Last Updated on September 28, 2023
Colors come in all depths and saturations. Some are so intense that they can easily overwhelm the senses while others have a more washed-out appearance. The choice between the two categories largely depends on the visual effects that you wish to achieve.
Mauve is one of the many pale colors out there. Despite its muted intensity, there’s something about this pigment that makes it a top choice for artists and interior designers worldwide.
Here’s a beginner’s guide to mauve, including its appearance and meaning in color psychology.
Mauve, also known as mallow, is a pale bluish-purple color with the hex code #E0B0FF. The color’s description may vary slightly depending on the specific hues visible to an individual’s eye.
Some people describe mauve as a pale purple color with grey and blue undertones. Others define it as a pale violet color. And according to the ISCC-NBS color system, the pigment looks a lot like brilliant purple.
It’s also important to note that numerous pale wildflowers generally described as “blue” are actually mauve. The best way to identify this pigment in nature is to compare it with magenta. Mauve tends to contain a little more gray and blue than a washed-out shade of magenta.
Individual Colors in Mauve
This pigment may have numerous alternative descriptions. But the general consensus is that this pigment belongs in the purple (not blue) family of colors. Now, purple is the product of combining red with blue. It, therefore, goes that red and blue are the dominant colors in mauve.
However, note that mauve is usually visible with gray and blue tones. Since gray is a mixture of black and white, it would mean that the mauve color also contains decent amounts of black and white pigments.
That said, most people who look at mauve will only see purple and not red and blue or black and white.
Mauve’s Position on the Color Wheel
As a pale bluish-purple color, mauve is found on the color wheel between pink and violet. The color can lean either more toward pink or violet depending on the saturation of either pigment.
Is Mauve A Warm or Cool Color?
It would be intuitive to imagine that mauve evokes both warm and cool emotions. But that’s not quite accurate. As with most other shades of purple, mauve is more likely to elicit cool than warm vibes.
The pigment is widely classified in the same group as blue and green in terms of their visual and psychological effects. But as you shall find, mauve comes in multiple shades, many of which are considered warm.
Shades of Mauve
Mauve may be a purple undertone. But the color is itself a huge family comprising several hues. Popular ones include;
1. Old Mauve
The first documented use of the phrase ‘old mauve’ as a color name in the English language was in 1925. This color comprises more red than blue, making it a darker and more desaturated form of mauve. Due to its higher saturation of red, old mauve is one of the many mauve shades considered warm.
2. Light Mauve
Light mauve also contains more red than purple, making it appear warmer than regular mauve undertones.
3. Dark Mauve
Dark mauve is the opposite of light mauve. This reddish-purple color stands out for its medium saturation and brilliance.
4. Mauve Pink
As the name implies, mauve pink contains more pink than red or purple. You could also describe it as a saturated pink with magenta hues. It pairs well with black and dark charcoal.
5. Purple Mauve
Also known as purple lotus, the purple mauve color is one of the deepest shades of mauve. It leans more toward purple and blue than red or pink.
6. Rose Mauve
This shade of mauve has visible brown hues due to its significant saturation of red and orange. The presence of red and orange give rose mauve warmer vibes.
7. Mauve Taupe
Mauve taupe is nearly-similar to old mauve in appearance. Both are dark, desaturated pink. Besides, both shades were officially identified in 1925.
8. Mauve Desert
Mauve desert is a dusty mauve undertone with grayish-red hues. It’s a popular pigment manufactured by the renowned paint brand Benjamin Moore. The color is also warm but not as overwhelming as other warmer shades of mauve.
9. Crayola Mauve
Crayola mauve is one of the Crayola colors called Mauvelous. The pigment was introduced in 1993. It stands out for its soft-reddish appearance and can blend with soft cyan shades to create stunning visual contrasts.
10. Chaise Mauve
A grayish-red color manufactured by the paint brand Sherwin Williams.
11. Twilight Mauve
Twilight mauve is another shade of mauve produced by a popular paint brand – Valspar. The color is grayish-red with brown undertones, which gives it a dusty appearance.
12. Opera Mauve
Opera mauve was first officially recognized as a color in English in 1927. It’s a lighter desaturated shade of mauve that looks a lot like a medium-to-lighter hue of magenta.
13. Heather Mauve
Named after the heather flowers native to Scotland, heather mauve is slightly brighter than standard mauve.
