Is the new UK passport blue? Or is the colour really closer to black?
The Home Office has issued pictures of the post-Brexit passport, describing it as a return to the “iconic blue” used for UK passports before 1988.
Experts in the science of colour – and instant experts on social media – are unconvinced, saying it looks more like black.
But a Home Office spokesman said the colours of both the old and new passports were shades of blue.
“I’d say it’s black,” Stephen Westland, professor of colour science and technology at the University of Leeds, says.
“If most people looked at this, they’d say it’s black.”
But naming colours is very imprecise, he says, and people have different perspectives.
If enough blue is added to black, there will be a transition.
“But that point varies for different people,” Prof Westland says.
And some might see an extremely dark shade of blue, while others see black.
The new passport might, therefore, be “bluish black”, he says, but, in essence, “this is closer to black”.
Although the perception of colour can be influenced by the context – such as calling it a “blue passport”.
Replacing the burgundy-coloured European Union document, the post-Brexit passport has been heralded as a return to the UK’s “traditional colour”, last used in the 1980s.
And Home Secretary Priti Patel said the return to this “iconic blue” was “entwined with our national identity and I cannot wait to travel on one”.
But the Home Office would not specify the shade of this blue, although a spokesman said it was close to, if not exactly, a blue numbered as 5395C in the Pantone classification used by printers.
Craig Burston, senior lecturer in graphic design at the London College of Communications, which incorporates what was the London College of Printing, however, says there is nothing to suggest the “dominant colour” of the new passport is blue.
He suggests the colour is charcoal, maybe with a hint of blue.
But if it is blue, “it must be the most apologetic shade of blue they could find” because “it’s as black as blue gets”.
“You’d be hard pushed to get something that is darker that would be defined as blue,” Mr Burston says.
“It’s as near as damn it black.”
There could be differences depending on printing processes, lighting and the “sheen”, he says.
But the question of the colour seems to have been mixed up with the politics of “blue passports”.
And the social-media debate seems to be about Brexit as much as colour charts.
A spokesman for paint company Farrow and Ball, meanwhile, says pure black would have no other colours added.
But in practice, blacks used in the “everyday world would have a slight colour to them”, such as blue, grey or red.
And this could make the passport a very dark blue despite the fact “some people may perceive it as black”.
It is “probably black blue”, he adds.
There have been other internet debates over identifying colours – such as whether a dress was blue or white and gold.
And Prof Westland says this reflects how people tend to see colours in quite definite ways, coming down on one side or the other, even though we know there are all kinds of shades and ambiguities.
“People tend to make a decision about colours,” he adds.