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Shades of red

Some of the many faces of the color red.

Image by Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com
Scarlet shades

Shades of Scarlet... more orange than red.

Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com


What do anger, Valentines, power ties, and warning lights have in common? Red.

Discover the power, the nature, and the language of red. Find out what this hot color symbolizes and what colors work well with various reds.

Shades of Red: These words are synonymous with or represent various shades of the color red.
blood red, blush, brick, burgundy, carmine, China red (see vermilion), cinnabar (see vermilion), crimson, fire engine red, flame (see scarlet), Indian red, madder, maroon, rose, rouge, ruby, russet (a reddish brown), rust (a reddish brown), scarlet, tomato, Venetian red, vermilion.

Connection With Nature, Culture, and Symbolism:

Red is hot. It's a strong color that conjures up a range of seemingly conflicting emotions from passionate love to violence and warfare. Red is Cupid and the Devil.

A stimulant, red is the hottest of the warm colors. Studies show that red can have a physical effect, increasing the rate of respiration and raising blood pressure.

The expression seeing red indicates anger and may stem not only from the stimulus of the color but from the natural flush (redness) of the cheeks, a physical reaction to anger, increased blood pressure, or physical exertion.

It represents power, hence the red power tie for business people and the red carpet for celebrities and VIPs (very important people).

Flashing red lights denote danger or emergency. Stop signs and stop lights are red to get the drivers' attention and alert them to the dangers of the intersection.

In some cultures, red denotes purity, joy, and celebration. Red is the color of happiness and prosperity in China and may be used to attract good luck.

It is often the color worn by brides in the East while it is the color of mourning in South Africa. In Russia the Bolsheviks used a red flag when they overthrew the Tsar, thus red became associated with communism. Many national flags use red. The red Ruby is the traditional Fortieth Wedding Anniversary gift.

Awareness ribbons that use red include:

  • Various diseases and conditions such as:HIV/AIDS, Blood Disorders, Blood Donors, Congenital Heart Defects, Diabetes,Head and Neck Cancer, Heart Disease,Alcohol Substance and Drug Abuse, Stroke, Wolff-parkinson-White Syndrome Evans Syndrome | Multiple Myeloma, Headaches and Migraines, Thrombophilia, Meningitis, Polio Survivor, Hughes Syndrome, Brain Aneurysm, Hirschsprung's Disease, Amyloidosis (burgundy)
  • Firefighters
  • MADD
  • D.A.R.E.
  • Hospice care (burgundy)
  • Cesarean Sections (burgundy)

Other Awareness Ribbon Colors.

Using Different Shades:


  • Use the color red to grab attention and to get people to take action.
  • Use red when you don't want to sink into the background.
  • Use red to suggest speed combined with confidence and perhaps even a dash of danger.
  • A little bit of red goes a long way. Small doses can often be more effective than large amounts of this strong color.
  • Multiple shades of red and even pink or orange can combine for a cheerful palette.


Using With Other Colors:


  • Although not normally considered an ideal coupling, in combination with green, red is a Christmas color — a joyful season.
  • Cool blues provide contrast and tone down the heat of red.
  • Light pinks and yellows are harmonizing colors that can work well with red if not too close in value such as dark red with a pale or golden yellow.
  • Be careful using purple. It can be an elegant combination but too much could be overpowering.
  • Add a dash of red to a soft but sophisticated pink and gray combo.
  • For some countries, including the US, red, white, and blue is a very patriotic trio even if the shades of red and blue differ from those used in the flag.


Color Palettes:

These color palettes feature shades of red used with a variety of yellows, blues, greens, and neutrals.

Explore these color swatches to find which of the colors in the red family are the most attention-grabbing, mysterious, friendly, sophisticated, or mentally stimulating.


In Other Design Fields:



Color Names:


  • blood red
  • blush
  • brick
  • burgundy
  • carmine
  • China red (see vermilion)
  • cinnabar (see vermilion)
  • crimson
  • fire engine red
  • flame (see scarlet)
  • Indian red
  • madder
  • maroon
  • rose
  • rouge
  • ruby
  • russet (a reddish brown)
  • rust (a reddish brown)
  • scarlet
  • tomato
  • Venetian red
  • vermilion


Language of the Color Red:

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

Good red

  • Red letter day - important or significant occasion
  • Red carpet treatment - make someone feel special, treat them as if they are a celebrity
  • Roll out the red carpet - same as above
  • Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning; red sky at night, sailor's delight - pay attention to good and bad warning signs
  • Paint the town red - celebrate, go out partying
  • Red eye - an overnight flight
Bad red
  • Seeing red - to be angry
  • Red herring - something that deceives or distracts attention from the truth
  • In the red - being overdrawn at the bank or losing money
  • Red flag - denotes danger, warning, or an impending battle

Is Red Your Favorite Color?

See how many others share the same color favorites.
View Results for Your Favorite Color Poll

More Color Meanings

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