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What does indigo look like?

What does indigo look like?

Indigo is a deep and rich color between the shades of blue and violet. It is one of the colors of the rainbow that can be seen in a spectrum, and it has a long history of use as a dye, pigment and in art and design. But what exactly does this mysterious color look like? Here we will explore the visual properties, shades and appearances of indigo to understand its unique color profile.

The Origin of Indigo

The name “indigo” comes from the ancient Greek word “indikon” meaning “from India”, as indigo dye was originally imported from India. The primary source of indigo dye is a plant called Indigofera tinctoria, also known as true indigo. It has been used as a blue dye since ancient times in places like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Britain, Peru, Iran, and Africa.

Indigo played a huge role in the textile trade and economy in many parts of the world. It was one of the most profitable crops during the colonial period in North America. Indigo plantations were established in South Carolina and other southern states in the 18th century.

The Color Spectrum

In optics, indigo is located between 450 and 420 nanometers on the visible spectrum. This wavelength range means it is a deeper color than the blue wavelength, but not as deep as the violet wavelength.

Color Wavelength range (nm)
Red 700-635
Orange 635-590
Yellow 590-560
Green 560-490
Blue 490-450
Indigo 450-420
Violet 420-400

So indigo sits between blue and violet in the visible light spectrum. But the exact wavelengths that define indigo are not consistently agreed upon, so there is some variance in defining its spectral range.

Shades of Indigo

There are many shades and variations of indigo that give it depth and dimension:

Shade Description
Baby blue indigo Has a sky blue tone mixed with the deeper indigo shade
Denim indigo Resembles the typical color of denim jeans
Electric indigo Vibrant bright indigo that pops
Persian indigo Deeper muted indigo tone inspired by Persian culture
Periwinkle indigo Mix of indigo and lavender tones
Royal indigo Deep saturated indigo shade fit for royalty
Sapphire indigo Brilliant, gem-toned indigo inspired by sapphires
Starry night indigo Very dark midnight indigo, inspired by Van Gogh’s famous painting
Steel indigo Cold, blue-gray indigo resembling steel
Vivid indigo Bright, concentrated, intense indigo

There are lighter pastel indigos, deeper midnight indigos, bright vivid indigos, and indigos with hints of other colors like blue, purple and gray. This range allows designers and artists to choose the perfect indigo shade for their needs.

How Indigo Appears

So when you look at something colored indigo, how does it appear? Here are some key characteristics of how the eye perceives this unique color:

– Depth – Indigo has a layered, almost three-dimensional appearance compared to basic blue, with a richer and more complex color sensation. This creates a sense of depth.

– Intensity – Fully saturated indigo is quite intense and almost seems to glow or vibrate compared to blue. But it is still deep and grounded rather than bright and jumping out like a neon color.

– Mystique – The color is sometimes described as mysterious or mystical, perhaps because purple is associated with exoticism, royalty and spirituality. Indigo has a touch of that vibe.

– Gradations – Indigo shades transition smoothly into blue, violet and purple tones, allowing for subtle gradients and shading. A vivid indigo can contain hints of lighter or darker tones.

– Neutrality – Despite its depth, indigo has a certain neutral quality somewhat like a blue-black dark gray. This allows it to work as a versatile background color.

– Calmness – Though vivid, indigo is a serene color that evokes a sense of composure and tranquility compared to the energy of bright primary colors.

So in summary, indigo is best characterized by its dark richness, sense of depth, smooth transitions of color and an almost mystical groundedness and calmness. This makes it very appealing and versatile for artistic usage and design.

Indigo in Nature

Where does indigo appear naturally? Though synthetic indigo dyes are common, here are some places you can spot natural indigo shades:

– Deep ocean waters – Where the water is very deep, it takes on a deep blue-violet indigo shade.

– Butterfly wings – Some butterflies like the Indigo Duskywing have iridescent indigo wings.

– Bird feathers and plumage – The indigo bunting has feathers that can take on an indigo shade. Other birds also have small touches of indigo tones in their plumage.

– Flowers – Some varieties of flowers like orchids and morning glories contain areas of indigo coloration.

– Blueberries – The skin of ripe blueberries transitions from blue to purple to indigo in places.

– Grapes – Rich, ripe grapes that are red/purple usually have an indigo-colored bloom on the skin.

– Mountains – Distant mountains can take on a hazy deep indigo appearance at sunrise or sunset.

– Hair – Black hair often has highlights that shine with an indigo tone when light hits it.

