Red is a dynamic and intense color which can grab attention in all the right and also all the wrong ways. Read on to find out more abut it's hidden meanings so you can make sure you are using it to grab attention in the right way!

Watch the full tutorial with YES Founder Martin for an in-depth discussion on this topic or if you prefer read on to learn more about the different ways red can be interpreted when used in creative work. 

The Mysterious Color Red 

Sexuality & Fertility

When you think of the color red sexuality and fertility are likely to come to mind. It's often used in a 'suggestive' way to provoke emotion.

By making something or someone appear desirable the color red can help sell products, set a mood or help to tell a story in Films, Music Videos, Posters and Illustrations.

Color Theory

Love, Passion & Desire

We of course think of Red in relation to being in love. This connection is biological because because red is  the color of our blood and we often think of love as being tied to the heart. 

Think about how many greetings cards you must have seen it on over the years. It's easy for this to feel a little cliche so perhaps take the attitude of 'less is more' and be discreet when using it to portray love. 

The example below is from Paperchase is perfect. It uses a combination of a few colors but the red still stands out.

Nature & Danger

Nature is a great example of the color red being used as a warning sign. Usually if something is red it is poisonous or harmful in some way and the color warns us of that. In a way red is natures version of the stop sign which we have adopted and use in traffic signs today.  

This is useful to be aware of when creating any work which involves nature especially if you want something to seem menacing or dangerous. 

Aggression, Dominance, Strength

The color Red can be used to suggest a person or situation is aggressive, dominant and strong. In the examples we have already looked at (above) the color looks vibrant and luxurious. This totally contrasts to the examples below. 

Deadpool's costume is an unusual even dirty looking red. This coupled with his more aggressive stance communicates the idea of power and dominance. This combination is perfect for his character and helps you get an idea of his personality before he has said a word! 

The color is often used in relation too aggressive characters in film, comics, fan art and on advertisements. Dracula is always depicted using red and black a power combination which in this case is pretty dam spooky! 

Danger, Power, War, Courage

The color red has always provoked strong instinctual reactions in humans and can be used to do the same in creative work. It was actually chosen and used by Sparta for their armour and throughout history you can see other powerful people or organisations following their lead and using the color to represent power and even courage in the face of danger. This could be something to think about if you are telling a story or creating a powerful character.

Red is a bold and powerful choice which will stand out in any composition sure to use it wisely. 

Around the World

You also need to be aware of the different meanings this color has culturally. It is used in very different ways across the world. 

Some countries in Africa associate red with death and wear it for funerals and to mourn. 

In Asian cultures red is a very important color. It symbolizes good luck, joy, prosperity, celebration, happiness, and a long life.

If you work with clients or create work for people who live in another country it is very important to understand how color is perceived by their culture.

Especially in terms of the color red as it can have totally opposite meanings for different people! For a more
in-depth look at this topic click here.

Color Theory

  • Red is a Primary Color, the other two primary colors are Yellow & Blue.
  • There are 445 shades of red - each with a different name but don't worry about leaning them all.
  • Red is the warmest tone you can use (blue being the coolest.)
  • It is a very dominant and attention grabbing color to use in creative work. 
  • Red pairs well with Blue & Green because they are opposites on the color wheel.

This person looks like they are pretty warm don't you think? That's due to his expression, the heat which has been illustrated coming off the character and the prominent use of red.  

In this illustration red is used to depict desire. Although the message is subtle, it works with the style of illustration to deliver the message. 

This is a movie poster for Jackie a film about the murder of JFK.

An overwhelming use of red makes sense for the tragic story line in this film.


Red is a dynamic and intense color which can be used to trigger opposite emotions . The color is attention grabbing but should be used in moderation if it's been combined with other colors as it can become overwhelming. 

To see more great creative work and learn about the positive and negative impact it can have on creative work check out the full tutorial with YES founder Martin here

We used Milanote to help us put the video tutorial and blog post together it's an amazing tool for all creatives which we love to use. To find out more follow this link.

Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed this color theory post and if you want to learn more try this out!

About the author 

Emily Melling

Emily Melling studied a degree in Visual Communication, after graduating she became a freelance graphic designer, specialising in Branding & Identity. She enjoys developing working relationships with clients and other creatives who are open to exploring new and innovative ideas.

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