Purple Color: Meanings and Uses in Publishing

Whether royally rich or feminine, choose the purple that works for you

Cloud of purple ink in water
Yagi Studio/Getty Images

Purple is warm and cool, fitting for kings, priests, and ladies. - Jacci Howard Bear's Desktop Publishing Colors and Color Meanings

The color purple is synonymous with royalty. This mysterious color is associated with both nobility and spirituality. Pantone selected the color Blue Iris (Pantone 18-3943) a purple-blue 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."

Members of the purple color family have been the Pantone Color of the Year several times, including 2014's Radiant Orchid and Marsala in 2015.

Purple Color Meanings

Purple has a special, almost sacred place in nature: lavender, orchid, lilac and violet flowers are delicate. Because the color is derived from a mix of a strong warm and strong cool color, it has both warm and cool properties. A purple room can boost a child's imagination or an artist's creativity. Too much though, like blue, can result in moodiness.

The color of mourning for widows in Thailand, purple was the favorite color of Egypt's Cleopatra. It has been traditionally associated with royalty in many cultures. Purple robes were worn by royalty and people of authority or high rank. The Purple Heart is a U.S. Military decoration given to soldiers wounded in battle.

Using Purple in Design Files

Choosing purple for your web and print designs adds a range of meanings to your projects. A deep eggplant purple combined with neutral tan or beige is an earthy, conservative color combination with a touch of the mystery that purple provides. 

Green and purple can be a striking combination in deep or bright jewel tones or use lighter shades for a cheerful, springlike feel. The combination of purple and pink has a feminine appeal.

Deep or bright purples suggest riches, while lighter purples are more romantic, delicate and feminine. Use redder purples for a warm color scheme or the bluer purples for a cool scheme.

Color Selections

When you plan a design project for a commercial printer, use the CMYK formulations for the purple you choose in your page layout software or specify a Pantone spot color. If you are planning a document that will be viewed on a computer, use RGB values. Use Hex codes if you work with HTML, CSS, and SVG. Some colors in the purple range include:

  • American Purple: Hex #6b25ad | RGB 107,37,173 | CMYK 38,79,0,32
  • Violet: Hex #bf9bde | RGB 191,155,222 | 16,55,0,0
  • Dark Slate Purple: Hex #4f519d | RGB 79,81,157 | CMYK 50,48,0,38
  • Darkest Aubergine: Hex #431f4b | RGB 67,31,75 | CMYK 11,59,0,71
  • Artificial Grape Purple: Hex #b371f2 | RGB 179,113,242 | CMYK 26, 53,0,5
  • Bordeaux: Hex: #8a1d7d | RGB 138,29,125 | CMYK 0,79,9,46

Choosing Pantone Colors Closest to Purple

When you use purple in a one- or two-color print design, choosing a Pantone spot color is an economical choice. A spot color can also be used in a full-color print project when the color match is critical. The range of purple shades is wide. Here are a few examples:

  • American Purple: Pantone Solid Coated 267 C
  • Violet: Pantone Solid Uncoated 2567 U
  • Dark Slate Purple: Pantone Solid Coated 7670 C
  • Darkest Aubergine: Pantone Solid Coated 262C
  • Artificial Grape Purple: Pantone Solid Coated 252 C
  • Bordeaux: Pantone Solid Coated 2355 C