Skip to Content

What color tone is crimson?


Crimson is a strong, deep red color with a slightly bluish hue. It sits between the primary colors of red and blue on the color wheel, leaning slightly more towards red. Crimson has a rich, luxurious appearance that evokes passion, power, and nobility.

The exact tone of crimson can vary depending on the specific pigments used to create it. In general though, crimson tends to have a slightly cooler, darker tone compared to a pure red. It often contains subtle hints of purple or blue which gives it extra depth.

The Color Wheel

To understand crimson’s color tone, it helps to look at how it fits into the color wheel. The color wheel arranges colors into a circle based on their hue and relationship to each other.

Primary Colors Red Yellow Blue
Secondary Colors Orange Green Purple
Tertiary Colors Red-orange Yellow-orange Yellow-green Blue-green Blue-purple Red-purple

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. When you mix two primary colors together, you get the secondary colors – orange, green, and purple.

Crimson sits between the primary colors of red and blue. This makes it a tertiary color, specifically a red-purple. Looking at the color wheel, you can see how crimson relates to the other colors and has shades of both red and blue or purple.


When analyzing a color’s tone, it’s also important to look at its undertones. Undertone refers to subtle hues that affect the overall color impression.

Cool undertones contain hints of blue, green, or purple. They make colors feel more subdued and relaxed. Warm undertones have hints of yellow, orange, or red. They feel lively and intense.

Crimson leans slightly towards cool undertones rather than warm ones. The purple notes soften the punch of the red with a touch of blue. This gives it a rich, sophisticated vibe.

You may also hear crimson described as having a jewel tone. Jewel tones are saturated, vivid colors that mimic precious gems. The cool undertones help give crimson its jewel-like quality.

Shade Variations

Not all shades of crimson look exactly the same. The amount of blue or purple present can vary, creating crimson hues of differing tones. Here are a few ways the tone can shift:

  • More blue added results in a deep burgundy crimson.
  • With more purple it becomes raspberry crimson.
  • Less blue produces a warmer, lighter cherry crimson.
  • More red brings it closer to a true scarlet.

The context where the crimson is used also impacts how we perceive its tone. Surrounded by other cool colors, the subtle warmth from the red may stand out more. Against warm colors, the blue notes feel more obvious.

Lighting Effects

The tone of crimson also changes based on the lighting it’s viewed in.

In warm, incandescent lighting, the redness of crimson will feel stronger. The yellow cast from the light brings out the warm undertones.

Under cool fluorescent lighting, the purple hue is emphasized more. This draws out the cool blue undertones instead.

Daylight often has a blue cast as well, so crimson may read as slightly cooler and darker during the day. In the pinkish light of sunrise or sunset, crimson’s warmth stands out most.

Associations and Symbolism

The rich, luxurious tone of crimson carries certain associations that evoke a strong mood and symbolism:

  • Love, passion, and desire – Crimson conveys intense, sensual energy.
  • Prestige and luxury – Historically, crimson dyed fabric was expensive, worn by nobility.
  • Power and ambition – The tone is commanding, perfect for royalty and leaders.
  • Courage and sacrifice – Crimson’s deep tone reflects bravery (think blood, war).
  • Sin and moral conflict – The color is connected to sins of excess and indulgence.

These symbolic meanings stem from how crimson’s tone balances subdued coolness with vibrant warmth. It’s eye-catching without being harsh, rich without being cheerful.

Coordinating and Combining Colors

The complex color undertones of crimson make it versatile to pair with other shades.

Because it straddles cool and warm undertones, crimson complements both sides of the color wheel. Rich burgundy shades work well with cool greens and blues. Lighter cherry crimsons match warm golds and oranges.

Monochromatic combinations work nicely too. Lightening crimson with pink keeps a similar sophisticated mood. Deepening it with maroon or black adds drama.

Since crimson itself contains hints of blue and purple, coordinating with those shades enhances its depth. Crimson and navy blue is a classic combination. Crimson and purple has regal energy.

Contrast is another option. The fiery energy of crimson makes a vibrant impact against neutrals like white, black, gray, or brown. It also pops brightly against complementary green.

Use in Design

The striking color tone of crimson allows it to stand out in a variety of design contexts:

  • Fashion – Often used for formal wear, crimson offers an elegant, eye-catching accent.
  • Interiors – As an accent crimson lends a bold, refined touch. Keep the surroundings neutral.
  • Advertising – Crimson conveys excitement, passion, and luxury depending on the product.
  • Branding – A rich, memorable tone suited to premium, superior brands.
  • Packaging – Pops on shelf while feeling upscale and sophisticated.

In all uses, crimson’s strong personality demands thoughtful placement. But when used deliberately, its tone creates visual impact.


Crimson encompasses a range of deep, jewel-toned reds with subtle blue or purple undertones. This gives it a luxurious, eye-catching color tone that conveys passion, prestige, and bold visual power. While crimson varies in its precise hue, its rich personality shines through in any shade or lighting. Harnessing this intense color tone takes finesse, but the striking results let crimson live up to its regal reputation.