The Colour Files: Blue

Blue colour combinations will always have great commercial value in fashion and interior textiles.

A blue palette is fresh yet classic.

Next State design on rigid linen

Next State design on rigid linen

Blue as a colour has a rich and varied history not only in how its created but also the meaning that we associate with it.

Surprisingly, in the west, blue has not always been the calm, serene hue we’ve come to know and love. For the Romans, blue was associated with barbarism, mourning and misfortune. Celtic soldiers would dye their bodies blue in battle. It wasn’t until around the 12th century that things started to shift with the virgin Mary increasingly being depicted wearing bright blue robes. The association of mourning shifted gradually towards spirituality and healing.

In the east, for the ancient Egyptians, the colour blue to represented the sky, the river Nile, creation and divinity. The colour was thought to dispel evil and bring prosperity.

Today blue vastly represents tranquillity, authority and reliability.

Often we can take for granted the variety of blue pigments we have at our fingertips, once upon a time these pigments were not as readily available. Today we have a number of synthetic alternatives which were developed in the 19th century however its fascinating to discover their humble beginnings.

Ultramarine – This particular blue comes from deep in the ground. Lapis Lazuli (the blue stone )was originally mined in Afghanistan to create the rich pigment, the earliest examples of lapis lazuli being used as a pigment are in 5th century wall paintings in Turkmenistan.

Indigo – This pigment is dye wrung from fermented plant leaves. In the 1990’s, a clay tablet inscribed with Babylonian text from 600 BC was discovered and decoded – the message – set instructions for dyeing wool dark blue with indigo. Traditionally the plant was fermented in an alkaline solution, the liquid then drawn off and vigorously beaten to aerate it. This caused the blue sediment to form, which was then dried into blocks. The Ancient Egyptians used indigo in many of their burial traditions, a robe found in Tutankhamen’s wardrobe (1333 BC) was almost entirely Indigo.

If you’re having a brain block with colour try experimenting different blues, you’ll soon discover that the colour blue has a wide and varied application across various mediums.

Some of our favourite hues include Prussian Blue, Cobalt, Cerulean, Ultramarine, Egyptian blue, Woad, Indigo and Electric blue.