Spectrum Wavelengths: Purple - Just Too Awesome!

The result of mixing the warmest and coolest colors  - red and blue - is the color purple. This balance of red and blue evokes a myriad of emotions  - all of which can work within a design to affect the viewing audience.

This Spectrum post will take a closer look at some of the reasons why purple is so awesome by exploring some of the emotional undertones the color evokes when used in a visual medium.

I thought it would be fun to use the power of Google to see how some of the emotions purple evokes can be created visually.  I'll briefly discuss how purple ties into a specific feeling or concept and then show resulting pictures from Google Images supplied when searching for "Purple + *emotion*"

If we interpret red as furious and blue as calm, purple can be interpreted as the unrest, discontent or even insurrection found in between violence and serenity. Google Images search results for Purple + Unrest = The 1989 Purple Rain Riot in South Africa 

The event was so named because a police water cannon with purple dye was turned on thousands of protesters who were marching on South Africa's Parliament - literally coating the unrest in purple.

The police used the purple dye so they could identify the protesters later for arrest, but instead ended up with purple government buildings after the protesters briefly gained control of the cannon and inspired graffiti artists to spray paint messages like "The Purple People Will Rule."

Egyptian author, poet and feminist Marwa Rakha calls purple the color of loneliness because it "comes from mixing a passionate heart with a cold attitude." The first photo that popped up in our Google Images search results for Purple + Loneliness = The Lion King.

It's interesting that "Purple Loneliness" retrieved an image of Simba's mother Sarabi from Disney's animated Lion King shortly after Mufasa was killed and Simba departed - tying the lonely image and the author to their native Africa.

Purple sidenote: Zambia, in southern Africa, is also one of the largest global amethyst producers, producing about 1000 tonnes of the purple gemstone. Not only is amethyst the birthstone for February, it also represents my favorite Greek God, Dionysus.

Mufasa and Simba, both kings of the jungle, along with Prince remind us that purple is also the color of royalty. Google Images search results for Purple + Royalty =

One of the first photos that popped up was a purple formal gown fit for a prom queen - a good reminder that color choices can evoke an emotional response in costumes just as much as it does in the scenery and lighting.

Leonardo da Vinci believed that the power of meditation increases ten times when done in a purple light. In his case, the purple light came from stained glass windows in the sanctuaries he worked in.

Might I suggest using R359 Medium Violet to light your purple peacefulness instead? Proceeds from the sale of R359 benefit PLASA's Behind the Scenes Foundation, which provides financial support and gives peace of mind to technicians when they are sick or injured.


Lighting Designer Sonia Pasqual's use of Purple in Valencia Character Company's production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"


On stage, we use purple for night, shadows and tumultuous weather, like 'Tempests.' Painters use purple to create deeper, richer shadow colors and to alter black so it is a more interesting "dark" and not just neutral. Purple is also an obvious choice for scenic designers to add floral elements into their sets. As an example, one of the things I miss most in Los Angeles is the June blooming of the Jacorandas (aka - the purple trees).


A Jacoranda near downtown LA


The American Cancer Society uses purple as the color of hope for cancer patients, and every year (also in June) the residents around Gardner, MA hold their A.C.S. Relay for Life. In an effort to raise awareness of the fundraiser, the organizers wanted to place purple candles in the windows of their area town halls, but the 'purple' C7 bulbs they bought looked more red, fuchsia or pink instead of purple when they were lit. They contacted us to find the right gel (doubled up CalColor #4960 60 Lavender) that they wrapped around their clear C7 bulbs to make their candles purple and had them installed in Leominster's town hall (14 windows) and in Fitchburg's town hall (10 windows), The CalColored purple candles stayed lit the whole month leading up to the Relay.

Unrest, loneliness, royalty, night's shadow, tumultuous weather, floral peacefulness and hope are all symbolized by the awesome color purple. May the purples found in Rosco's ranges of color filters and scenic paints help you add a touch of awesome to your next design.

Joel Svendsen June 30, 2011 Questions?

About Joel Svendsen

Marketing Director: Joel's Rosco career began in Rosco's Hollywood office in 1999 – first in sales covering the Western US and the Los Angeles Film & Television market, and then as Product Manager for Rosco's Film & Television Products. Joel's knowledge about Rosco's products and how they're used in each of our different marketplaces makes him well suited for bringing the stories in Spectrum to life.