Burgundy is a rich, deep red color that takes its name from the Burgundy wine of the same hue produced in the Burgundy region of France. While opinions differ, burgundy is generally considered to be a dark, deep, and rich shade of red. However, categorizing colors can be complex. In design, fashion, and even science, there are different ways to classify and organize colors based on their properties. So whether burgundy is officially categorized as a “dark” color depends on the color system being used.
The basics of color
To better understand where burgundy fits in the spectrum of color, it helps to review some color basics. The main characteristics used to describe color are:
Hue – Hue refers to the pigment or dominant wavelength that distinguishes one color from another. For example, red and green have different hues. Burgundy is a reddish purple hue.
Value – The value of a color describes its lightness or darkness. Higher value colors are lighter, while lower value colors are darker. Burgundy has a lower value than light pink, for example.
Saturation – Saturation or intensity refers to the strength of purity of a color. Colors with high saturation appear vivid, while less saturated or muted colors are grayish. Burgundy has high saturation.
Shade – A shade is a color with black added to darken the hue. Burgundy is a shade of red.
Tint – A tint is a color with white added to lighten the hue. Pink is a tint of red.
So burgundy’s darkness comes from its low value and its richness comes from its saturation. Where it fits specifically among dark colors depends on the color classification system.
One way to categorize colors is using a color wheel. The most common color wheels organize hues around a circle based on their relation to the primary colors (red, blue, yellow). Mixing adjacent colors creates secondary and tertiary colors.
The traditional RYB wheel places purple, a mix of red and blue, opposite green on the wheel. Burgundy contains both red and purple hues, making it a reddish purple. On the RYB wheel, burgundy would be considered a darker, desaturated tertiary color between red and purple:
The modern RGB wheel is based on light wavelengths instead of pigments. The secondary color between red and blue is magenta instead of purple. Burgundy is still between red and magenta but contains both hue components:
So on color wheels, burgundy sits between a primary and secondary color, making it a tertiary shade. Its low value and saturation means it is considered a darker, richer color.
Another way to classify colors is by temperature. This divides colors into warm and cool categories:
– Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow evoke heat or fire.
– Cool colors like blue, green, and purple evoke water or ice.
There are also neutral colors in between like brown, gray, and black. Most color temperature scales place red-purple hues like burgundy among the warm colors. So burgundy is considered a dark, deep warm color.
Tone refers to a color’s lightness or brightness. Some tonal color schemes divide colors into three categories:
– Tints – Light or high-value colors
– Tones – Medium-value colors
– Shades – Dark or low-value colors
As a low-value, high-saturation red-purple, burgundy would be classified as a shade in a tonal scheme. This reinforces its categorization as a rich, deep, dark color.
Interestingly, burgundy’s status as a “dark” color is also context dependent. When surrounded by lighter tints of reds and pinks, burgundy appears darker in relation. Placed against deeper reds like maroon or wines, burgundy can look lighter and brighter in comparison.
So burgundy is a dark color mainly when viewed next to lighter shades. Depending on the surrounding colors, it may look lighter or darker in relation.
The lighting conditions where the color is viewed also affect burgundy’s appearance. Dim lighting and shadows make any color appear darker. Bright sunlight illuminates a color, making it look lighter. So burgundy can range from a lighter red-purple to an almost-black brown depending on the strength of the lighting.
Computer color models
Colors can also be classified by numeric values and ratios. Modern computer color models like RGB and CMYK define colors numerically to create consistent digital colors for screens and print:
RGB values – The Red, Green, and Blue values of burgundy are 127, 31, 64. The low green value darkens the color.
Hex code – Expressed hexadecimally, burgundy is #7F1F40. The low values darken the shade.
CMYK values – In the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) model used for print, burgundy is represented as CMYK: 20, 100, 57, 50. The high Magenta and Black values darken the color.
So in digital formats, burgundy has color values skewed toward lower numbers, reinforcing its categorization as a low-value, dark shade of red.
In the commercial textile industry, standardized naming conventions are used to ensure consistent colors across manufacturers.
