What Is The Color Red and What Does It Mean To You?
Red has more personal associations than any other color. Recognized as a stimulant, red is inherently exciting and the amount of red is directly related to the level of energy perceived. Red draws attention and a keen use of red as an accent can immediately focus attention on a particular element.
How The Color Red Affects Us Physically
Stimulates energy and can increase the blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat, and pulse rate
Encourages action and confidence
Provides a sense of protection from fears and anxiety
RED Around The Globe
Red represents beauty in many languages and cultures, including Russia.
In Chinese culture, colors corresponded with the five primary elements, the directions and the four seasons. Red was associated with fire, south, and summer.
In Japan, the color red is associated closely with a few deities in Shinto and Buddhist traditions, so statues of these deities are often decked in red clothing or painted red. Mark Schumacher has a page on his site the goes into depth on the Color Red in Japanese Mythology.
In Sweden, Falun red (red based on the pigment from the Falun mine) was reserved for the privileged class.
In China, red is associated with good luck and fortune.
In Greece, Easter eggs are dyed red and the Greek expression “piase kokkino” (“touch red”) is said when two people say the same thing at the same time. It is believed that such an occurrence is an omen that the two will have an argument in the future, which can only be broken when the two touch the closest thing that is red.
In Jamaica, a popular slang term for someone who is under the influence or drunk is “red.”
In England, red phone booths and red double decker buses are national icons. Standard British pillar boxes (mail boxes) have been painted red since 1874.
In India, a red mark on the forehead is said to bring good luck.
To the Hindu, red symbolizes joy, life, energy, and creativity.
Islamic, Hindu, and Chinese brides traditionally wear red.
Cochineal red, discovered by the Aztecs, was made using the female cochineal beetle. A pound of water-soluble extract required about a million insects. For the Aztecs, Indian red dye was considered more valuable than gold! However, it was the Spaniards who introduced the crimson color of Cochineal red to Europe in the 1500s.
In Aztec culture, red was connected with blood.
Red amulets were worn in many cultures to prolong life.
In Singapore, the color red traditionally symbolizes joy.
Chinese New Year is celebrated by wearing red clothing and decorating the house with red. Red envelopes with “luck money” are given to unmarried children to bring good fortune to them for the rest of the year.
Red symbolizes feast days of martyrs in the Catholic church.
In Israel, kosher clothing stores banned the color red and sell only loose-fitting apparel for women.
The belief in the protective power of the color red can be traced back to the old Chinese folklore of the Nian, a man-eating beast of ancient China who used to feed on human flesh. Discovering that the creature abhorred loud noises and the color red, the people made liberal use of the color not only in their firecrackers, but also in home decorations and clothing to protect themselves from the Nian.
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.
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.
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:
Feng Shui Use of the Color Red
China red (see vermilion)
cinnabar (see vermilion)
fire engine red
flame (see scarlet)
russet (a reddish brown)
rust (a reddish brown)
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.
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
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