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What is red plus white?

What is red plus white?

When we think about combining the colors red and white, the first thing that often comes to mind is the color pink. Mixing red and white paint or light does result in various shades of pink. However, red and white can combine in many other interesting ways beyond just producing pink. In this article, we’ll explore the visual, cultural, scientific, and symbolic associations of red and white and look at the many possibilities that can result when these two striking colors come together.

Basic Color Theory

To understand what happens when red and white are mixed, we first need to review some basic color theory. Red, white and pink are all colors within the “tint” family. Tints are made by mixing a pure hue with white.

Tint Scale
Pure Hue –> Less White –> More White –> White

So red would be the pure hue, pink would be red with a lot of white added, and white would be the complete absence of the red hue. The more white is added to red, the pinker it becomes.

When red and white light mix, the resulting color is determined by the proportional amount of each source. Mixing equal amounts produces a middle pink. Adding more red shifts it to a vivid pink, while more white tints it to a pale pink. When red and white pigments or paints mix, some absorption of light occurs, resulting in more muted pink tones. But the same general principle applies of the pink becoming paler with more white added.

Shades of Pink

There are many possible shades of pink that can result from combining red and white in various ratios. Here are some of the most common:

Pink Shade Description
Hot Pink Vivid, intense pink with a bold red undertone
Deep Pink Saturated medium pink nearer the red end of the spectrum
Pale Pink Diluted, soft pink with a dominant white undertone
Baby Pink Very light, delicate pink with high white content

While pink is the most obvious result of mixing red and white, adjusting the proportions can produce an array of pink tones ranging from bold hot pink to subtle baby pink.

Cultural Associations

Red and white also combine in many culturally significant ways that go beyond color theory. Here are some of the prominent associations these two colors have acquired:

Santa Claus

Santa Claus is iconic for his red and white costume – red jacket, hat and pants combined with a white fur trim. This color scheme helped cement his image as a jolly holiday figure.


Peppermint candy is famous for its red and white swirled pattern. This combination represents the melding of two contrasting flavors – the heat of red cinnamon and the coolness of white wintergreen.

Barber Poles

Barber poles traditionally feature red and white spiral stripes. This symbolism dates back to when barbers performed bloodletting and the red represented blood while the white was the bandage.


Many flags feature red and white including Austria, Latvia, Poland and Switzerland. The shared colors create unity, symbolizing common ideals.

So while red and white can blend into various pinks, they also stand out distinctly when placed side by side in cultural symbols.

Scientific Properties

From a scientific perspective, red and white light differ significantly in their properties. Red has a long wavelength of ~700 nm while white light spans all visible wavelengths of 400-700 nm. Here’s a comparison of some of their key characteristics:

Property Red Light White Light
Wavelength ~700 nm 400-700 nm
Frequency ~430 THz 430-750 THz
Energy 1.77 eV 1.77-3.1 eV

When combined, red photons and white photons interact to generate photons of various energies corresponding to different shades of pink. This demonstrates that while red and white can blend visually, they remain distinct at the photon level.


Looking beyond science, red and white hold many symbolic meanings. Here are a few common associations:


  • Passion, aggression, excitement
  • Danger, caution, stopping
  • Heat, fire, energy
  • Love, romance, affection


  • Purity, innocence, simplicity
  • Cleanliness, sterility, spirituality
  • Peace, calmness, tranquility
  • Neutrality, balance, equality

When combined, red and white can represent:


  • Gentleness, warmth, nurture
  • Femininity, beauty, romance
  • Sweetness, childhood, playfulness

So red and white blend symbolically as well to create the soft, feminine connotations of pink.


Let’s look at some practical uses of red and white color combinations:


In design, red and white make a bold, high contrast statement. This combination commands attention, lending itself well to posters, logos and warning symbols. White space helps the red pop while red accents add visual interest to white backgrounds.


Red and white are a versatile fashion pairing. A red dress with white polka dots exudes retro charm. A white shirt set off by a red belt or lips creates a crisp, tailored look. Red and white prints or color blocking effects allow each hue to stand out.


Red and white feature prominently in many foods. Examples include strawberries with whipped cream, red salsa and guacamole with white corn chips, cherry-vanilla ice cream, and candy canes. The contrast adds aesthetic appeal and helps the flavors and textures complement each other.


For holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, red and white are used extensively together. Red roses and white lace make romantic Valentine’s gifts. Santa Claus, mistletoe and candy canes are iconic Christmas motifs. Paired together, these colors help set a festive mood.

So whether for visual appeal, symbolic effect or cultural associations, red and white combine in diverse and versatile ways. Their rich interplay allows them to blend into pink or stand strikingly apart. Understanding the interactions of these two basic hues provides insight into the complexities of color itself.


When red and white mix, they can produce an array of pink tones ranging from vibrant hot pink to pale baby pink. The variation comes down to the proportional amount of red versus white. But these two colors also complement each other in important cultural symbols and patterns. Red and white are a high contrast pair, commanding attention in designs. And they carry deep symbolic meanings, with red representing passion and danger while white signifies purity and peace. Together, they take on new associations like the childhood innocence of pink. Whether blended or distinct, red and white are endlessly versatile. So next time you encounter these two hues together, consider the many intriguing possibilities at play in their relationship. From mixing paints to lighting holiday decorations, observing the interactions of red and white can reveal the fascinating complexity hidden within color.