Origin of the Word Mauve
Mauve is named after the mallow flower. As we’ve already indicated, ‘mallow’ is actually an alternative term for mauve. The mallow flower is commonly known as malva. It’s a genus that comprises herbaceous plants in the family Malvaceae.
Malva plants thrive in diverse climatic regions, ranging from tropical and subtropical to temperate regions. These plants are widespread in various parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. They can be annual, biennial, or perennial, depending on individual species.
One of malva’s primary defining features is the color of their flowers. When in full bloom, these plants produce five petals that generally appear mauve. The blossoms can occasionally take on other shades of purple or even pink and white.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the word “mauve” as a color name in English was between 1796 and 1798. However, the name did not pick up until the late 1850s.
Before the word “mauve” entered the English language, the color was more commonly known by its alternative term ‘mallow.’ The first documented use of “mallow” with reference to the color was in 1611.
History of the Mauve Color
Many historians have often referred to mauve as the color that changed the world. That’s because this pigment was discovered by accident rather than design. In his quest for a malaria cure in 1856, a young inquisitive student named William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic dye which he called mauveine. The dye originally came in a saturated purple shade.
Perkin’s discovery helped mainstream purple, a color that was previously associated with royalty. It wasn’t long before fashion designers began incorporating mauveine into their outfits.
Note that before Perkin’s discovery, most shades of purple (particularly rare ones like mauve) were produced naturally using a dye obtained from the secretions of various plants and insects. Some of the dye also came from minerals that were pretty hard to come by. This made mauve very difficult to produce and, consequently, very expensive. As such, mauveine outfits were largely a preserve of nobility.
But despite their association with royalty, earlier mauve dyes had several drawbacks. They faded too quickly as a result of repeated washing and sunlight exposure. It was time to invent something cheaper yet more sustainable. And that’s where William Perkin’s discovery came in handy.
This color’s popularity shot through the roof when it received the endorsement of Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie. By the 1890s, the color was so popular that this decade was christened the ‘Mauve Decade’ in Europe and the United States. The pigment was then known as Perkin’s mauve.
As mauveine continued to earn its stripes in the fashion and chemical industry, it also garnered significant interest in the medical field. Numerous scientists were able to experiment with the pigment to advance their respective medical research programs.
For instance, Walther Flemming used mauveine to color cells and study chromosomes. Robert Koch utilized the color to discover the tuberculosis bacillus while Paul Ehrlich used it to come up with chemotherapy. These are perhaps the reasons many historians consider mauve as ‘the color that changed the world.’
The mauve craze faded out after a few decades due to an influx of other synthetic dyes utilizing similar hues. However, the color bounced back to the limelight in the 80s.
Psychological Meaning of Mauve
This dreamy color is one of the most recognizable pigments in the language of love. The color stands for romance and nostalgia.
Mauve can also evoke creativity and imagination. Artists dealing with creative blocks can invite a dash of this pigment into their space for that extra dose of inspiration.
The mauve color connotes power and status. Remember that before William Perkin discovered a cheaper and more sustainable mauve dye, the color was widely associated with nobility.
It is also the color of youth. You might consider the pigment when designing products targeted at teens, tweens, and even the young at heart.
Like most shades of purple, mauve evokes a lot of femininity. This color can make a bold statement when used in female outfits or as the theme color for feminine events and movements.
Some people also associate mauve with purity and devotion. Other admirable qualities linked to the color include optimism, care, intuition, bravery, eccentricity, and idealism.
Notable Uses of Mauve throughout History
Although a relatively new shade, mauve has already gained the favor of several renowned artists. The color can be seen in Claude Monet’s paintings Impression, Sunrise (1872) and Morning on the Seine near Giverny (1897).
How to Make Mauve
This pigment is fairly easy to create. All you need is blue, red, and white paints. And, of course, a color palette.
i. Mix equal amounts of red and blue paint on a color palette to make purple.
ii. Add white to the purple color to create mauve.
iii. Make adjustments where necessary to obtain your desired shade of mauve.
Adding more white will brighten the color, more blue will darken it, and more red will give it a pinkish look.
The Bottom Line
Not only is mauve one of the most elegant shades of purple, it is also incredibly easy to make. Mauve comes in several undertones that make it a favorite for a wide range of art and design projects. For maximum visual effects, consider pairing the color with blue, pink, violet, or other shades of purple.