Get to Know your Colors: Blue

Hey guys! So now that we’ve finished the warm side of the color wheel, let’s move onto the cool side with one of my favorite colours: blue!

The Color Blue

Blue is a colour of peace and tranquility.  Our skies and oceans are blue, which is one of the reasons we feel so relaxed on the beach or sitting in a boat, or simply laying in the grass staring up at the clouds.  It’s also a big reason why people love landscape and seascape paintings: we initially think it’s the lush forests and beautiful ocean shores that we’re appreciating, but a big hand in this love for landscapes/seascapes is the incorporation of the colour blue, which simulates the feelings of relaxation we have when we’re actually at those places.

Color Wheel Location

Blue is located in the bottom-right area of the colour wheel, in the cool half.  It is beside green, which is in between blue and yellow, the colours that created it.  To the other side of blue we start moving into cool blue-purples.

acrylic color mixing cerulean blue

Mixing Blue

Blue is a primary colour and thus cannot be mixed by any other colours put together.  The CMYK color theory model agrees with this on a certain level, as their primary Cyan is a definite hue of blue.  Of course, there is an infinite variety of blues to choose from when we go to the art store, so let’s talk about a few key hues.

Cerulean blue is what I consider to be the Cyan of the CMYK colour model.  If I had to restrict myself to using only one blue as my primary colour, this would be it.  Cerulean blue is a beautiful light blue hue, and mixes well with both yellow and red to create vibrant greens and stunning rich purples.  This is almost surprising because if I had to make a decision, I would say that Cerulean has a yellow/green undertone, making it great for mixing bright greens but not so much going the other way with purples.  However, try it out and see for yourself, mixing Cerulean with a purple-toned red (like Quinocridone red for example) creates a gorgeous purple.  This may be good evidence to suggest that Cerulean in indeed a great pick as the Cyan in the CMYK model, as it is very close to a neutral blue that can play well with either yellows or reds.

Pthalo blue is another great choice, and actually comes in two varieties: Pthalo blue green shade is perfect for mixing with yellows to create vibrant greens, mixing with greens to create teals, and makes an amazing turquoise: all of the gorgeous blue-green colours you need for your ocean scenes. Pthalo blue red shade, as you may have guessed, does the opposite of this and created gorgeous ruby-like gem tones of rich purples when mixed with reds.  Both are great choices depending on what you’re looking for, but remember that Pthalo blue has a very high tinting strength, so a little bit goes a very long ways, and can easily overpower weaker colours.  They’re also quite transparent, as opposed to the opaque Cerulean, making them perfect for glazing and adding that extra pop of vibrancy.

The Psychology of Blue

Blue is peace-loving and tranquil, not wanting to draw a whole lot of attention to itself, but can be gorgeous when finally noticed.  It’s reserved, sincere, and promotes one-on-one conversations as opposed to party-minded orange and yellow. It’s considered an intellectual color, and becomes devoted to any task it sees as important.

Using blue creates feelings of calmness, reliability and trust.  On the downside, however, blue can be a bit too conservative at times, and almost old-fashioned (remember the powder blue tubs and toilets everyone had?  Yeah.)

acrylic paint color theory

The key to using blue is to use the correct hue to achieve the mood you’re wanting.  Picking a vibrant teal or turquoise will be anything but boring, but can be overpowering if used too much.  A purple-blue can feel warmer but can start to feel a bit too mature if used as the main colour.  Finding a balance between the blue hues you want will allow you to create a room or a piece of art that feels fresh and relaxing, yet still modern.

Further Reading

Here’s a few other articles I’ve written that deal with blue:

CMYK Colour Theory

How to Mix Purple

Color Bias

How to Mix Green

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think of the colour blue!

-Ashley <3


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