Liquid crystalline blue phases (LCBP) and their diffraction patterns were investigated experimentally and theoretically. We measured the diffraction pattern for different wavelengths of monochromatic light with the help of a conoscopic setup of a polarization microscope. Moreover, the diffraction patterns of LCBP and dye-doped LCBP were calculated with the help of a 4×4 matrix method which allows amplitude and phase investigations. It was found that such a matrix method is well suited to simulate optical properties including Bragg diffraction of anisotropic three-dimensional structures with periods below visible light wavelength. We calculated complete Kossel diagrams and compared them with measurements. A contrast inversion phenomenon for Kossel diagrams of LCBP incorporating an anisotropic dye was analyzed. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.