Blue Color Meanings

The sky above, the sea below—how to use blue in design

Blue yoga mats
 Getty Images/ by Sigi Kolbe

Blue is a calming natural color. A universal favorite of men, women, and businesses, blue is perceived to be friendly, authoritative, peaceful, and trustworthy. Discover the symbolism of blue and how it is used in design and other fields. Explore the meaning of the popular color blue and how to use shades of blue. Learn the subtle changes in symbolism from dark to medium to light blues, and other colors that go with blue.

Some of the many shades of the color blue include:

Connection With Nature

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

In 1999, color-standards company Pantone named the sky blue color 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."

Blue is a natural and universal color. Its cool, calming effect can deliver a sense of timelessness, and it lulls some people to sleep, which makes it a good choice for bedrooms.

Culture and Symbolism

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

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.

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 cool 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 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 understand how a color might be perceived by others—both positively and negatively.

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 – a 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