfulness.

Combine blue with green for a natural watery palette, or use blue and gray together for understated elegance.

Explore specific shades of blue with color swatches and RGB or Hex values:

Blue in Language

The use of blue in familiar phrases can help a designer see how a color might be perceived by others—both the positive and negative aspects.

Positive blue phrases:

  • True blue - someone loyal and faithful
  • Out of the blue - unexpected (could be positive or negative)
  • Blue ribbon - first rate, top prize
  • Blueblood - person of noble birth, royalty
  • Bluestocking - well-read or scholarly woman
  • Bluebook - register of socially prominent people
  • Baby blues - blue eyes

Negative blue phrases:

  • Feeling blue - feeling sad or depressed
  • Blue devils - feelings of depression
  • The blues - depression, state of sadness
  • Blue Monday - feeling sad
  • Singing the blues - bemoaning one's circumstances
  • Blue laws - laws originally intended to enforce certain moral standards
  • Blue language - profanity
  • Bluenose - puritanical individual
  • Into the blue - entering the unknown or escape to parts unknown


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