Skip to Content

What kind of red is crimson?

What kind of red is crimson?

Crimson is a rich, deep red color that has been prized throughout history for its vibrancy and intensity. But what exactly is crimson, and how does it differ from other shades of red? Here we’ll explore the origins and meanings behind crimson, examine its technical specifications in color models, and compare it to similar shades like scarlet and vermilion. With some quick answers to key questions, graphics visualizing crimson’s place among reds, and in-depth analysis, we’ll uncover the unique properties of this coveted color.

What is crimson?

Crimson is a strong, saturated red that has a slight blue undertone. It sits between the primary colors of red and blue on the color wheel. Crimson often invokes associations with richness, passion, vibrancy, and intensity.

Some key facts about crimson:

Hue 345 degrees
Saturation 83-100%
Brightness 53-80%

Where does the name “crimson” come from?

The name “crimson” has its roots in the Ancient Greek word krókos, which referred to the kermes dye produced from scale insects. This dye was used to color garments and textiles, producing a deep, rich red hue.

The word entered Old Spanish as cremesín and Old Italian as cremisi before entering Middle English as crimysin or cremysin. By the 15th century this had morph into the modern word crimson.

So in essence, crimson has always denoted the striking, saturated red produced by the kermes dye. The connection between rich red and the crimson shade has endured through centuries.

What are some meanings and symbolism of crimson?

Throughout history, art, and culture, crimson has accumulated a number of symbolic meanings:

– Passion, love, and romance – Crimson evokes the color of a beating heart, flames, and blood. It’s no wonder it’s long been associated with intense emotions.

– Luxury, prestige, and royalty – The rarity and expense of crimson dyes once made the color synonymous with extravagance. It was popular with nobility and royalty.

– Courage and sacrifice – The crimson blood of soldiers also led to connections with sacrifice and bravery.

– Sin, immorality, and scandal – On the flip side, crimson’s passion can also allude to lust, excess, and moral corruption.

So while interpretations vary, crimson often conveys intensity and depth of feeling either positive or negative. Its saturated nature gives it a bold, statement-making quality.

How does crimson fit into color theory?

In color theory, crimson belongs to the warm hues based around red. It sits between red and purple on the traditional 12-part color wheel.

color wheel with crimson highlighted

Specifically, crimson lives on the border of the secondary and tertiary colors.

Secondary colors are made by mixing equal parts primary colors. Crimson contains a high amount of red with a smaller but still significant dose of blue.

Tertiary colors take secondaries a step further by incorporating more of the third primary. For crimson this means having a slightly higher percent of blue than a pure red-blue mix.

This added dash of blue gives crimson its distinctive coolness compared with scarlet and vermilion. The tertiary mix also enables a wider range of shades from pink-based crimsons to purple-based ones.

What are the technical specifications of crimson?

Crimson’s exact specifications vary based on the specific color system used:

RGB values:
R: 220
G: 20
B: 60

Hex code: #DC143C

CMYK values:
C: 0%
M: 90%
Y: 80%
K: 14%

HSB values:
H: 348°
S: 83%
B: 86%

As these values demonstrate, crimson is characterized by high red content with additional blue and green. The blue levels distinguish it from similar shades like scarlet.

These specifications allow crimson to be recreated precisely across different programs and media. They bring the passion and allure of crimson to digital platforms.

How does crimson compare to similar shades of red?

Crimson sits among several vivid reds between red and purple. How does it compare to its neighbors on the color wheel?

Scarlet is a warm, bright red leaning towards orange with no blue added. It is particularly distinctive for its fire engine red hue.

Vermilion contains more yellow than blue, giving it a vivid orangey-red appearance. It’s also brighter than the richer crimson.

Carmine is a crimson-like shade but skews more towards purple with additional blue. It’s closest to crimson but still has a hint more coolness.

Ruby is a cooler, darker red, almost pink. But it still has blue undertones like crimson.

So while similar, crimson has a more balanced mix than these shades and a richness all its own. The dash of blue gives it a subtle coolness and vibrancy within the red family.

How is crimson made?

Traditionally crimson was made using the kermes dye derived from scale insects. But modern crimson pigments and dyes use new, synthetic methods:

Pigments create crimson through combining organic compounds like napththol and garlic acid with metal salts like sodium, barium, and strontium. The balanced combination produces durable crimson pigments.

Dyes form crimson through azo compounds and quinacridone alongside other standard dye components. The quinacridone in particular helps enhance crimson’s saturation.

Digital screens produce crimson from specific RGB values on LCD and LED displays. Combining high red and slight blue pixel activation yields digital crimson.

Advances in organic chemistry have made stable, brilliant crimson pigments and dyes available across industries. This allows us to harness crimson’s visual power more readily.

What are some key uses of crimson?

Crimson finds use across art, design, and culture thanks to its striking color properties:

Fashion – Crimson offers high-fashion flare as an accent or statement color. It draws the eye while also conveying luxury.

Interiors – As a bold, lively accent color, crimson can energize any room. It pairs well with blacks and grays.

Branding – Crimson commands attention, giving brands that use it a sense of dynamism, passion, and excitement.

Fine art – Artists mix crimson with other paints or use it straight from the tube to create focal points and vibrancy.

Cinematography – Crimson gels help set moody or passionate scenes through color lighting effects.

Makeup – Crimson lipsticks and blushes make a sensual, eye-catching addition for night or day.

So whether making something pop or setting a mood, crimson’s dramatic hue offers visual power.

How can I use crimson in design?

Keep these tips in mind when incorporating crimson into your own designs:

– Use crimson sparingly as an accent color. Because it is so bold and intense, it is often best in small to moderate doses.

– Pair crimson with blacks, grays, whites, and other neutrals to make it stand out more. Crimson also pops against contrasting colors like green.

– Pay attention to value contrast. Keep backgrounds and accompanying colors relatively light to prevent crimson from feeling dark and muddy.

– Remember that crimson conveys intensity. Use it purposefully to evoke passion, excitement, lushness, courage or other symbolic meanings.

– Adjust crimson tones with purples and pinks as needed. A touch of purple deepens it to wine red, while pink softens it to coral.

– Look at examples of successful crimson usage, like in fashion photography or brand logos, for inspiration.

With purposeful placement and context, your designs can harness the full visual power of crimson. A little goes a long way.


Crimson is a multifaceted shade that has inspired fascination and desire across centuries. Its mix of warm red with a cool blue undertone gives it vibrancy unmatched by other reds. This unique blend also allows for variation from vivid, fire engine crimsons to delicate pink-purples.

While linked to passion, luxury, and courage, crimson’s most defining feature is arguably its saturation and intensity. When we see crimson, the eye catches its boldness instantly. This strong visual presence makes it a color that demands to be seen. From striking accents to full-coverage audacity, crimson conveys excitement, confidence, and dynamism.

Understanding crimson’s technical qualities and history helps unlock its expressive potential. Whether employed in subtle touches or prominent statements, crimson packs a chromatic punch.