So nature contains many instances of this rich and vivid color, both in plants, fruits, animals, landscapes and water. Finding indigo out in the world can help you train your eye to recognize its unique color characteristics.

Uses of Indigo

What do people do with the color indigo? Here are some of its most common uses in art, design and decor:

Use Examples
Dyeing/Textiles Historically used to dye clothing like jeans; used in tapestries and woven goods
Ink/Paint Inks for pens, paints for artistic usage
Coloring/Shading Used when coloring illustrations or as a shading color
Web design Used as a background, font or accent color for websites
Logos and branding Used in some company logos and brand style guides
Ceramics/Pottery Used to add color patterns and accents to ceramic art
Fashion/Clothing Seen in certain styles of clothing, shoes and accessories
Jewelry Stones like sapphires provide an indigo color for jewelry
Decor/Design Throw pillows, wallpaper, rugs and other decorative items

Indigo has created its own cultural niche in the worlds of fashion, textiles, art, design and more. People are drawn to its beauty, versatility and enigmatic color profile.

Significance and Symbolism

Beyond its basic color characteristics, indigo also carries deeper symbolic meanings in human culture:

– Wisdom – Indigo is seen as a color of intuition, introspection and wisdom. Its depth evokes deep thought.

– Creativity – The color stimulates right-brained creative thinking and conveys artistic mystique.

– Spirituality – Indigo has spiritual overtones and is linked to the “third eye” in Eastern traditions, associated with psychic abilities.

– Dignity – Its darker hue gives it an air of nobility, dignity and prestige. Hence associations with royalty.

– Serenity – The blue side brings a peaceful, calm sensation of tranquility and relaxation.

– Affluence – Along with dignity, it can also signify affluence and luxury when used in plush fabrics, etc.

– Authenticity – Indigo dyeing originated with natural plant material, giving it an aura of authenticity and integrity.

So when indigo appears in culture, it often carries these deep symbolic meanings related to wisdom, spirit, creativity, noble authority, serenity and authenticity.

Indigo Dyeing Process

As mentioned, indigo has historically been used as a textile dye. But how is indigo dye produced? Here is a quick overview:

Step Description
Cultivating plants Indigofera tinctoria plants are grown and harvested
Leaves fermented Leaves are soaked and fermented to extract indigo pigment
Oxidization The indigo solution oxidizes and turns blue
Dye bath Fabric is dipped in the “dye bath” of indigo solution
Oxidization When removed from the bath, the indigo oxidizes again and turns blue
Rinsing The fabric is rinsed to remove unbonded indigo dye

It is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. But natural plant-derived indigo dye produces a beautiful concentrated color fast result.

Indigo in Various Cultures

Indigo holds unique places in the culture, tradition and artisanal craft of cultures worldwide:

Culture Role of Indigo
India Used to dye traditional clothing, sacred to Hindu deities Krishna and Vishnu
Japan Used in Japanese blue-and-white porcelain andRoyal Bengal tiger
the national treasure textile aizome
West Africa Used to dye traditional kente cloths and Adinkra textiles
Mesoamerica Used by the Maya for coloring art, murals and fabrics
Greece Mentioned by Homer as a colorant in ancient Greek culture
China Featured in traditional Chinese paintings and porcelains
Korea Seen in traditional Korean hanbok dresses

Indigo is like a worldwide cultural phenomenon that spread across many civilizations captivated by its rich mystical dye.

Fun Facts About Indigo

To wrap up our exploration of indigo, here are some fun miscellaneous facts:

– Isaac Newton introduced indigo as one of the seven colors of his color wheel in 1672.

– In the 1740s, Eliza Lucas began the first successful indigo plantation in South Carolina.

– Denim fabric used to make blue jeans gets its signature color from indigo dye.

– Indigo inspired the blues music genre, as well as songs like “Mood Indigo” and bands like Indigo Girls.

– The Indigo Bunting bird was named after the indigo color of the male’s plumage.

– The psychological condition “Indigo Children” refers to special children believed to have indigo auras.

– The dark indigo color of deep water is sometimes called “midnight blue.”

– The RGB value for web indigo is 75, 0, 130.

So in addition to its cultural heritage, indigo also has some fun trivia tidbits surrounding it in science, music, fashion, and more!


Indigo is truly one of the most mystical and enchanting colors. With shades between blue and violet, it has a layered dimensional quality full of depth and intrigue. This unique color has enriched cultures worldwide through art, clothing, decor and symbolic meaning. Now that you know exactly what defines indigo and how it appears visually, you can fully appreciate this cool, calm and cosmic color. Next time you see it, look closely to absorb its multifaceted essence.