Ivory Color Meanings

Ivory is a design choice with many options

Ivory colors.
Ivory may be a slightly yellowed white. Ivory is a warm off-white. | Image by Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com. | Cool, Calming Colors | Warm, Exciting Colors | Mixed Cool/Warm Colors | Unifying Neutral Colors

Milk white, pearl, off-white and opaline are synonymous with ivory or represent various shades of the color ivory. It's the color of the tusks of elephants and walruses, and has a slight yellow or off-white aspect to it. 

It's also the traditional color of piano keys, and even has a brand of soap that bears its name-- soap that has no added scent or color. 

Nature and Culture of Ivory

As a neutral, ivory is a calming color.

It carries some of the same pureness, softness and cleanliness of white but is slightly richer and a touch warmer.

The ivory tusks of elephants have long been prized and used in jewelry and the decoration of housewares and furniture. Pearl and opal, shades of ivory, are also precious stones. Ivory is the traditional 14th wedding anniversary gift, while pearl is the color reserved for the 30th wedding anniversary.

Using Ivory in Print and Web Design

The color ivory provides a relaxing effect. Use it to set a tone of understated elegance. It's especially suited to formal wedding invitations and for elegant, personal stationery. 

Ivory with light peach, pale grassy green and light browns has an earthy feel but one that is softer than other natural palettes. Use a touch of ivory to lighten and brighten medium and dark orange, blue, green, purple or turquoise.

Ivory in Language

The use of ivory in familiar phrases can help a designer see how a color might be perceived by others, both the positive and negative aspects.

For instance, the term "ivory tower," has different meanings to different people. To some, it can mean a refuge, place of seclusion or escape from the world. But it also has a negative connotation: someone who lives in an ivory tower may be considered mentally or physically out of touch with reality.

There's usually an implication that the ivory tower resident is deliberately ignorant of the world around them. The phrase often is used to refer in an unflattering way to academia.