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What color is purplish black?

What color is purplish black?

Purplish black is a dark color that combines elements of both purple and black. It sits between the two on the color wheel, making it somewhat ambiguous to precisely define. However, there are certain characteristics that help identify purplish black shades. In this article, we’ll explore what defines the color purplish black, look at some examples, and compare it to similar dark shades.

Defining Purplish Black

Purplish black contains aspects of both purple and black, two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. This makes it a rich, dark color with depth. Here are some key things that characterize the shade:

Hue Sits between purple and black, so has a vague hue compared to bold purple
Value Very dark, though not as dark as true black
Saturation Medium saturation, more than black but less than bold purple

So in summary, purplish black is very dark like black, but has subtle undertones of purple that give it some richness and hue. It lacks the vividness of true purple, appearing muted. But it also isn’t as empty and flat as black. This combination makes for an elegant, deep shade.

Purplish Black vs. Similar Colors

Because purplish black sits between two distinct colors, it can be easily confused with adjacent shades. Here’s how it compares to some close relatives:

Purple More saturation and brightness than purplish black, with a clearly apparent hue
Dark purple Still has some vibrancy, while purplish black is deeper and more muted
Eggplant Much more purple than black, while purplish black is a more even mix
Black with purple tones Very close to purplish black, but has black as the dominant color
Black No purple undertones, completely neutral and flat looking

So in other words, purplish black is in the middle between vivid purple and true black. This makes it sometimes confused with dark variations of either shade. Looking for the amount of purple hue vs black neutrality is the best way to distinguish it.

Examples of Purplish Black

Now that we understand the characteristics of purplish black, let’s look at some real-world examples to get a better sense of it. Here are a few places you’re likely to come across this rich, dark color:

Plums The deepest purple plums verge into purplish black territory
Eggplants The darkest, almost black shades of eggplant are purplish black
Grapes Very dark grapes are so deep they appear purplish black
Wine The darkest reds of wine, especially Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon
Textiles Deep purple or black fabrics and dyes
Cosmetics Purplish black nail polishes and lipsticks

Natural foods, textiles, and cosmetics that are intense dark shades often end up with a purplish black look. Anything very dark but with purple undertones falls into this category. Certain materials like velvet also seem to reflect light in a way that brings out purplish tones against a black background.

The Science of Purplish Black

From a scientific perspective, purplish black is what’s known as an ambiguous color. This means it sits between two or more main focal colors, without reflecting light at a dominant wavelength. Here’s some science behind how this shade is created:

Light Absorption Purplish black absorbs most visible wavelengths of light, giving it a very dark appearance. A small amount of blue and red wavelengths are reflected.
Color Mixing It’s created by mixing a small amount of purple with mainly black. The purple provides subtle hue while black mutes it with darkness.
Shades Adding white makes it lighter and more purple. Adding black makes it darker and more neutral.

So in physics terms, the subtle purple tones come from a tiny amount of red and blue light being reflected. But it remains a very dark color because most light is still absorbed. This explains why it seems to shift between purple and black depending on lighting conditions.

Psychology of Purplish Black

How does purplish black make us feel from a psychological perspective? Darker colors in general suggest sophistication, mystery, and elegance. Here are some of the emotions and meanings associated with this shade:

Refinement The mix of purple’s royal associations and black’s formality
Luxury Deeper, jewel-tone purples and blacks suggest expense and indulgence
Creative The complexity of the color stimulates imagination
Gloomy Very dark colors can bring feelings of sadness
Moody Its ambiguity creates an air of mystery and intrigue

So in design and art, purplish black conveys exclusivity, elegance, and depth. But it can also come across as slightly ominous if not balanced well. Overall, it’s a shade with many layers to its meaning.

Using Purplish Black in Design

How is purplish black best used in art, fashion, and design? Here are some effective ways to incorporate this sophisticated color:

Accent color Use it sparingly to trim lighter colors like white, gray, and pastels
Background Helps create atmosphere and contrast as a backdrop color
Typography Dark purplish black text stands out clearly against light backgrounds
Borders Adds definition paired with lighter colors
pair with Looks elegant with gold, silver, white, lighter purples, pinks, blues

Remember that purplish black is potent, so use it strategically and not in overpowering amounts. But it can add just the right touch of distinction and moodiness when done well.


Purplish black is an intriguing color that combines the richness of purple and the depth of black. It’s refined and mysterious, sitting elegantly between the two parent shades. Examples can be found in nature like fruits and flowers, along with manmade textiles and cosmetics. It has an allure of luxury but can also give off more ominous vibes. When used selectively in design, purplish black adds a touch of exotic elegance. So embrace the mystery and complexity of this deep, mutable shade.