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How would you describe the color purple to a blind person?

Trying to explain color to someone who is blind can be challenging, but with some thoughtful descriptions, analogies and metaphors, it is possible to convey a meaningful sense of what a color like purple feels and looks like to those who can see it.

Introducing Purple

Purple is an extremely distinctive color that occupies a special place in our culture and psyche. It has rich, regal associations stemming from its historic rarity and use in nobility’s garb. Purple dye was once extraordinarily precious and expensive to produce, so the color purple became linked to luxury, prestige and royalty. Even though synthetic purple dyes have made this color far more accessible today, purple retains these cultural meanings. When most people think of the color purple, they imagine the rich, saturated purple shades associated with kings’ cloaks and empresses’ shawls. These hues have an intrinsic beauty, depth and mystique that sets them apart from other colors.

Describing the Properties of Purple

So what are the essential qualities of purple that we need to convey to a blind person? Some key characteristics include:

  • Purple is a secondary color – it is made by combining two primary colors, red and blue.
  • It occupies a space on the color wheel between red and blue.
  • Purple has a lower lightness than most other colors. It is a relatively dark color.
  • In its purest state, purple is a stimulating, highly saturated color. It has a strong, bold presence.
  • There are many variations of purple, from pale lavenders to deep, vivid purples.
  • Purple has a somewhat mysterious aura and flavor.

These basic properties provide some factual, technical context around what makes purple distinctive. But colors aren’t just abstract attributes – they also evoke deeper sensations and emotions. To really help a blind person understand purple, we need to connect it to physical objects, textures, smells, sounds and other experiences.

Purple in Nature

Looking to the natural world is a great way to start associating purple with tangible things a blind person can relate to.

  • Some flowers like lavender, lilac and iris display rich purple hues. Describe their velvety texture and sweet, floral scents.
  • Purple-colored fruits like plums, blackberries and figs have deep, sweet flavors that evoke the lushness of purple.
  • Grapes – red, purple and green grapes all have a bold, concentrated flavor.
  • Eggplants have a smooth, glossy purple skin that transitions to a soft, meaty white interior when cooked.
  • Describe the clustering shape of purple grapes on the vine, or the regal color of a peacock’s feathers.
  • Rich purple sunsets and dawns that paint the sky at the beginning and end of day.

Comparing Textures and Materials

Here are some textures, materials and physical sensations connected to the color purple:

  • Thick, lush velvet or crushed velveteen have a regal purple hue.
  • The soft fuzz on purple plums
  • The smooth surface of amethyst crystals
  • The cold slick feel of purple grapes
  • The light, airy bloom of lilac bushes
  • The delicate texture of violet petals
  • The weighty drape of thick purple velvet curtains

Purple in Sound and Music

Here are some examples of how purple connects to sound:

  • Think of the bold, rich sounds of trumpets and horns played at royal occasions.
  • Jazz music featuring vibrant saxophones has a purple mood.
  • The exquisite mournful tones of a violin evoke purple’s melancholy side.
  • The indulgent, mysterious sound of pipe organs filling cathedrals with their haunting chords.
  • Soaring, celestial choirs singing sacred music reach the lush depths of purple.

Tastes and Smells of Purple

Purple also connects with our senses of taste and smell:

  • The sweet-tart taste of berries like blackberries and mulberries.
  • The astringent bite of concord grapes straight off the vine.
  • Plums, prunes and fig have deep, sweet, sticky notes.
  • The rush of airy lavender or spicy lilac aromas can evoke light purples.
  • Candied violets and elderflower have highly floral perfumes.
  • Rich herbs and resins like patchouli have a regal purple scent.

Purple in Literature and Language

There are many vivid and descriptive ways that the color purple has been referenced in literature:

  • “The western sky was a throbbing, painful ruby-purple, pierced by streaks of lime-green light.” (A passage evoking the mystical, dramatic colors of sunset.)
  • “Tyrian purple – the shade of imperial Rome and medieval kings – got its rich, precious color from the mucus of 10,000 marine snails.” (Describing the deep purple dye once extracted from snails.)
  • “Her eyes were two amethysts, as deep as the sea.” (Simile relating purple eyes to brilliant purple gemstones.)
  • “She saw the lavender fields stretching towards the horizon, row after gently rolling row of the sweetly fragrant purple blooms.” (Passage capturing the delicate beauty of the lavender flower fields of Provence.)

These excerpts help call to mind purple’s connection with richness, royalty, depth, mysticism, and natural beauty.

