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What blue is close to ultramarine blue?

Welcome back, readers! Today we’ll be diving into the fascinating world of blue shades to explore what colors are similar to ultramarine blue. Understanding the nuances between different blues can be key for artists, designers, or anyone looking to use color effectively. Stick with me as we break down ultramarine’s characteristics and look at comparable alternatives across different blue families.

Ultramarine blue is a vibrant, deep, and rich shade of blue that has been prized by artists for centuries. First created from the semi-precious lapis lazuli stone, ultramarine gets its name from the Latin “ultramarinus,” meaning “beyond the sea.” This refers to the stone’s origins, which were only found in mines in Afghanistan.

The pigment has a long history of use for its brilliance and saturation, becoming exceptionally valuable during the Renaissance. While synthetic options have made ultramarine more accessible and affordable, it remains a staple color for any artist’s palette.

So what defines this regal blue? Let’s explore some of ultramarine’s key characteristics:

  • Deep, bright, and intense blue
  • Slightly violet-toned, but still a pure blue
  • Opaque pigment with staining power
  • Associated with richness, spirituality, and tranquility

When looking for close alternatives, we want to match this sense of depth and vibrancy. Now let’s survey some contenders across different blue families.

Primary Blue

Color Name Description Closeness to Ultramarine
Primary Blue Bright, pure blue halfway between violet and cyan. A primary color on the RYB color wheel. Fairly close due to brightness, but lacks depth.

As a primary color, this blue is quite bright but lacks the subtle richness of ultramarine. It may be suitable for mixing other shades but isn’t a direct stand-in.

Cobalt Blues

Color Name Description Closeness to Ultramarine
Cobalt Blue Intense, slightly greenish medium blue. Traditionally made from cobalt pigments. Very close in depth and intensity.
Cobalt Blue Hue Less expensive modern synthetic blue intended to imitate cobalt blue. Fairly close, but may lack the richness and opacity.

The vibrant cobalt family offers excellent options for matching ultramarine’s brilliance. Cobalt blue is nearly identical, while cheaper hue versions are also quite close.

Phthalocyanine Blues

Color Name Description Closeness to Ultramarine
Phthalo Blue A synthetic organic blue first manufactured in the 1930s. Intense with a slight red tint. Very close substitute in terms of depth and opacity.

The phthalocyanine family provides a wide tinting range, with phthalo blue being nearly indistinguishable from ultramarine. It has similar transparency and tinting strength.

Indanthrone Blues

Color Name Description Closeness to Ultramarine
Indanthrone Blue Deep blue synthetic organic pigment first made in the early 1900s. Also known as anthraquinone blue. Fairly close, but slightly darker and muddier.

While a transparent staining blue, indanthrone lacks the brightness and purple tone of ultramarine. It may work for mixing darker shades.

Navy Blues

Color Name Description Closeness to Ultramarine
Navy Blue Very dark blue named after naval uniforms. Has a slight teal tint. Much darker and duller than ultramarine’s vibrancy.

While ultramarine is considered a shade of blue, navy blues are far too dark to substitute. They lack the luminous, vivid nature of ultramarine.


When selecting an alternative blue, consider cobalt, phthalo, and primary colors for the closest match to ultramarine’s intensity and purple undertone. Indanthrone and navy blues, while rich, are far too dark and muddy to substitute directly.

I hope this breakdown helps guide your own color mixing and selection process when that perfect ultramarine is out of reach. Don’t hesitate to experiment to find your own ideal balance of brightness, transparency, and depth.