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What is a true red Pantone color?

What is a true red Pantone color?

Red is a bold, energetic color that conveys excitement and passion. But with so many shades of red, how do you determine what constitutes a true red? This article will examine the characteristics of a true red Pantone color.

The Pantone Matching System

Pantone is a standardized color matching system used throughout the design industry. The Pantone Matching System allows designers to match specific colors exactly so that the colors are consistent across different materials and mediums. Each Pantone color has a specific code or number assigned to it for precise identification. This helps eliminate any discrepancies when reproducing a color across different substrates.

The Pantone Matching System first debuted in 1963 and has gone through several iterations over the decades. Today it contains over 1,800 solid Pantone colors as part of the Pantone Solid Chips Coated & Uncoated set. These are the colors used for the official Pantone Matching System guides and swatch books.

In addition to solid Pantone colors, there are metallic, pastel, and neon variations available. But when referring to a true Pantone color, it is one of the solid Pantone colors from the official matching system.

Characteristics of a True Red Pantone Color

When evaluating what constitutes a true red Pantone color, there are several key characteristics to look for:

  • A high red content – A true red will have a very high composition of the red pigment with little dilution from other color pigments.
  • High saturation – The color saturation refers to the intensity or purity of the color. A fully saturated red will appear vivid and strong.
  • Low lightness or value – True reds are darker and have a lower lightness or value than pinks or lighter reds.
  • No mixing with blue or yellow – True reds contain pure red pigment without being mixed with adjacent colors on the color wheel like blue or yellow.
  • A warm, fire engine red – True reds have a warm undertone leaning slightly towards orange rather than a cool undertone.

Additionally, true reds have a timeless quality and avoid fleeting color trends. They have a balance between being bold yet still versatile to work across many contexts.

Examples of True Red Pantone Colors

Here are some examples of well-known Pantone colors that would be considered a true red:

Pantone Color Name Pantone Code
PANTONE 186 C 186 C
PANTONE Warm Red C 187 C
PANTONE Bright Red C 188 C
PANTONE Rhodamine Red C 185 C
PANTONE Rubine Red C 192 C

PANTONE 186 C is considered the classic true red. It strikes the ideal balance between leaning slightly orange while still reading as a pure red. PANTONE Warm Red C at 187 C is extremely similar but has a barely perceptible increase in the orange undertone.

Moving up the Pantone codes, PANTONE Bright Red C at 188 C appears a touch more vibrant while still retaining the characteristics of a true red. Rhodamine Red C at 185 C is just slightly darker for a more dramatic true red. And Rubine Red C at 192 C sits on the slightly cooler end of the true red spectrum but still holds its own as a well-balanced red.

True Red vs Other Shades of Red

What separates true reds from other shades of red? Here’s how they compare:

  • Vs Pink Reds – Pink reds like PANTONE 219 C are lighter, lower saturation reds with higher amounts of white added to soften the color. True reds retain their bold vividness.
  • Vs Blue Reds – Blue reds introduce blue into the pigment, creating cooler reds that may read more as maroon or wine reds. PANTONE 1955 C is an example. True reds stay away from blue tones.
  • Vs Orange Reds – Orange reds like PANTONE 171 C increase the orange considerably, almost reading as reddish orange. True reds only slightly hint at orange undertones.

One way to evaluate whether a red is a true red or leaning into another shade is to view it alongside established true reds. The contrast makes it easier to spot variations from a pure red.

Uses of True Red

True reds are versatile to use across many contexts despite their bold presence. Here are some common uses of true reds:

  • Branding – True reds like Coca-Cola Red establish bold, memorable brands.
  • Call-to-Action Buttons – Online, true reds attract attention and signal users to click or tap.
  • Warning Signs – On signage and labels, true reds convey alert messages.
  • Excitement – True reds inject energy into designs from posters to clothing.
  • Love – Red retains symbolic associations with love and romance.

Even though true reds are pure and saturated, they still have enough versatility for a wide range of contexts. Their vitality makes them able to transcend trends.


True reds are bold, dynamic colors that make a vivid impact. They contain pure red pigment that is highly saturated with a slightly warm orange leaning undertone. While true reds are saturated, they still achieve a versatility making them timeless across many applications. Some quintessential true reds are PANTONE Warm Red C, PANTONE 186 C and PANTONE Bright Red C.

So next time you’re aiming to use a true, classic red, turn to these signature Pantone colors. Their pure pigment and ideal balance of vibrancy with versatility make them exemplary true reds. Harness their spirit and energy for your next red-hot design.