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Which color is navy blue?

Navy blue is a very dark shade of the color blue. It got its name because it was used as the color for military uniforms worn by the British Royal Navy. The exact shades of navy blue can vary, but in general it is a rich, dark blue color that has hints of purple or black tones to it.

Defining the Color Navy Blue

So what exactly makes a color qualify as navy blue? Here are some key defining features of this classic color:

  • Very dark shade of blue – Navy blues are much darker than primary blue colors like royal blue or sky blue.
  • Hints of black – Navy often has subtle darkening from black mixed into the blue pigment.
  • Cool undertones – Navy blues lean towards cooler undertones rather than warm ones.
  • Touch of purple – Some variations of navy have subtle hints of purple mixed into the color.
  • Blue with depth – The color has a rich, deeper quality compared to lighter blues.

These attributes set navy blue apart from other shades of blue and give it its distinctive look. When people describe a color as “navy blue,” they are referring to these telltale visual qualities.

Origins of the Name “Navy Blue”

Navy blue gets its name from the British Royal Navy, which used a very dark blue color for the uniforms of its officers and sailors. Here is some background on how the name originated:

  • 1748 – The British Admiralty chose dark blue coats for Royal Navy officers, though initially the color could vary.
  • 1780s – The specific shade of the dark blue coats was standardized.
  • 19th century – “Navy blue” emerged as popular name for the color based on Royal Navy uniforms.
  • Today – Navy blue remains linked to its nautical origins even after falling out of use for real naval uniforms.

The connection between the color and the British navy has stuck around for over 200 years. “Navy blue” has become the conventional name for any dark blue with blackish undertones, whether used in clothing, decoration, graphics, or other applications.

Key Characteristics of Navy Blue

What are the specific defining traits and properties of navy blue as a color? Here is an in-depth look at some of the key characteristics that set this shade apart:


The hue of navy blue is the same as primary blue – it sits within the range of hues associated with blue. But it is much darker than blues with higher saturation or brightness.


Navy blues have very low saturation compared to brighter blues. The color is muted and greyed rather than being intense or electric.


The brightness level of navy is extremely low. Dark, subdued shades define the look of navy blue.

Shade Variations

There are different shades of navy, including:

  • Dark navy – The darkest shade, almost black.
  • Navy – The standard navy blue, a very dark midnight blue.
  • Soft navy – A slightly lighter navy with subtle purple tones.

Even within the navy blue family, shades can range from intensely dark blues to softer variations.


Navy blue has both cool undertones from its blue base and subtle warm ones from black and purple influences. This makes it more versatile for pairing with other colors than a pure cool or warm shade.

Comparing Navy Blue to Other Blues

It can be helpful to compare navy blue against other common shades of blue to see its distinguishing features. Here is how navy stacks up to some other popular blues:

Blue Brightness Warm/Cool Undertones
Royal blue Bright Cool
Sky blue Very bright Cool
Navy blue Very dark Slightly warm
Denim blue Medium-dark Warm
Baby blue Light Slightly warm

As you can see, navy stands out for its very dark shade while maintaining its blue color identity. The subtle warm undertones also distinguish it from purely cool blue hues.

How Navy Blue Got its Name from Naval History

The first use of the term “navy blue” came about because the British Royal Navy wore very dark blue uniforms. Here is a brief timeline showing how the name developed:

  • 1748 – The British Admiralty establishes dark blue coats for Royal Navy officers, though the exact shade could vary.
  • 1780 – The specific shade used by the Admiralty is standardized as a very dark blue-black color.
  • 19th century – The term “navy blue” emerges, referencing the color used in British naval uniforms.
  • Today – The name remains even though real navies have moved away from blue uniforms.

Although navy blue no longer outfits naval officers, the traditional name endures. The term is used more broadly to refer to any very dark blue with black mixed in.

Modern Uses of Navy Blue

Though navy blue originated from British naval uniforms, today it is popular for all kinds of applications. Here are some examples of how navy blue is used in modern times:

  • Fashion – Navy is widely used for clothing like suits, dresses, jackets, and pants.
  • Uniforms – Navy uniforms are still seen outside navies, like in airlines, police, and other professions.
  • Decoration – Used in home furnishings, product designs, graphics, and logos.
  • Cars – Navy is a popular contemporary car color used on sedans, trucks, and luxury vehicles.
  • Sports – Seen on uniforms for teams like the New York Yankees baseball team.

From high fashion to product packaging, navy has become a versatile color that spans many aspects of design and clothing. Its sophistication and classic look help explain its widespread use.

Navy Blue Tones and Variations

Like many colors, navy blue exists in different shades and tones. Here are some of the most popular types of navy shades:

Navy Blue Variation Characteristics
Dark navy The deepest shade, closest to black.
Standard navy Classic navy blue, the most common shade.
Soft navy Slightly lightened with subtle purple tones.
Bright navy Medium navy shade with more blue intensity.
Teal navy Navy with green-blue overtones.

This range of shades offers flexibility for designers and consumers who like the navy look. The right tone can be chosen for fashion, interiors, graphics, and other applications.

How Lighting Affects the Look of Navy Blue

Like other dark colors, navy blue can look noticeably different depending on lighting conditions. Here is how various lighting situations impact the look of navy:

  • Sunlight – Direct sun deepens navy shades closer to black or indigo.
  • Shade – Indirect light from shade lightens navy closer to a dark blue.
  • Artificial light – Incandescent bulbs warm up navy tones towards purple/black.
  • Fluorescent light – Makes navy shift slightly towards a dull medium-dark blue.
  • LED light – Cools off navy and emphasizes bluer undertones.

The versatile properties of navy blue mean it adapts well under different lighting. But the specific hue can shift noticeably between environments. Something to keep in mind for design applications!

Navy Blue in World Cultures and Traditions

Blue colors in general are linked to cultural traditions and symbolism in many parts of the world. Here are some examples of how navy blue fits into cultural heritage and identities:

  • Scotland – Dark blue is used in plaids and tartans for clans like Gunn and Murray.
  • Europe – Associated with conservatism and right-wing political parties in some countries.
  • United States – Navy features in military and police uniforms and on the state flag of Connecticut.
  • China – Dark blue symbolizes immortality, power, and prosperity in Chinese culture.
  • Hinduism – Gods like Vishnu and Krishna are sometimes portrayed with navy blue skin.

Like other important colors, navy blue carries cultural symbolism and connections across the world. It mixes universal appeal with unique meanings in different nations and traditions.

Using Navy Blue for Design and Fashion

Navy’s sophistication and versatility makes it a prime choice for all kinds of design and fashion applications. Here are some tips for working with navy blue:

  • Pair navy with neutral colors like tan, gray and ivory for a classic look.
  • Mix with lighter blues for a bold contrast.
  • Add pops of warm colors like yellow or pink to brighten up dark navy shades.
  • Layer different textures like leather, suede, or wool in navy for visual interest.
  • Use navy as a base and accent with metallics like silver, gold, or copper.

Navy blue is endlessly flexible. Keep color pairings and textures in mind when incorporating this shade into your projects for stunning results.


Navy blue is a sophisticated, versatile color that has spanned history, cultures, and seas. While its original nautical roots may have faded, navy remains an iconic shade of blue. Its muted tones add a touch of elegance and style to all kinds of modern designs and applications. Whether it’s fashion, decor, graphics, or any other medium, navy blue’s rich personality makes it a go-to color option.