In the Standard Color Reference of America (now called Color Marketing Group), burgundy has been named different shades of red over time:
– 1915 – “Old Burgundy”
– 1940 – “Viennese Red”
– 1955 – “Fox Red”
– 1985 – “Chili Red”
Pantone, which standardizes colors for designers and printers, calls the burgundy shade Pantone 188C. It is a dark red.
So in the textile industry, burgundy is recognized as a deeper, darker red, not a distinct purple hue.
Paint manufacturers also follow standardized color palettes. Two popular standards are:
– Benjamin Moore – Coventry Gray (2062-10)
– Sherwin-Williams – Portrait Pink (SW 6717)
These paint shades are dark reds resembling burgundy. They reinforce burgundy’s classification as a deep, rich shade of red.
Another scientific way to characterize burgundy is by how it absorbs and reflects light wavelengths.
Darker colors absorb more visible light waves, while lighter colors reflect them. Specifically:
– Reds reflect long red light waves
– Blues reflect short blue light waves
– Purples reflect red and blue wavelengths
Burgundy’s dark red-purple hue absorbs more light across the visible spectrum. This absorption is what gives it a darker, deeper color value. It absorbs light waves instead of reflecting them back to the eye.
So physically, burgundy absorbs light versus reflecting it. This darkness helps classify it as a deep color shade.
We can also look to nature to inspire descriptions of the burgundy color:
Gemstones – Burgundy is the color of dark red garnets, rubies, and tourmaline.
Flowers – Deep burgundy flowers include dahlias, peonies, and chrysanthemums.
Fruits and berries – Cranberries, cherries, raspberries, and plums display rich burgundy hues.
Trees – The leaves of chestnut and Japanese maple trees turn burgundy shades in fall.
Wine – Burgundy wines are famous for their deep, intense, purple-red colors.
Across nature, burgundy represents deep, dark hues of red and purple found in flowers, foods, gems, and foliage.
Cultural color meanings
Looking at color symbolism in different cultures also provides insight into how burgundy is perceived:
Western cultures – Burgundy represents elegance, richness, royalty, and luxury. It is seen as refined, cultured, and upscale.
Eastern cultures – In Indian culture, burgundy is associated with energy, strength, and power.
Mood – Burgundy evokes feelings of passion, romance, introspection, and melancholy.
So while it represents different things, in most cultures burgundy is viewed as a superior, prestigious color associated with depth, prestige, and sentimentality.
Design and fashion
Burgundy is an extremely popular color in fashion and interior design because of its refined, dramatic effect:
Fashion – In clothing, burgundy offers a stylish alternative to basic black for evening wear, parties, and special events. It represents elegance and sophistication.
Home decor – In interior design, burgundy is a regal accent color that adds a plush, ornate feel to a room. It denotes formality and luxury.
Food – Burgundy food presentation is trendy in fine dining. The color evokes taste sensations relating to red wine, chocolate, and coffee.
Clearly, in design fields burgundy is not viewed as a plain, flat shade. Instead, it represents depth, richness, and extravagance.
Conclusion: Yes, burgundy is generally considered a dark color
While perceptions vary, an analysis of burgundy’s color properties, comparisons to other colors, and symbolic meanings in culture and design all point to burgundy being viewed as a deep, dark shade of red:
– On technical color wheels and models, burgundy has the properties of a low-value, high-saturation tertiary color that absorbs more light waves than it reflects. This makes it appear darker both scientifically and visually.
– When directly compared to lighter reds, pinks, and purples, burgundy clearly is the darker, richer tone. However, next to even deeper reds like maroon, burgundy can appear slightly lighter and brighter.
– Across cultures, burgundy symbolizes qualities like strength, prestige, passion, and sensuality. This reinforces it as a serious, superior color compared to light, pale shades.
– In fields like fashion and interior decor, burgundy is actively utilized to make a bold, intense statement full of elegance and gravitas that plain lighter colors cannot convey.
So while it sits on the lighter end of the truly dark color spectrum, burgundy clearly is perceived and used as a deep, dramatic shade that adds mood, sophistication, and intensity to any design or wardrobe. Its richness and purple undertones give it more depth than a standard red. So in summary, yes – burgundy is broadly considered a dark color.