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What are the basic hues of purple?

What are the basic hues of purple?

Purple is a color that is often associated with royalty, spirituality, and mystery. While many people think of purple as a single color, there are actually several hues or shades of purple, each with their own unique look and feel. In this article, we will explore the basic hues of purple, looking at where they fall on the color spectrum and examining their distinguishing characteristics. Knowing the main types of purple can help you select the perfect shade for your purposes, whether you are an artist mixing paints, a designer choosing fabrics and decor, or simply someone who wants to speak more specifically about different purple tones. Read on to become an expert in all things purple!


One of the core purple hues is violet. Violet sits at the end of the visible spectrum, next to blue. In fact, violet light has the shortest wavelengths that human eyes can detect. This means violet appears more blue than purple hues like magenta and lilac. On the RYB (red, yellow, blue) color model, violet is made by mixing red and blue color pigments. On the RGB (red, green, blue) color wheel used for light, violet has high amounts of blue but also some red.

Violet is a rich, deep, and saturated shade. It is the purest and brightest of the purple hues. Things described as violet strongly call to mind the purple flowers violas and pansies, which have a vivid blue-purple color. Other violet objects in nature include certain gemstones, like tanzanite and amethyst. Violet also describes cosmic phenomena like violet auroras, nebulae, and visible light from stars. Manmade versions of violet include dyes, paints, crayons, and colored pencils that are specifically labeled as violet. Overall, violet is associated with magic, creativity, and imagination.


Moving further from the blue side of the spectrum, the next major purple hue is lavender. Lavender is classified as a light, soft purple. It is lighter and brighter than other shades like purple and lilac. Lavender gets its name from the floral herb Lavandula angustifolia. This plant has soft purple flowers and narrow grayish green leaves that are commonly used to make essential oil. Beyond the flower, anything with a soft, pale purple tone can be described as lavender.

Lavender has high amounts of white mixed in with its purple pigment. Adding white makes lavender seem washed out, ethereal, and delicate. It is one of the palest purple shades, sometimes bordering on lilac. Lavender works well in bath and body products meant to have a soothing, calming effect. It also suits feminine decor, like bedroom colors, as well as vintage themes, country crafts, and shabby chic styles. Light, airy lavender evokes spring and romance.


Occupying the space between violet and lavender is the color lilac. Lilac is a light purple with hints of pink. It is classified as a pale, soft, or pastel purple. The name lilac comes from the flowering woody plant Syringa vulgaris that blooms in spring. Lilac also refers to a grayish purple or pale violet color that matches the tones of the lilac blossoms.

Like lavender, lilac is created by mixing a considerable amount of white into purple. But it has a slightly deeper, brighter, and pinker tone compared to the more blue-based lavender. Lilac skews more towards the red and magenta side of the purple family. It is commonly described as a “dusty” purple. In design, light purple lilac can create a sense of nostalgia and femininity. Pastel lilac suits vintage, cottagecore, or girly themes. It is a perfect color for spring.


Moving further towards the red or magenta side of purple, the next hue is orchid. Orchids are a diverse family of exotic flowering plants. The orchid color refers specifically to the pinkish purple tones found on many orchid blooms. It is a rich purple with strong pink undertones.

Orchid symbols of luxury and elegance. It is seen as an exclusive, stylish color. In fashion, orchid purple has a beautiful, feminine quality. But it can also give a bold, sensual, or avant-garde look. In interiors, orchid makes a striking accent color that adds a touch of sophistication. Despite its high-class associations, orchid is not as severe or solemn as darker eggplant and wine purple shades. The pinkness makes orchid cheerful and fun compared to regal purple.


Moving further towards the red end of the visible light spectrum takes us to magenta. Magenta sits between violet and red. It is the color halfway between purple and pink. Magenta is classified as a vivid, intense, brilliant purple-pink hue.

The name magenta comes from a 1859 battle in Italy where the French and Italians fought against the Austrians. Although magenta does not appear in the natural rainbow spectrum, it can be reproduced as a bold pigment and as a color displayed on computer screens. Magenta has the same amounts of red and blue light, with no green.

Magenta has strong connotations of magic, illusion, and fantasy. It calls to mind vivid neon signs, Disco-era styles, and futuristic technology. Magenta makes a daring, flashy color in fashion, graphic design, and decor. It has an electrifying, radical effect when used at full saturation. Toning magenta down into softer pastel pink-purple shades creates a dreamy, whimsical look.


Shifting back towards the blue side of purple alongside violet is the sophisticated shade mulberry. Mulberry is a darker, grayer purple with blue undertones. It is classified as a red-toned purple, sitting between shades of eggplant and burgundy.

True to its name, mulberry purple echoes the dark color of ripened mulberries. It also brings to mind other blue-based purple fruits like blackberries and plums. Mulberry has an earthy, subtle quality compared to brighter purple-pinks. Its grayish tone gives it an almost neutral appearance. However, mulberry packs enough color to make a bold accent. It works well in formal settings and designs inspired by Tuscan landscapes. Overall, mulberry evokes a mood of wealth, elegance, and mystique.


Slightly darker and richer than mulberry is the iconic purple shade eggplant. Also known as aubergine, eggplant gets its name from the ovoid vegetable. Botanically, eggplants are actually a very dark purple, not pure black as their name suggests. The eggplant color refers to rich, deep purple with subtle blue undertones and hints of pink.

Eggplant is classified as a dark purple or purple-brown tone. It sits between lighter lilac shades and very dark hues like wine. Eggplant has a sophisticated, elegant effect. But it also reads as romantic and theatrical compared to the austerity of true black. In fashion, eggplant purple outfits give off chic, vampy vibes. This color works well in interiors that take themselves seriously including law offices, dining rooms, and academia.


At the far dark end of the purple spectrum is the shade wine. As the name implies, wine purple echoes the deep, rich tones of red wine. It sits alongside other very dark shades like burgundy and oxblood. However, wine purple has more red-blue pigment compared to reddish burgundy and brownish oxblood.

Wine purple has dark crimson and magenta tones that keep it from appearing neutral. However, it is extremely deep, muted, and sophisticated. Wine suits luxurious fabrics like velvet and looks striking alongside metallic gold. It has an air of royalty and luxury. In decor, wine makes a mood moody, elegant accent. It can also give an intimate, retreat-like feeling. Overall, wine purple imparts a sense wealth and sensuality to any setting.


From the whimsical brightness of lilac to the potent darkness of wine, purple encompasses a wide spectrum of hues. By learning the distinct qualities of shades like violet, orchid, mulberry, and eggplant, you can become fluent in the language of purple color. Understanding these basic purple tones provides the knowledge to select the perfect shades for any situation. Whether you are mixing artist pigments or choosing fabrics for an interior design, think about the unique palette purple offers. Let the mystic, magical hues of purple add visual richness and depth to your next project.