50 Arty Facts About the Color RED

Just red

Do you hear the creaking lid? Opening the Pandora’s box of colors, I decided that RED was a good place to start in my quest to examine one color at a time.

According to Wikipedia “Red is the color at the longer-wavelengths end of the spectrum of visible light”.

I scoured the net, looking for information on the color red. Here are 50 interesting “arty” facts about the color RED that I learned in my Internet travels…


Red is the 1st colour you lose sight of at twilight. (1)

(This is something to consider if you are creating a realistic piece of artwork. Using red in a twilight piece may seem a bit off unless there is reflected lighting from a sunset.)


Feng shui recommends painting the front door of a home red to invite prosperity to the residents. (1)

(Who doesn’t want prosperity, right? See my blog post Shades of Computer REDS and their Hex Codes for red door paint chips.)


Bees can’t see red but can see all other bright colors. Birds, butterflies and bats usually pollinate red flowers. (1)

(Maybe they just need some rose-colored glasses, ha!  Again, this fact may come into play in a realistic piece of artwork.)


Red plants in a garden attract the eye & make it feel cozier. “ Write mystery into your garden plants by combining deep reds, such as burgundy, maroon, and russet with equally dark purple & chocolate brown. Such sultry combinations create the illusion of depth & hidden distances.” – Better Homes & Garden (1)

(Not only is this good gardening advise, but it’s also good advise if you are creating artwork of a garden.)


Red is the color of extremes – passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger & adventure. (2)

(Use this to your advantage by infusing your artwork with symbolism.)


Red is considered a magical & religious color. (2)


Red dyes come from crushed insects – the lac beetle & the cochineal. (2)

(Where were the bug activists when they discovered this?)


Red is the international color for stop. (2)

(STOP!!… ok, you can continue reading now…)


In China, red is good luck. (2)

(Great for symbolism in artwork.)


Brides in India & Nepal wear red saris. (2)


In Japan, a red Kimono symbolizes happiness & good luck. (2)


The Russian word for “red” means beautiful. (2)


Males are more attracted to “tomato” reds and females more attracted to “berry” reds. (2)

(Consider your audience when creating artwork to make it more attractive to them.)


The color red doesn’t really make bulls angry; they are color-blind. (3)

(But it really ticks them off if you yank on their tail, ha!)


Seeing the color red can make your heart beat faster. (3)

(Maybe your piece of red-colored artwork needs a warning label.)



As few as two percent of people in the United States have red hair. (3)

(Redheads unite!)


Cave drawings of animals, vessels, and people were made from painting red ochre on the cave walls across the world, from Africa to Asia to Europe, during the Paleolithic era. (4)


Red is the first color a baby sees. (5)

(How the heck do they know that? Did they ask?)



Lithol Red & Lithol Rubine are less permanent than other red pigments and are used in student grade paints. (6)

(see my blog post The Color Variation Discussion to understand that not all paints are created equal.)


In ancient Egypt, red was associated with life, health, and victory. Egyptians would color themselves with red ochre during celebrations. Egyptian women used red ochre as a cosmetic to redden cheeks and lips and also used henna to color their hair and paint their nails. (7)


In Ancient China, artisans were making red and black painted pottery as early as the 5000-3000 BC. (7)



In ancient Greece red was widely used in murals and in the decoration of temples and palaces. (7)


In Renaissance painting, red was used to draw the attention of the viewer. It was often used as the color of the cloak of Christ, the Mary or other central figures. (7)


In Venice, Titian was the master of fine reds. He used many layers of pigment mixed with a semi-transparent glaze, which let the light pass through, to create a more luminous color. (7)

(This is a great technique. Just paint layers upon layers.)



