Skip to Content

What two colors make crimson red?

Crimson red is a bold, rich shade of red that has been a popular color throughout history. But what colors combine to make this vivid red hue? The answer lies in understanding color theory and how the primary colors – red, blue, and yellow – mix together to form secondary colors like crimson.

The Color Wheel

To understand what makes crimson red, we first need to look at the color wheel. The basic color wheel consists of the three primary colors – red, blue, and yellow. By mixing together these primary colors in different combinations and ratios, all other colors can be created. This is known as color theory.

Primary Colors Red Blue Yellow

When two primary colors are mixed, they make what are known as secondary colors. For example, mixing red and yellow makes orange. Mixing blue and yellow makes green. And mixing red and blue makes purple.

Secondary Colors Orange Green Purple

So where does crimson fit on the color wheel? Crimson is considered a shade of red that leans slightly towards purple. This means that crimson is made by mixing together the primary colors red and blue.

Making Crimson Red

To make a true crimson red color, you need to use a red with a bluish undertone. Crimson sits between the primary colors red and blue on the color wheel. So starting with a vivid red hue, adding a touch of blue takes it towards crimson.

The exact ratio of red to blue to mix crimson can vary. But generally, you will need about 3-4 parts red to 1 part blue. This stronger red base mixed with a smaller amount of blue gives crimson its signature bold red appearance with a slightly cooler, purplish-blue undertone.

Let’s look at some examples of mixing colors to create crimson red:

  • Mixing red and blue paint colors – Start with a cherry red paint and add a small amount of navy blue paint until reaching the desired crimson shade.
  • Combining red and blue light – In lighting, combine a vivid red light with a soft blue light. Adjust the brightness of each until the light mix looks crimson.
  • Digital coloring – Using design software, choose a red hue then add a touch of blue (around 25% intensity) and play with the color balance to produce a digital crimson red.

The exact ratio will depend on the starting shades of red and blue. A bright, cool red and a darker blue may need more equal parts to achieve crimson. But in general, red should dominate over the blue to maintain the crimson red tone.

Color Theory of Crimson Red

Looking deeper at color theory helps explain why crimson is made by combining red and blue.

On the color wheel, crimson sits between the primary colors red and blue. Red and blue are considered complementary colors, meaning they are opposites on the color wheel. When complementary colors are mixed, they create a vibrant, rich secondary color.

Red and blue also represent warm and cool primary colors. So crimson strikes a balance between warm red and cool blue to create a shade that is both vivid yet slightly muted from the addition of blue.

Additionally, red and blue are the two longest wavelengths of visible light. When these are combined, they form crimson’s signature bold shade.

Color Wheel Position Between red and blue
Complementary Colors Red and blue
Temperature Balanced warm (red) and cool (blue)
Light Wavelengths Longer red + blue wavelengths

So both artistically and scientifically, crimson represents the balance and mixture of red and blue.

Shades of Crimson vs. “True” Crimson Red

There are many shades of red that get classified as crimson. But true crimson has that distinctive blue undertone that gives it extra richness.

Here are some examples of shades often described as crimson and how they compare to true crimson red:

  • Scarlet – A bright, warm red without the blue undertones. Scarlet sits closer to orange-red on the color wheel.
  • Ruby – Similar to scarlet but slightly darker with a very faint purple undertone. Not as much blue influence as true crimson.
  • Carmine – Made by combining red with purple rather than blue so it lacks crimson’s subtle coolness.
  • Burgundy – Much darker and muted than crimson with more brown and purple tones.

True crimson is directly between red and blue with a distinctly cooler, bluer undertone compared to the above shades. Adding just a small amount of blue to red is what gives crimson its signature vivid reddish-purple color.

What is Crimson Used For?

Throughout history, crimson red has been associated with royalty, prestige, passion, and vibrancy. Here are some of the notable uses of crimson over time:

  • Dyes and pigments – The crimson color was originally derived from the kermes insect used to produce vibrant red dyes. Later, crimson lake pigments were made from the cochineal insect.
  • Royal robes – Crimson robes and regalia were worn by nobility going back to ancient Greece. The bold color signified status.
  • Ceremonial uniforms – Graduation gowns and academic robes are traditionally crimson red.
  • Religious imagery – Crimson represents the Passion of Christ and is found in many depictions of Jesus’s crucifixion.
  • Interiors – For a luxurious look, crimson can be used in furniture, wallpaper, carpets, curtains and other home décor.

Today crimson remains a dramatic, eye-catching color. It’s perfect for making a bold statement in fashion, graphic design, branding and any field where you want to grab attention.

How Light Affects Crimson Red

The way crimson red appears can change significantly depending on lighting conditions. This is important to keep in mind when working with the color.

In warm, incandescent lighting, crimson takes on an especially vivid, energized look. The warm light brightens its natural redness.

Under cool, blue-toned light, crimson’s subtle purple undertone comes out more. This can result in the color appearing darker and more muted.

Direct sunlight shows the balanced, true shade of crimson. Indirect light casts a softer effect and may make the red less prominent.

When using crimson red, test sample patches under different lighting to make sure the color looks as intended. Adjusting the blue or red tones may be needed to maintain consistency.

Lighting Effect on Crimson
Warm (incandescent) Vivid, energized
Cool (blue) Darker, more muted purple
Sunlight Balanced true crimson
Indirect Softer, less redness

Crimson vs. Red in Design

How does crimson compare to plain red when used in design and marketing? Here are some key differences:

  • Attention-grabbing – Crimson is even bolder and more eye-catching than red due to its slight blue tone.
  • Sophisticated – The purple undertone gives crimson a refined, upscale look compared to bold red.
  • Romantic – Crimson conveys passion and intimacy more than the intensity of red.
  • Traditional – Its historical royal connections give crimson a classic, old-world feel.
  • Contrast – Crimson stands out against black or white backgrounds, although less than red.

Overall, crimson is a great choice when you want something subtler than red but still vivid and memorable. It’s ideal for adding a touch of sophistication, romance and visual interest.


Crimson red is a vibrant, attention-grabbing color with a rich history. By understanding color theory, we know that crimson sits between the primary colors red and blue. Mixing mostly red with a touch of blue gives crimson its signature shade and slight purple-blue undertone.

Many red shades are referred to as crimson. But true crimson red is made by combining a vivid red with just a small amount of blue. This mixes the warmth of red with a hint of blue’s coolness. So the next time you want to add some passion and sophistication with a bold pop of color, keep in mind that crimson is just red and blue!