Butterfly blue is a vibrant shade of blue that got its name from the iridescent blue coloring found on many butterfly wings. It’s a light blue hue that has undertones of purple and sometimes green, creating an eye-catching effect full of depth and brilliance. Butterfly blue is often associated with nature, beauty, and freedom – invoking imagery of butterflies gently fluttering from flower to flower on a sunny day. While the exact shade can vary, butterfly blue is generally characterized as a bright, saturated blue with subtle prismatic reflections.
Defining Butterfly Blue
Butterfly blue is considered a spectral color, meaning it has its own wavelength on the visible light spectrum. Spectral colors are pure hues that can be reproduced with a single wavelength of light at a specific frequency. Butterfly blue specifically corresponds to a wavelength range of 465–485 nanometers, right between blue and cyan on the color wheel. This places it in the category of light blues. However, its hint of purple from red undertones gives butterfly blue a jewel-toned appeal. The precise hex code that defines standard butterfly blue is #5CB3FF.
Butterfly Blue in Nature
In nature, butterfly blue is produced through structural coloration rather than pigments. Tiny microscopic scales on butterfly wings cause light interference and refraction that reflects blue wavelengths more strongly. The wings don’t actually contain blue pigment. As the butterfly flaps its wings, its iridescent scales shift to reflect different hues of blue and purple. This creates an optical effect that makes butterfly blue appear to change colors in different lighting conditions and angles. Other insects like dragonflies and damselflies may also exhibit structural butterfly blue coloring. Beyond butterflies, the vibrant blue color is commonly associated with bluebird feathers, bluebell flowers, blue jacaranda trees, and more.
Butterfly Blue in Design
In graphic design and fashion, butterfly blue is a popular choice to invoke a sense of wonder and vibrancy. It has a brighter appearance than basic light blue, creating visual interest and contrast. Butterfly blue works well for accents and pops of color without being overpowering. It can also pair nicely with neutrals like white, grey, black, or brown. Butterfly blue may be utilized in logos, prints, accessories, uniforms, and décor elements. Some well-known brands have adopted butterfly blue into their visual identity, including Tiffany & Co., Ford, and Visa.
|Butterfly Species||Wing Coloration|
|Blue Morpho||Vibrant blue with black borders|
|Common Blue Butterfly||Underwings are grayish-brown; uppersides are blue in males, brown in females|
|Western Tailed Blue||Electric blue upper wings; gray underwings with orange spots near tails|
|Great Mormon||Iridescent blue patches on black wings|
|Blue Metalmark||Shiny blue upperwings with black outer margins|
Butterfly Blue in Culture
Throughout history, butterfly blue has carried symbolic meaning in myths, legends, and cultural traditions. In many cultures, a blue butterfly represents joy, beauty, and transformation. In Greek mythology, the blue butterfly was seen as a symbol of the soul. Blue butterfly imagery is also used to promote awareness of congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect that affects newborns. On a more lighthearted note, butterfly blue is sometimes referenced in popular media, including song lyrics and movie titles. Overall, it evokes natural beauty, lightness, and positive change across cultural contexts.
Shades of Butterfly Blue
There are a few recognizable shades that fall under the butterfly blue umbrella, ranging from lighter sky blues to deeper indigos. Each shade has its own subtle character:
Periwinkle Blue – This pastel blue has a hint of purple. It is soft and whimsical. Periwinkle blue is lighter and more delicate than true butterfly blue.
Light Butterfly Blue – The lightest shade of blue on the butterfly blue spectrum. It is crisp, clear, and cool. Light butterfly blue has a brighter appearance than regular light blue.
Medium Butterfly Blue – Considered true butterfly blue, this is the classic vibrant blue most associated with butterflies. It falls halfway between light and dark butterfly blue shades.
Dark Butterfly Blue – This deeper shade begins to take on indigo properties while retaining the blue butterfly effect. The darker tone adds a bold, dramatic flair.
Vivid Butterfly Blue – This is the most saturated shade on the brighter end of the butterfly blue family. Vivid butterfly blue has the most intense, eye-popping color saturation.
How Lighting Affects Butterfly Blue
One of the things that make butterfly blue so distinct is the way it transforms under different lighting conditions. As a structural color, butterfly blue iridescence relies on the angle and intensity of the light source. Here are some of the ways lighting impacts its appearance:
Direct Sunlight – In full sun, the blue color becomes more concentrated and vivid, especially as the wings are oriented directly toward the light. The blue also appears to glow and reflect lighter.
Cloudy Bright – With diffused light on an overcast day, the blue loses some richness but the iridescent sheen is still apparent. It may take on more subtle grayish tones.
Shade – In the shade, the blue takes on deeper purple notes and becomes more muted. The structual colors darken and have less contrast.
Artificial Light – Indoors, cool white fluorescent or LED lights bring out brighter blue undertones. Warm incandescent bulbs lend a purple cast while weakening the blue color intensity.
Dusk/Dawn – At the low light levels of twilight, the blue fades to a subtle pastel gray hue with only hints of its true color visible in certain angles.
Butterfly blue is a brilliant spectral shade known for its vibrancy, depth, and transformative iridescence. It spans the light to medium blue color spectrum with undertones of purple and green. This natural structural color gets its name from the shimmery blue wings of butterflies and other insects. Butterfly blue is widely associated with beauty, nature, lightness, and freedom. It has symbolic meaning in cultures around the world and is utilized by brands to convey positive qualities. True butterfly blue has a richness and personality that makes it stand apart from other blues. Its ability to shift color under different lighting only adds to its mystique. Whether on an iridescent butterfly or your favorite pair of shoes, butterfly blue never fails to provide an eye-catching pop of color.