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Is royal blue darker than blue?

Is royal blue darker than blue?

Let’s dive in and explore the difference between royal blue and blue to determine which one is darker.

Defining Royal Blue and Blue

Royal blue and blue are both shades of the color blue. However, they have some key differences:

  • Royal blue is a darker, richer shade of blue that was named after the British monarchy. It emerged in the 18th century as a popular color for royals’ clothing and decoration.
  • Blue is a primary color on the RGB and CMYK color models. It sits between violet and green on the visible spectrum of light.

So royal blue is a specific darker variant of the color blue. But how much darker is it exactly?

The Hex Codes

The hex color codes provide our first insight into the difference between royal blue and blue:

  • Royal blue hex code: #4169E1
  • Blue hex code: #0000FF

Hex codes are six-digit codes that represent the RGB color mix that produces each color. The first two digits represent the amount of red, the middle two digits represent the amount of green, and the last two digits represent the amount of blue.

From the hex codes, we can see that royal blue has less red and green than regular blue – 41 red, 69 green, and 225 blue compared to 0 red, 0 green, and 255 blue. This means both colors are mostly blue, but royal blue mixes in some red and green, making it slightly darker than pure blue.

The HSL Values

The HSL (hue, saturation, lightness) color representation also helps compare these shades:

  • Royal blue: Hue – 225°, Saturation – 73%, Lightness – 43%
  • Blue: Hue – 240°, Saturation – 100%, Lightness – 50%

The HSL lightness value clearly shows that royal blue, at 43%, is darker than blue at 50% lightness.

The CMYK Values

In the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color model, used for print design, the color values are:

  • Royal blue: 71% cyan, 68% magenta, 0% yellow, 12% black
  • Blue: 100% cyan, 100% magenta, 0% yellow, 0% black

Again, this reinforces that royal blue contains less cyan and magenta than blue, making it darker thanks to the added black.

Comparison in RGB Values

We can also look at the RGB decimal values to compare the colors:

Color Red Green Blue
Royal blue 65 105 225
Blue 0 0 255

This table reiterates that royal blue has more red and green mixed in compared to pure blue, resulting in the darker shade.

Comparison of Light Absorption

We can also consider the physics of light absorption. The more light a color absorbs, the darker it appears.

Royal blue absorbs more light across the visible light wavelengths compared to blue:

Color Absorption of Red Light Absorption of Green Light Absorption of Blue Light
Royal blue Medium absorption Low absorption High absorption
Blue Minimal absorption Minimal absorption High absorption

Royal blue’s extra absorption in the red and green wavelengths removes more brightness, making it appear darker.

Comparison of Appearance

Looking at direct color comparisons also shows royal blue’s darker hue:

Royal Blue Blue

Even from this quick visual, royal blue is distinctly darker than the bright primary blue.

Applications and Uses

These shades find different uses based on their darkness levels:

  • Royal blue is popular for corporate logos, uniforms, and academic gowns. Its darker, sophisticated hue gives it an authoritative and professional feel.
  • Blue is iconic as the color of blue jeans. It also gets used for bright, flashy designs wanting an energetic bold blue.

So royal blue’s richer, deeper shade suits more formal, professional settings. While regular blue has a bright, playful vibe fitting more casual everyday uses like jeans.

Cultural Meanings

Blue and royal blue also embody slightly different cultural meanings:

  • Blue generally represents openness, wisdom, and stability. Light blue especially symbolizes calmness and tranquility.
  • Royal blue signifies prosperity, dignity, and solemnity. It is associated with rich luxury.

So blue is a reassuring, peaceful color. While royal blue has more noble, formal connotations.

Gender Associations

Looking at color psychology, blue and royal blue are both traditionally masculine colors. However, they have differing gender connotations:

  • Blue is a common boy’s color, used for clothes, toys, and children’s products.
  • Royal blue has a more sophisticated, elegant masculine feel. It is not heavily marketed toward young boys.

Use Throughout History

Blue has been used since ancient times for painting and dyes. But royal blue emerged more recently:

  • The ancient Egyptians used ground lapis lazuli stones to create blue pigments.
  • Blue dyes were made from plants like woad and indigo back in the Neolithic era.
  • Royal blue only emerged as a commercial dye color in the 18th century. It grew fashionable after being worn by King George III.

So blue has decorated human civilizations for thousands of years through art, clothes, and artifacts. While royal blue is a newer, distinctive hue from the 1700s onwards.

Use in Modern Life

Both royal blue and regular blue continue to have a presence in the modern world:

  • Blue is found ubiquitously in jeans, t-shirts, sports jerseys, diplomas, flags, and more.
  • Royal blue frequently appears in company logos, airline uniforms, sports team colors, and police uniforms.

These shades remain integral colors in our fashions, designs, and visual communications today.


So in summary, the evidence clearly shows that royal blue is darker than blue across color models, light absorption, visual appearance, and practical use. This richer, deeper blue shade earns its ‘royal’ name through the sophistication and luxury it evokes. So next time you want to convey trust, professionalism, and class with color, consider using timeless, authoritative royal blue over bright basic blue.