The 19th century also saw the use of red in art to create specific emotions, not just to imitate nature. Artists such as Van Gogh used systematic color theory in their paintings. Describing his painting, The Night Cafe, to his brother Theo in 1888, Van Gogh wrote: “I sought to express with red and green the terrible human passions. The hall is blood red and pale yellow, with a green billiard table in the center, and four lamps of lemon yellow, with rays of orange and green. Everywhere it is a battle and antithesis of the most different reds and greens.” (7)


The French painter Henri Matisse was one of the first prominent painters to use the new cadmium red. (7)


The American artist Mark Rothko used red, in even simpler form, in blocks of dark, somber color on large canvases, to inspire deep emotions. (7)



Cliffs near Roussillon in France is the source of the red color of red ochre and is composed of clay tinted with hematite. (7)


Alizarin was the first synthetic red dye created by German chemists in 1868. It was cheaper and longer lasting. (7)


Ochre was the first pigment used by man in prehistoric cave paintings. (7)

(Ok, I already used that one. Just seeing if you are still with me…)


The mineral cinnabar is the source of the color vermillion. In Roman times, most cinnabar came from mines at in Spain, where the miners were usually prisoners and slaves. Cinnabar contains mercury which is highly toxic, and working in the mines was often a death sentence for the miners. (7)


Red is commonly associated with flames and fire, but flames are almost always yellow, orange or blue. (7)

(…see orange)


Red is the color most commonly associated with joy and well being. It is the color of celebration and ceremony. (7)

(Time to celebrate we only have 17 more to go. Don’t you just love fireworks?)


People wearing red appear to be closer than those dressed in other colors, even if they are actually the same distance away. (7)

(Kind of an important thing to consider if painting a crowd. Could be a great way to use “Red like spice”… see my post 5 Tips for Organizing Color … to draw your eye around a composition.)


In Japan, red is a traditional color for a heroic figure. (7)


In the 17th century, a red flag signaled defiance. A besieged castle or city would raise a red flag to tell the attackers that they would not surrender. (7)


The phrase “to paint the town red” means to have an enjoyable evening, usually with a generous amount of eating, drinking, dancing. (7)

(Sounds fun!)


The phrase “a red letter day” means a special or important event, from the medieval custom of printing the dates of saints’ days and holy days in red ink. (7)


Country reds are chalkier and softer. Red can make a room look country by pairing it with white, blue or yellow. (8)


Traditional design stays away from primary reds and instead involves burgundy or black tones. It relies on a neutral palette, a perfect canvas for pops of red. (8)


Trim and molding is highlighted in period homes, when painted historically accurate red. (9)


A red room is dramatic. It can make a small room feel warm and cozy. However, an all red room that is painted the wrong shade can look as if it’s a crime scene. Red works best as an accent color or in combination with other hues.  (9)


In South Africa, red is the color of mourning. (10)

(Again, it’s good to know your audience.)


Red can be very versatile with brighter versions being more energetic and darker shades being more powerful and elegant. (10)


In branding, red often communicates strength, confidence, and power and is a highly visible color. (11)


Red appears more brilliant against a black background and somewhat duller against the white background. In contrast with orange, the red appears lifeless; in contrast with blue-green, it exhibits brilliance. (12)

(see my blog post How to Successfully Place Colors Side-by-Side)


Protanomaly is a type of color-blindness which has a reduced sensitivity to red light.


8% of men are color blind. 1% of those are protanopes.  (13)

(That would be 1% of 8% of men can’t see red. That means that approx 12,800 Canadian men can’t see the color of the Canadian flag…whoa)


It has long-been rumoured than Van Gogh was colour-blind. It has been suggested, due to Van Gogh’s use of colours and occasional drawing of halos around lights, that he suffered wither colour-blindness or a form of intermittent closed angle glaucoma… It is thought that Van Gogh could have suffered from protanopia. (14)


There is a scientific correlation between color and sound. If you could actually “hear” the extremely high frequencies that red, yellow and blue (primary color) light waves are vibrating at… you would hear a Major chord. Red is the root or the bottom note of the Major Chord. (15)

Ok, who’s idea was it to do a list of 50? Phew, that was exhausting. I need some tea…

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