Around the world, when people are asked what their favorite color is, one answer tends to leap out far and above the rest: the color blue. From the sky to the sea, blue is one of the colors we see the most in our day to day lives. Despite this universality, however, there’s no end of variety to the color blue – in shades or in meanings.

Like red, blue is one of the three primary colors, meaning it has no true constituents. A perfect blue stands entirely on its own. While it has an endless number of shades, a “true blue” in RGB is comprised of 0% red, 0% green, and 100% blue.

As one of the primary colors, blue’s history is as long as it is rich. While there is some debate regarding the origin of its name, most agree that the Old French and Middle English bleu or blwe are strong connecting points. While both of these did ultimately describe the color, their technical definition is often cited as “of the color of the clear sky.” These are also related to the Old High German blao, meaning shimmering and lustrous.

Notably, blue has one of the most resounding presences in art of any color, regardless of time or region. Though it’s impossible to know the first time blue was used for artistic purposes, its first documented use was in Ancient Egypt, where blue azurite was widely used in jewelry and décor. Fine porcelain in China and ultramarine pigment in Renaissance paintings further made use of blue’s thoughtful and bright shades, ensuring its place as one of the most poignantly used colors in art history.

In contrast to its sister primary color, red, blue is associated with a calm serenity over intensity or passion. When asked to visualize the a tranquil scene, chances are people will immediately imagine a great deal of blue – usually in the form of a still body of water. Thoughtful and still, blue represents a sense of inner reflection. A great deal of research has indicated that this impact on the body is indeed inverse to red’s, resulting in lower heart rates and even slower metabolisms.

In some cases, this serenity can be taken into the territory of emotional “coolness.” While refreshing, starker or abundant use of blue can become haunting and cold. This is particularly true of lighter tints, which can feel especially aloof. Depending on the context, this can come across as emotionally blunt or even dangerous.

Given the general binary of emotion and logic, it follows suit that blue is commonly associated with intellect and competence. In contrast to its relaxing effect on the body, blue stimulates the mind just as much. The presence of blue can aid in concentration and mental clarity – something that students often find useful when studying. Similarly, blue is often linked to confidence without aggression. In contrast to warmer colors, which closely marry feelings of power with feelings of anger and hostility, blue gives off a feeling of calm and authoritative competence.

On a less detached note, blue is also closely associated with feelings of trust and stability. To this end, bring to mind all the important jobs which employ blue as the main color in their uniforms. By using a color so strongly and commonly liked to dependability, they can ensure that people can rest easy relying on them to do their jobs effectively.

Blue is often cited as a color of sincerity, as well. However, it is notably often in a context of sadness. Perhaps due to its cold nature, blue can give off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Darker and richer shades can be particularly evocative of forlorn feelings. Though its gentleness and sincerity can be poignant, it can also call to mind feelings of grief.

Perhaps because there are so few blue foods in nature, blue is considered to be a highly unappetizing color. One might note, for example,  the lack of blue in most fast food logos! In contrast, blue does promote higher levels of productivity. Offices and schools employ it at length to bolster output and activity, often to great effect.

With its strong ties to both intellect and sadness, blue can be one of the most – or least! – emotionally charged colors to work with. Regardless of its context, it remains evocative and thoughtful, and its impact only grows depending on the colors that surround it.

33 comments
  1. I consider myself to be a blue, but romance is something I do not have in me. So am I still a blue? And for those wondering, lack of romance has been and will be quite convenient for me, due to constant hard work (filming, teaching, researching, editing, philosophy, and a make-the-world-a-better-place project). On a side note, the psychology of colors is quite interesting to me, and I hope to incorporate it into more of my work.

      1. Hello Matthew C,
        It I true, we are struggling with the same thing, I’ve had three break-ups, I’ve been accused of being more formal than romantic, and that is interpreted as not being in love or as not being caring.
        I have my projects to make the world a better place, but it is not an excuse for not being romantic, I just find it proper that there’s time for everything, and I don’t know how to act except to be cool and orderly.
        Being blue is fun except when you do a mistake of falling in love.

  2. Hey Color Psychology,

    I loved this read. Really good information. I’d like to see more sources and more about the author. Would you be ok with us linking to this article?

  3. Hello. I am in 9th grade. I have been researching about color psychology for 2 years. There is this one thing that I am deeply curious about, that I cannot find the answer to.

    When I went around information (your site as well), I found many saying that the color blue showed emotions of peace and trust, and I agree with it since blue is the color a lot of insurance and bank companies use.

    However, when I surveyed 60 people from my school, almost all of them answered that when they see blue, it reminds them sadness and restless. They also said green gives them the feeling of safety and trust.

