Color Wheel Tier: Secondary.
Tonal Value: Cool.
Complementary Color: Yellow.
Purple is a quirky color.
It is the color that occurs least often in nature. And unlike violet (its slightly blue-er counterpart), it exists in culture and art, but not in optics. It does not have its own wavelength of light, and only exists as a combination of the red and blue spectrums. Perhaps because of this, purple is the hardest color for the eye to distinguish.
It has also, historically, been a hard color to reproduce. In ancient times, there was a deep, rich dye made from a snail that became known as Tyrian purple. It had a very involved process that yielded very small amounts, making it the most rare and expensive of colors for clothing. For perspective, when a German chemist tried to recreate this dye in 2008, he needed 12,000 snails to create just 1.4 ounces of dye, only enough to color a handkerchief. !!! Naturally, royals and rulers the world ’round adopted it as their color, as a status symbol. When mankind first ventured into synthetic dyes, purple was the first shade created (mauveine, aka, mauve). It’s never quite lost its ties to luxury and wealth, though. Take a look at any set of poker chips: purple is the color of the highest denomination chip.
Here’s a broader look at this color’s different connotations:
Meanings / Associations
Wisdom / Meditation / the Subconscious
Courage / Dignity
Balance / Calming Effect
Creativity / Individualism
Luxury / Royalty / Rarity
Spirituality / Supernatural Energy
Ritual & Ceremony / Mysticism
Mystery / Magic
Grapes / Eggplant / Plums
Women’s Suffrage / Feminism
LGBT Community / Sexuality
Perfume (violets, lavender, wisteria)
Amethyst / February
Conceit / Vanity
Mourning / Death (U.K., Italy, Thailand, Brazil)
Psychedelic Drug Culture
Purple also happens to be my favorite color: a nice, deep aubergine, to be exact. But, because that wasn’t a good fit for my business (I don’t specialize in luxury businesses or spirituality, for instance), I reserve it for my personal use and not my studio branding. My phone case is purple. So is my laptop skin. I write in my freelance planner in purple ink. My dog’s collar is a nice plum. I strongly considered buying a car this color, but Hyundai had discontinued the shade I liked. You get the picture. 🙂
If you want to see more examples of the many ways it can be combined and used, check out my color board on Pinterest.