Beyond Blue: Exploring the Many Shades of Pool Colors

Key Takeaways

Blue is the default color used in 99% of pools but within that color there is a full spectrum of blues that are popular.

The main factors that affect the color of the water are:

  • Pool Material
  • Depth of Water
  • Overall Pool Size
  • Surrounding Colors
  • Setting Design Style
  • Time of Day
  • Shaded Areas

Why Is Water Blue?

People often wonder why blue’s such a common choice for pools. The easy answer is that people simply associate water and the color blue. That might seem a little counterintuitive when you stop to think about it. After all, water in a glass is clear and colorless. Beautiful bodies of water are often a rich green. But blue is still the most common color for large bodies of water. And the reason is largely thanks to reflection and refraction.

When sunlight hits the water some light particles bounce back and some continue down into the depths. Sunlight contains the full color spectrum and is essentially a mix of all colors.

When something appears blue it’s because light in the blue spectrum has bounced back, and water naturally reflects blue light.

So both sunlight and the reflection of a blue sky can make water look blue. Though any element that changes how light is reflected or absorbed will change the water’s color. Water kept in a colored container will also reflect light differently. And even something like depth will change how much light is taken in due to the sheer volume between the surface and the bottom. Likewise, light can more easily reflect off the bottom of shallow water.

Water might also take on other colors thanks to miscellaneous elements within it such as plant matter. In addition to water’s reflection of sunlight, it also refracts it. Refraction is the process by which light spreads out. Think of it as particles bouncing around within water. Particles of matter, such as bits of leaves or dirt, can alter refraction to further change water’s color. This also helps explain how water might look blue in one area and green in another.

view across a large residential swimming pool at dusk
The volume of water plays a part in how the colors appear as the light is refracted through the water and bounces around before coming back to our eyes.

Factors That Affect Pool Color

The fact that water color is so variable brings up an interesting point. Your pool is by no means limited to the traditional blue. Just as nature influences the color of a lake or ocean so too does your pool’s environment influence its color. The good news is that since you’re in control of your pool’s environment you’re also in control of the following color-influencing factors.

Type Of Pool

Every type of pool has different options for coloring. You can change the color of concrete pools by using tile, plaster, or aggregate. Fiberglass pools have nearly as many choices as concrete. Vinyl is more limited thanks to the fact that the pool is essentially synonymous with the vinyl liner. But liners do still offer a fair amount of options for the more common colors like white, tan, grey, and of course blue.

tiled swimming pool with ladder rails coming out
The color of the finish you have on your pool will have the biggest effect on how it appears than any other items in our list.

Pool Depth

The depth of the pool plays a big part in its color. The same effect that changes water color in the ocean also works in your pool. The deeper the pool the more opportunity the water has to absorb non-blue light from the full spectrum beamed out by the sun. As such, the deeper your pool the darker the blue. This is a smaller-scale version of what makes the ocean blue. And black bottom pools are becoming an especially popular option for people who want to take that effect one step further.

Pool Size

Pool size also impacts color, with larger pools providing more surface area to reflect sunlight. Though small pools have the advantage of less space for debris to enter the pool. This can help to enhance the color simply by being less prone to contamination from dirt, dust, leaves, and similar elements.

Immediate Surrounding Colors

Think back to the most beautiful bodies of water found in nature. From the view of an ocean at the beach to a pond within a forest clearing. They’re almost certain to have something in common – lush surroundings. The sand, rocks, plants, and even soil all influence color. It’s why those bodies of water have such vibrant beauty. And the same goes for pools. The pool’s surroundings, such as the pool coping, will have an impact on its colors. In general, if you surround your pool with darker colors the water will look lighter in comparison. And the same goes for the reverse too.

outdoor swimming pool with patio and jacuzzi
The materials and colors of the area surrounding the pool also affects how how eyes perceive the water.

Backyard Design Style

The impact of the pool’s environment extends to the design of your yard as a whole. Consider the overall color palette of your backyard. If you have lots of tans or sandstone then it will help create a more oceanlike motif. If you have an abundance of plant life then your pool will tend to take on a more greenish hue as is often seen in South American rivers. The style of your backyard has a strong influence on the presentation of your pool’s color.

Time of the Day/Shade

Remember that the color of water essentially comes from its interaction with sunlight. As such, your climate and the time of day will also impact your pool’s color. Pool water takes on a more muted color when the sun isn’t very bright. Likewise, a grey sky will push the pool water toward a more grey color rather than the blue of open skies.

Aerial view of woman in swimming pool
The color of the water is purely how light interacts with it, so it makes sense that shade and the intensity of the sun play a factor in how the water appears. 

The Final Steps To Pick the Perfect Color for Your Pool

One theme has come up more than any other so far – personalization. A lot of factors go into any discussion of color choices for your pool. And all of these factors ensure that your choice will be as unique as your own tastes. So when you’re thinking about these variables you should also make sure that your choice reflects your own tastes and personality. Don’t be afraid to create an aesthetic that’s uniquely ‘you’.


This blog is based on information available at the time of publishing and for the purpose of sharing information with the public related to swimming pools and projects that can be financed through Viking Capital. Although we strive to be complete and accurate, it is not information that is verified or maintained. It should not be relied upon for making financial decisions. An investment such as a swimming pool is significant. Viking Capital recommends consulting with a financial professional regarding your financing decisions and with pool professionals regarding pool options. To learn what financing options are available for you today, please apply with Viking Capital and you’ll receive your free loan consultation. Click Here to Apply.

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