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What two colors make cerulean blue?

Cerulean blue is a beautiful shade of blue that has become quite popular in recent years. But what colors combine to make this gorgeous hue? As it turns out, cerulean blue is made by mixing two primary colors – blue and green.

The Origins of Cerulean Blue

The name “cerulean” comes from the Latin word “caeruleum” which means “sky-blue”. This aptly describes the hue, as cerulean blue is meant to evoke the colors of the sky and sea. Cerulean has been used to describe blue pigments and dyes since the early 1800s.

One of the earliest recorded uses of the word comes from the English romantic poet John Keats. In his 1817 poem “Sleep and Poetry”, Keats wrote the lines:

“The restless azure throbb’d between thy curtains by the fays

Cerulean-silken-soft, by some strange wondrous fate”

Here, Keats used “cerulean” to describe the vibrant blue color of the sky peeking through the curtains. This early poetic reference helped popularize the term cerulean as a descriptor for bright sky blues.

The Color Mix

On the color wheel, blue and green are considered primary colors. When mixed together in different ratios, they produce secondary colors like teal and cerulean.

Specifically, cerulean blue sits between azure blue and turquoise on the color wheel. It is created by mixing ultramarine or cobalt blue with viridian or phthalo green. The exact ratio depends on the desired shade.

Adding more green yields a bright, vivid cerulean reminiscent of the Caribbean Sea. Increasing the blue creates a cooler, more muted cerulean similar to the blue-grey skies of winter.

Cerulean Blue in Art

Cerulean blue first started being used as a distinct pigment in the early 19th century, making it a relatively recent addition to the artist’s palette.

Early artistic examples of a cerulean-type blue were often natural azurite, a mineral copper carbonate. Eventually, synthetic pigments were created to replicate the brilliant cerulean tones.

Some key uses of cerulean blue in art history include:

  • Portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the late 1700s
  • Seascapes by J.M.W. Turner in the early 1800s
  • Skies by Vincent Van Gogh like Starry Night Over the Rhone from 1888

Cerulean became especially popular with the Impressionists. Painters like Renoir, Monet, and Morisot used it to capture hypnotic skies and vivid oceans.

Cerulean Blue in Fashion

Cerulean blue emerged as a popular color in fashion design in the 1990s. Fashion powerhouses like Pantone and Prada highlighted cerulean in their collections, propelling it into the spotlight.

In 2000, Pantone chose a vibrant cerulean blue as the color of the year. Famous fashion designer Marc Jacobs followed their lead by featuring cerulean blue in his collections for Louis Vuitton.

This splashy runway debut led to cerulean becoming a staple color in mainstream fashion. It became ubiquitous in everything from prom dresses to jeans to accessories.

Fun fact – cerulean blue gained even more popular recognition after being name-dropped in the 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada. In a famous monologue, Meryl Streep mentions cerulean as a defining color filtering down from high fashion to mass retailers.

Cerulean Blue in Decor

Cerulean blue brings a refreshing pop of color when used in home decor. Interior designers often recommend it as a sophisticated, versatile shade that pairs well with other colors.

Lighter cerulean works beautifully in beachy, nautical spaces paired with white trim and sandy neutrals. Bright cerulean makes a cheerful accent on throw pillows or children’s room decor.

Deeper hues of cerulean like navy can create a cozy, cave-like feel when used on accent walls or furniture. Painting a ceiling cerulean can give the illusion of sunlit skies overhead.

Cerulean also combines well with greenery and botanical accents. The blue-green tones are reminiscent of nature and the ocean, giving a room a relaxing vibe.

Cerulean Blue in Branding

Cerulean evokes feelings of relaxation, creativity, and imagination. This makes it an appealing color for forward-thinking brands that want to stand out while promoting wellbeing.

Some examples of major companies that use cerulean blue in their branding include:

  • United Airlines – Cerulean blue is a key component of their logo and aircraft livery
  • Apple – Many Apple product logos feature cerulean, along with their iconic white Apple logo
  • Tiffany & Co. – Their iconic robin’s egg blue packaging is a lighter cerulean hue
  • Orbitz – The online travel company features a vibrant cerulean blue in their branding

Cerulean evokes a sense of escapism, optimism, and reliability, which brands want associated with their products and services.

Cerulean Blue in Nature

While cerulean is usually thought of as a manmade color, several examples of cerulean blue can be found in the natural world as well.

Some cerulean shades found naturally include:

  • Blue jay feathers
  • Blue Morning Glory flowers
  • Blue Azurite mineral crystals
  • Tropical seas like the Caribbean
  • Glacial lakes and rivers

When travelling and exploring nature, keep an eye out for cerulean blues peeking through in birds, flowers, waterways, and minerals.

Mixing Custom Cerulean Blue Shades

With basic blue and green pigments, you can mix your own custom cerulean colors. Here are some tips:

  • Start with a cobalt or French ultramarine blue base
  • Add small amounts of viridian green and mix thoroughly
  • Increase green to reach more vivid shades
  • Add white paint to lighten the cerulean
  • Use a grey or black base for muted, blue-grey ceruleans

Test your custom mixes on a palette before applying to your project. Adjust the ratio until you achieve your perfect cerulean blue!

Cerulean Blue Paints and Dyes

Several mass produced paint and dye options are available for achieving a consistent cerulean color. Some popular options include:

Medium Color Options
Acrylic paint Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Cerulean
Oil paint Cerulean Blue Hue, Cobalt Cerulean Blue
Fabric dye Cerulean Blue Dye, Turquoise Dye
Watercolor Cerulean Blue, Teal/Turquoise mixes

These pre-mixed options provide consistent, vibrant cerulean tones across all types of media and projects.

Light and Dark Cerulean Blue

Cerulean blue takes on different characteristics at lighter and darker shades. Here’s what you get:

  • Light cerulean – Tints like sky blue, reminiscent of sunny skies. Pairs well with sunny yellow.
  • Dark cerulean – Deeper, duller shades like navy blue. Can feel dramatic or moody. Pairs well with greys.

Most designers recommend sticking to a consistent lightness or darkness of cerulean for cohesion across a project. Too much variation results in clashing tones.

Cerulean Blue in Logos

Cerulean blue is a popular logo color, especially for companies wanting to convey openness, creativity, or innovation. Primary industries using cerulean in logos include:

  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Financial services
  • Travel and hospitality

Some examples of major brands using cerulean blue logos include Twitter, Circuit City, and CareFirst. It remains a trendy, versatile choice for modern logo designs.


Cerulean blue has become a designer favorite, adding a burst of energy and vibrancy to everything from paintings to pottery. By mixing the primary colors blue and green, endless shades of beautiful cerulean can be created.

From its early beginnings in 19th century paintings to today’s major companies, cerulean remains a popular choice. This bright blend of blues and greens creates a timeless color that evokes tranquility, clarity, and renewal.

So next time you admire a cerulean sea or sky, know it came from the artistic blend of two essential colors – blue and green.