    Could you tell me why there is a huge difference as written above between professional researches and individual ideas?

    I need to make a report to submit for school.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Mona,

      I think the main factor is context. In terms of logos and brand identities, blue reflects a cool professionalism. However, if it is just on its own or used as the main color in a painting or larger work of art, that “sedating” effect can be amplified and it can cause a more serene, solemn or in some cases sad feeling. In fact, the word “blue” is sometimes used as a synonym for sad.

      The saturation level of color plays a role, too. Bright blue or a pleasant sky blue tend to have a more cheerful effect, while a muted or grayish-blue can be more sedating and introspective.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Thanks for the article on blue, which is one of my favorite colors. I noticed that a lot of companies in the pharmaceutical and medical industry use blue, green, and white. I’m guessing this is because they all have such a strong connotation with being related to healthcare in someway. However, I’d be interested to know if there are any clinical tests that show how people positively respond to these different colors.

    1. Hi Blissful,

      Yes, numerous studies have been done about human color responses. One marketing study found that color helps to improve brand recognition by up to 80 percent. Studies about the color blue have linked it with creativity and tranquility. Researchers believe this is due to the associations of blue with the sky, the sea and relaxing feelings. Blue is also perceived as “competent,” which would be valuable to a healthcare company’s image.

      Also, numerous studies have shown people experience green as calming and connected with nature, health, sustainability and durability, while white is associated with freshness, cleanliness and hope. It’s no wonder that these colors are so often used in healthcare industry marketing.

  5. Nice one

    this creates a mental picture of my being…can’t disown any.

    Going for a BLUE cake on my birthday.

  6. A study says that with blue rooms you have better sleep quality. But which blue? Sky blue? Navy blue? Royal blue? Or any blue?

    Thanks

  7. WELL IM ALWAYS BLUE SINCE I WAS A KID BUT I SEE MYSELF 3 OR FOUR DIFFERENT COLORS CAN I BE VARIETY OF COLORS AND OF COURSE DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD. ALSO I AGREE WITH A LOT OF THE MEANING BUT I HAVE ANGER AND IM VERY PROTECTIVE OF MY LOVED ONES IF THATS FRIENDS FAMILY EXT. AND IM NOT AFRAID TO GIVE UP MY LIFE TO SAVE OTHERS OR DO ALL PEOPLE HAVE THAT TRAIT. QUESTION I TEND TO GET ENERGY OR BOOST OF ENERGY THROUGH THE DAYS BUT EVEN AT WORK WHEN PEOPLE GET TIRED I GET MORE ENERGY NOT ALL THE TIME BUT WHEN I NEED IT I SOMETIMES CAN GET IT LIKE IM SUMMONS THIS ENERGY OR CALLING IT OR AWAKENING IT

  8. I have read that only 7% of receptors in our eyes are blue sensitive which are S Cones and other L and M cones are Red and Green sensitive.

    The question is if our eyes are only 7% sensitive to blue how do we see every blue so loud and clear. Why don’t we miss any?

    Does this practically make all humans dichromatic?

  9. I’m blue da ba de da be di da ba de da ba di
    I’m blue da be de da ba di da ba de da ba di da ba di da ba di

  10. Thanks it’s very usefull for me to know my friend personality so i want to say thanks for the good information

    Sorry if my english is not so good
    Couse i from indonesia(14 years old)

  11. I love blue and always have. This definition sums me up almost completely except for the social aspect and having close friends. Besides my lover/husband/best friend, I need my good friends and love to socialize a few times a month. Otherwise blue is me!!!!!

  12. Well, my favorite color is Blue and Gray and I also found out what color gray means in your site from your article color blue is what really my personality is, I often use in my things and in my room is the Sky blue color. But then I search for Gray because it’s my favorite color too and I always match it with my things and clothes, and even furniture. Then I fount out as I analyze it that the personality of color gray is contradiction to the personality of color blue. Lol hahah! But then psychologically I conclude that I am naturally a person who is blue but trying hard to be a gray? And yeah i found myself like this…

    Im sociable but sometimes I am admiring those people who are not sociable. I’m a person always surrounded by my friends and I can’t live without it. But then sometimes I just want to be alone and be quiet for some reasons. Most of the time I am open to everyone but again there’s area in my life that I don’t want to share, need of privacy. I envious the people like gray because they can be alone, but I can too if I will. but most of the time I’m not.

    Therefore I conclude. I’m a person who is Blue and want to have a person in my side like Gray. ^_^

    I will find a person like Gray. This is my totally opposite character. hahah!! Thank you for this, my friend. It helps a lot! ^_^ Godbless you!

  13. Blue represents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. Blue also represents meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven, and intelligence.

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