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    Mastering Color Series – The psychology and evolution of the BLUE color and its use in photography


    The post Mastering Color Series – The psychology and evolution of the BLUE color and its use in photography first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Megan Kennedy.

    As one of the three primary colors in traditional color theory and the RGB color model, the greatest influence of blue is the capacity to convey a strong emotion. Painter Vincent van Gogh once said: "I am never tired of the blue sky", his fascination appears to be an integral part of many of his most famous paintings. In this article we will take a detailed look at the history of blue in the visual arts and what it means for your photography.

    The psychology of blue

    Color has a profound effect on our psychology. Rayleigh scattering, an optical phenomenon that makes the sea and the sky appear blue, forges a psychological link between the color blue and the perceived qualities of blue in nature. The old duality of the sea and the sky, for example, generates a visual relationship between blue and impressions of consistency and trust. Blue ' s associations with water connect it with cleanliness and refreshment, but also with tears. Consequently, it is said that someone is sad feel blue.

    The cool winter light and the blue hue of the ice draw connections between the blue and the cold. Clear blue skies have become synonymous with happiness, relaxation and tranquility. The blue tint of daylight helps to regulate our circadian rhythms. Blue also lowers stress levels and stimulates calmness. This has practical applications; hospitals are often painted in shades of blue to relieve the patient's anxiety. In addition, many medicines are provided in the form of a blue pill.

    Blue is believed to symbolize the male gender in Western cultures – although this has not always been the case. In China, blue manifests itself as a color of healing, relaxation and immortality. In countries such as Turkey, Greece and Albania, blue is said to repel evil. The Hindu tradition associates blue with Krishna, a deity who embodies love, virtue and divinity. It is also said that in the German, Swedish and Norwegian languages ​​a naive person looks at the world with a black eye.

    Jodhpur – the blue city of India.

    The evolution of the color blue

    Egyptian blue

    Egyptian blue is considered the first synthetic pigment. Produced by the ancient Egyptians around 2,200 BC, Egyptian blue was made from a mixture of crushed limestone, sand and a copper-containing mineral (such as azurite or malachite). The mixture was heated to 1650 ° F and produced an opaque blue glass. The glass was then ground and combined with thickeners for application.

    Associated with the Nile River and the sky, ancient Egyptians used Egyptian blue to paint murals, sculptures and ceramics. Ultimately, Egyptian blue spread to the Near East, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Roman Empire. The use of Egyptian blue continued into the Late and Greco-Roman period. However, the pigment died in the 4th century AD, when the recipe for its manufacture was lost.


    Lapis lazuli first appeared as a pigment in paintings from the 6th to the 7th century AD in the Afghan Zoroastrian and Buddhist temples. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Italian traders shipped the pigment to Europe. It was called ultramarine or ultramarinus (meaning beyond the Sea in Latin).

    For centuries the cost of ultramarine pigment competed with the price of gold. Artists then used ultramarine in only the most imperative aspects of a painting. This judicious application culminated in associations between the color blue and status.

    Ultramarine remained almost priceless until an artificial trial was discovered in 1828 by Jean Baptiste Guimet. The commercial production of the synthetic ultramarine started in 1830 and became known as French ultramarine.

    Cobalt blue

    Cobalt blue was used to color china and jewelry in China in the 8th and 9th centuries. An alumina-based version of cobalt blue was later discovered by the French chemist Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802. Commercial production of the pigment began in 1807 in France.

    Light-resistant, stable and compatible with other pigments, impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet easily adopted cobalt blue as an alternative to pricey ultramarine. Post-impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne also used cobalt blue. According to the Musée d ' Orsay, Van Gogh used a combination of Prussian blue, cobalt and ultramarine to create the nocturnal hues of Starry night over the Rhone. Van Gogh himself stated that "cobalt is a divine color and that nothing is so beautiful for creating an atmosphere …"

    sky blue

    Cerulean is a Latin word that translates as sky blue. Originally composed of cobalt magnesium stannate, cerulean was purified by a process developed in 1805 by Andreas Höpfner in Germany. Cerulean was not sold until 1860 as pigment by an artist by Rowney and Company. However, when it became available, the color, ranging from azure blue to dark sky blue, turned out to be popular with artists.

    In 1999, Pantone issued a statement declaring Cerulean Blue as the color for the millennium. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, stated that "… cerulean blue can bring a certain amount of peace because it reminds you of the time outside, on a beach, on the water … moreover it makes the unknown a bit less frightening because the sky … is a constant … that is the reliability factor of blue. "

    Lisa Herbert, vice president, global business communication, Pantone Inc., went on to say: "our studies show that blue is the most important favorite color … regardless of culture, gender or geographical origin ….[in the] U.S. [and] Europe and Asia too. We have chosen cerulean blue as the official color for the millennium because of its appeal. "

    Cerulean is the Latin word for sky blue

    Prussian blue

    Prussian blue was apparently discovered by accident. Around 1706, pigment and dye producer Johann Jacob Diesbach mixed ground cochineal insects, iron sulphate and potash to create a cochineal red lake. Without the knowledge of him, the potash he used was contaminated with animal blood. The resulting brew turned out to be the first modern synthetic pigment, a rich, dark blue that was soon recognized for its artistic uses.

    Inexpensive, easily produced, non-toxic and intensely colored, Prussian blue scattered throughout the art world. Pieter van der Werff ' s The burial of Christ is the oldest known example of Prussian blue in a work of art. Other early examples are those of Antoine Watteau Pilgrimage to Cythera and paintings produced in Berlin in 1710 by Antoine Pesne.

    Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used Prussian blue (as well as indigo dye) to Big wave from Kanagawa. In 1842 the experiments of Prussian blue by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel led to the invention of the cyanotype.

    International Small blue

    International Klein Blue (IKB) is a deep blue shade developed by the French artist Yves Klein and Edouard Adam, a Parisian art paint supplier. Klein suspended his favorite ultramarine pigment in a matte, synthetic resin binder made from petroleum extracts. This allowed the rich blue tint to be applied without losing any liveliness. Single-color cloths and extensive performative ventures were supported by Klein ' s extensive use of the ingenious IKB.

    YInMn blue

    Much like Prussian blue, YlnMn (pronounced Yin Min) blue was discovered by accident. In 2009, at Oregon State University, professor Mas Subramanian and his then student Andrew E. Smith went in search of new materials for making electronics. The couple experimented with the properties of manganese oxide by heating it to around 2000 ° F. However, what emerged from the oven was a striking blue composition. Named for its chemical composition of yttrium, indium and manganese, YlnMn blue pigment was released for commercial use in June 2016. According to paint company Derivan, YlnMn blue is "non-toxic with excellent archival attributes".

    Blue in the visual arts

    Ancient art up to the Renaissance

    Blue is a permanent presence in art history. Ancient Egyptians decorated murals and graves with shades of blue. The walls of Roman villas in Pompeii had frescoes of blue skies. Greek artists used blue as a background color behind the friezes on Greek temples and to color the beards of images.

    Dark blue was widely used in the decoration of churches in the Byzantine empire. Byzantine art depicted Christ and the Virgin Mary, dressed in dark blue or purple. Extensive dark blue and turquoise tiles were used to decorate mosques and palaces from Spain to Central Asia.

    At the beginning of the Middle Ages in Europe, blue played a less important role than that of other colors. In the 12th century, however, painters in Italy and Europe were commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church to paint the Virgin Mary's robes with ultramarine, the newest and most expensive pigment of the time. The updated wardrobe of the Virgin Mother resulted in the fact that blue was associated with holiness, humility and virtue.

    During the Renaissance, artists began to paint the world as it was seen in real life, mixing blue tones with lead-white paint to articulate shadows and highlights. In Titian ' s Noli me Tangere and Bacchus and Ariadne, different shades of blue are layered to cultivate depth and excitement. In another example, Raphael's Madonna of the Meadow depicts Mary with a deep blue cloak against a red dress, a striking contrast against a background populated with brown and light blue hues.

    Rococo ' s to contemporary art

    The Rococo art movement portrayed mythology and airy depictions of life in the upper classes with pastel blue skies and rich blue furniture. Romanticism used blue primarily to transmit drama into heaven, and impressionists such as Claude Monet used blue to explore light and movement in both natural and artificial landscapes.

    Emphasizing strong colors over the representative figures of Fauvist Henri Matisse in Dance circle naked under an open blue sky. Expressionist van Gogh ' s seminal Starry Night, conveys the night sky in active blue and yellow. The extensive use of Prussian blue by cubist Pablo Picasso defined his Blue Period while Surrealists used blue to orient and disorient the viewer at the same time.

    From the 20th century, artists began to free themselves from the limits of the literal. As a result, artists searched for color as an instrument to channel emotion. Explained in abstract expressionism, Jackson Pollock ' s Blue poles, consists of chaotic strands of blacks, greens, oranges, whites, yellow and gray tempered by nine vertical blue lines. Mark Rothko experimented intensively with blue, just like Barnett Newman, both artists who use color as a tool to transcend the boundaries of the canvas. And the colored blues by Helen Frankenthaler emphasize both the flattening and the dimensionality of the space.

    With the advent of modern technologies and materials, contemporary examples of blue in art are rich and varied. Crystalline from Roger Hiorns seizure, transformed space with color, light and chemistry. Katharina Fritsch ' s Hahn / Cock plays with our sense of scale and relationship with animals. And Anish Kapoor ' s Sky Mirror, Blue challenges our perceptions of an urban environment, where the landscape is again represented by the lens of a large, blue concave mirror.

    Blue in photography

    Born from nature and art, associations of blue play a crucial role in conveying the nature of the photographic image. Luigi Ghirri investigated the relationship between form and space by incorporating large fields of blue sky in his visual language. Color pioneer Martin Parr uses rich blues to create a surrealistic alignment between subject, object and nature. Bill Henson uses blue hues to cultivate experiential photographic dramas. David Burdeny photographs precision landscapes, using blue to illustrate the materiality of his abstract views. While Gregory Crewdson and Didier Massard both use blue to signal time, place and atmosphere through their visual language.

    The color blue also has other uses in photography. This is just after sunset and just before sunrise, the blue hour is a period when the sun falls below the horizon and the remaining sunlight gets a blue tint. Due to the soft light quality, blue hour is popular with portrait and landscape photographers. In addition, blue filters (applied to the camera or in post production) are used in black and white photography to increase the appearance of fog and haze.


    Yves Klein once said: "Blue has no dimensions, it is above all dimensions". In the course of history, blue has conveyed the unspeakable, transcendent color and touched our spirituality and our sense of self. Associated with nature, tranquility, reverence, purity, trust and sorrow, blue embodies the visual weight of emotion and human experience.

    Have you used blue in your photography? Do not hesitate to share them with us in the comments below.

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    mastering color series - Blue

    The post Mastering Color Series – The psychology and evolution of the BLUE color and its use in photography first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Megan Kennedy.

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