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Is maroon more red or brown?

Maroon is a rich, deep red color that has hints of brown. But is it more closely related to red or brown on the color spectrum? In this article, we’ll take a close look at the origins and definitions of maroon, examine its hex codes and RGB values, and compare it visually to reds and browns to determine where it falls on the color wheel.

The Origins and Definitions of Maroon

The first recorded use of “maroon” as a color name in English was in 1789. It derives from the French word “marron” meaning chestnut, which refers to the reddish-brown color of chestnut shells. Early definitions described maroon as a dark red or claret color.

Modern color dictionaries define maroon as a dark brownish or dull red. So definitions acknowledge its relationship to both red and brown. Maroon sits between crimson and brown on the color wheel. It’s considered a tertiary color, meaning it’s created by combining a primary color (red) with a secondary color (brown).

Maroon Hex Codes and RGB Values

Hex codes and RGB values give us a more precise, technical breakdown of a color. The main hex code for maroon is #800000. This code indicates that maroon comprises:

  • 128 parts red
  • 0 parts green
  • 0 parts blue

The corresponding RGB values are 128 red, 0 green, 0 blue. The strong red component with no green or blue mixed in confirms that maroon is fundamentally a shade of red.

However, there are many variations of maroon that shift toward brown with the addition of green and blue. Here are some examples:

Hex Code RGB Values
#800000 128, 0, 0
#8B0000 139, 0, 0
#A52A2A 165, 42, 42
#B03060 176, 48, 96

As more green and blue are added, the maroon shifts toward a brownish red. But the strong red base remains present in all variations.

How Maroon Compares Visually to Reds and Browns

Now let’s compare maroon visually to some pure reds and browns.

Maroon vs. Reds

Color Sample

When compared to crimson and red, maroon is clearly a darker, duller shade of red. Crimson and red appear more vibrant and intense.

Maroon vs. Browns

Color Sample

Compared to chestnut and chocolate browns, maroon has a discernible redness. While it contains some brown tones, the red hue clearly differentiates it from these brown shades.

Maroon Occupies a Unique Place Between Red and Brown

Based on its origins, definitions, technical specifications, and visual comparisons, we can conclude the following about maroon:

  • It derived from “marron” meaning chestnut brown, linking it to brown.
  • Color dictionaries define it as a reddish-brown, acknowledging dual red and brown qualities.
  • Its main hex code contains a strong red base with no green or blue, aligning it with red.
  • Variations shift toward brown with added green/blue, demonstrating a red-brown duality.
  • Visually, it appears as a dull, darker red compared to crimson and red.
  • It maintains more redness than chestnut and chocolate browns.

While maroon is undeniably a shade of red, it incorporates clear brown tones that distinguish it from bright, pure reds. It sits between red and brown on the color spectrum, occupying a distinctive place that draws from both ends. Maroon’s blend of red and brown make it a versatile, rich color with character that pops when used well in designs, décor, fashion, and beyond.

Tips for Using Maroon

Now that we’ve established maroon’s relationship to red and brown, here are some tips for using it effectively:

In Interiors

  • Use it sparingly as an accent wall or on trim/furnishings.
  • Pair it with creams, taupes, and tans to offset the intensity.
  • Add navy blue and olive green for sophisticated, earthy palettes.
  • Use maroon area rugs to inject color into neutral spaces.

In Fashion

  • Match it with other rich shades like emerald, mustard, and sapphire.
  • Layer maroon tops over jeans or khakis for an elegant casual look.
  • Add a maroon handbag or shoes to make an outfit pop.
  • Incorporate maroon into prints and patterns like florals, paisleys, and plaids.

In Design

  • Use maroon to establish brand identity and recognition.
  • Incorporate maroon into geometric patterns and borders.
  • Pair with black for a luxe, sophisticated look.
  • Add maroon text or graphical elements to make them stand out.


Maroon’s rich history and striking color make it a compelling choice when used thoughtfully. It straddles red and brown, combining the boldness of red with earthy brown tones. Maroon’s versatility allows it to add visual interest and sophistication across many contexts and color palettes. Just keep in mind that a little maroon goes a long way due to its deep hue. Use it as an accent rather than a base color. With the right balance, maroon can take any design or look to the next level.