If you want to paint a seascape with soaring blue skies and rippling blue water, you might go to the art supply store and stand in awe at the sheer range of blues available with different shades, tints, and variations in hue. For instance, a major paint manufacturer offers at least 15 different types of blue, from Cerulean Blue on the lighter end of the spectrum to Indigo Blue on the darker end.
The more you work with your paints, the more you’ll intuitively recognize which tube of blue to choose when you need to paint blue eyes, a bluebird or a deep blue sea. Although the distinct characteristics of each blue might be familiar to you, do you know where the name for each particular color comes from?
As we discussed in a previous article on the origins of color names for artist pigments, many paint colors derive their names from what they are made of: for instance, Phthalo Blue is named for the synthetic pigment Phthalocyanine, and Cobalt Blue is named for the lustrous metal cobalt, etc.
Let’s explore where some of these other blues get their color names:
- Anthraquinone Blue – “Anthraquinone” is an organic compound that forms the basis for many dyes.
- Cerulean Blue – “Cerulean” has its roots in the Latin word caelum which means heaven or sky.
- Indigo – “Indigo” is named for the Indigofera genus, many plants of which are used as a dye.
- Navy blue – The color “Navy blue” is named for the dark blue uniforms worn by officers in the British Royal Navy and was first used as a color name in 1840.
- Primary Cyan – “Cyan” comes from the Greek word kýanos, which means dark blue substance.
- Ultramarine blue – “Ultramarine” derives from the Latin word ultramarines which means beyond the sea.