The Emotions and Meanings of Purple

Throughout history, culture, art and storytelling, purple has developed many symbolic meanings that are useful to convey:

  • Wealth, luxury and prestige – purple fabrics historically were expensive and prized.
  • Royalty and sovereignty – purple robes and cloaks were worn by emperors and kings.
  • Wisdom, mystery and magic – purple is associated with the supernatural and spiritual unknown.
  • Creativity and imagination – purple inspires visionary thinking and artistic expression.
  • Ambition and power – purple drives us to achieve greatness and success.

Understanding these symbolic meanings gives greater appreciation for purple’s impact on the mind.

Lighter and Darker Shades of Purple

Most of the descriptions above focus on vivid, saturated purple shades. But purple has an extremely wide range – from pale, light purples to very deep, dark purples. Here is how some of these variations differ:

  • Light purples like lavender and lilac – these pastel purples evoke spring flowers, freshness and calmness.
  • Medium purples like wisteria and orchid – these muted purples are elegant and delicate.
  • Dark purples like eggplant and plum – these richer, darker purples have a moodiness and sophistication.

Even black and white mixes can achieve “purple tones” – like the somber shades of a rainstorm, plumes of cigarette smoke, or the brooding grayscale hues of film noir movies.

Purple in Fashion and Décor

Here are some ways purple styles spaces and adds striking visual interest:

  • A vivid purple front door makes a bold first impression.
  • Purple roses in a crystal vase on a dresser.
  • A pale lavender wall color that instantly calms and relaxes.
  • An eggplant-hued set of velvet couch cushions.
  • A regal deep purple canopy bed with gauzy drapes.
  • Shelves of purple-spined books and purple-hued objets d’art.
  • Floaty, sheer window curtains in lilac or wisteria shades.
  • A striking purple dress against a gray landscape.

These visual examples let us imagine how purple can create mood, contrast, texture and aesthetic impact.

Describing Purple to Different Age Groups

It can be helpful to tailor descriptions of purple to the individual:

For young children

Focus on concrete objects, textures and tastes:

  • The smooth skin of a purple grape.
  • The fuzzy fur of purple plush toys.
  • The smell of purple flowers like lavender and lilac.
  • The tart taste of blackberries.
  • The rich flavor of purple popsicles and gelatin.

For teenagers

Connect purple to music, moods and abstract concepts:

  • The moody chords of jazz piano and soulful saxophones.
  • The sense of mystery and magic of the night sky and galaxies.
  • The creativity and individuality of dying hair bright purple.
  • The luxury of purple sports cars or phones.
  • The glow of vivid purple neon lights at night.

For adults

Leverage purple’s cultural meanings and historical associations:

  • The significance of purple in ancient ruler’s robes and medieval tapestries.
  • Comparisons to rare purple dye once made from mollusk secretions.
  • The richness of purple descriptors in books – like “wisteria blooms” or “twilight’s purple cloak”.
  • Purple as a symbol of unconventionality, spirituality or nonconformity to norms.
  • The air of regal pomp in imperial purple thrones and hallways.

Quoting Purple Descriptions

Here are a few thought-provoking quotes about the color purple that may help convey its essence:

“Purple does not represent one simple tone. It has a meaning that changes from purple to violet. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic. It is a puzzling color.” – K. Douvas

“Purple is like a pretty, perfumed woman walking by: intriguing, extremely attractive – but clouds of mystery surround her.” – K. Troutman

“Purple has always been a significant color in history. It represents wealth, royalty, and fertility. And I love it.” – Vera Wang

These perspectives add some nuance on why purple is such a captivating color.

Connecting Purple to Other Senses

Some additional ways purple could be conveyed through the non-visual senses:


  • The smooth, glassy surface of an amethyst crystal.
  • The plush, padded softness of crushed velvet.
  • The slick firmness of an eggplant’s skin.


  • The sweet-tart zing of berries and grapes.
  • The ripeness of just-picked figs.
  • The juice bursting from baked purple plums.


  • The fresh, light scent of lilacs and lavender.
  • The mustiness of aged purple orchids.
  • The sweet aroma of hyacinths and violets.


  • The low, rich notes of cellos and violas.
  • The mournful chord changes of minor key piano pieces.
  • The driving basslines of funk songs.


Describing a color like purple to someone who is blind presents challenges. But by tapping into descriptions of nature, textures, materials, sounds, tastes, smells and cultural associations, the vivid dimensions of purple can start to become accessible. Combining factual properties with subjective experiences allows us to share both the technical and emotional qualities that make purple so rich, unique and fascinating. With thoughtful communication, the invisible world of color can be translated into the tactile realities of a blind person. Their other senses like hearing, smell, touch and taste can paint a meaningful impression of what phenomena like the color purple are like for those who can see its splendor.