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3 keys to understand the secret of the red color

Blog Angeles Nieto, over de kleur rood


Around 5 liters of red color circulates through our body. Our heart pumps with every beat this red color to 7,600 liters per day. The color red runs through our veins, it is the color of blood, of vitality.

Passion, strength, power, seduction and energy are connected with this color. It brings courage and a positive attitude towards life. But red also has a negative side: ambition, war, violence, anger, immorality. Red attracts, forbids, has power, stands out. What is the secret? There are 3 keys to understand the secret of the color red.

1. The red color causes physical and psychological effects to each of us

The psychology of color has shown that red can have an effect on our state of mind, our perceptions and actions; physical and psychological effects.

Red emits more heat than any other color. It serves to attract attention and may increase the respiratory rate and blood pressure; it also causes irritability and impatience. It is the color of activities that require more passion than reasoning.

It is thought that red increases our physical response because we perceive it as a danger signal and therefore it activates our energy. Proximity and extrovert are properties that are associated with red, opposite to, for example, blue, that is the cold, the distant, the immaterial.

Men and women are considered more attractive when wearing red shades. A possible explanation is that when the skin is slightly reddish, this suggests health, and the red of the clothing takes over the same feeling.

Those who wear red feel more attractive. Red also influences the possibility of winning in the game and the sport. It can help to tip the balance to the winner. For example, players score less quickly when the goalkeeper is dressed red. Red causes an increase in heart rate and testosterone, which improves the performance of a person. It seems that the balance of hormones can even vary.

In nature, red serves as a defense for some animals. These species “warn” predators for their toxicity or bad taste. Red is intense, it differs between the tones of nature where green, blue and brown dominate.



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2. The double meaning of red: life, strength, war and prohibition

Red is the most spicy color, it is the color of power, of life, but it also has a double negative meaning: anger, war, prohibition. Red is associated with blood, fire, love, devil, masculine, power, war, danger, prohibition and debt.


Blood flows through our veins, distributes nutrients and oxygen. Hemoglobin, one of the most important components of the blood, is a red pigment that becomes scarlet red in interaction with oxygen. This happens when the blood stream leaves the heart and goes to the tissues. On the way back from the tissues to the heart, the blood loses its oxygen and changes its tone, then it is dark red. Blood, red, are connected with the beginning of life, with birth, with the heart. The skin turns red, the face blushes because of embarrassment or falling in love; out of shame, anger or excitement. But precisely because it has the color of blood, it also has a negative nuance, it is associated with war, aggression and anger.


Red is related to fire; it represents heat and energy. Fire is the image of the divine; it is God himself: in many religions the gods appear as clouds of fire. Moses sees God as a burning bush. The holy spirit appears as a flame. Red is also the color of passion, of fiery blood, passion can burn and consume, just like fire does.


Red symbolizes love. One gives red roses as a gift, it is the color par excellence of Valentine’s Day, the hearts are painted red. Red is seduction, red lips, red nail polish, sexuality and eroticism but also immorality.


The devil wears red and black. Hell is represented by red. In clubs and brothels, the red light creates an atmosphere for sin, such as the neon lights in the red zone of Amsterdam. It is the typical color of the meretrices (Roman name of prostitute). In the New Testament we find the mother of fornications dressed like a woman in red.


Red is a male color. It is the color of power, activity and aggression. It is the opposite of the passive blue and the innocent white. Fire is masculine, the water is feminine. Red is the color of Christ, blue is that of Mary. In Egyptian frescoes, women have a yellow skin and men a red one.


The red color has long been associated with the nobility and has symbolized power and wealth. For example, we now use the red carpet for events that show celebrities or prominent people.


It is the color of war, related to strength, aggression and excitement. The primitive peoples felt that red gave strength, therefore the warriors were dressed in this color or painted with it.

The danger and the prohibition

Dangerous moments are displayed worldwide with the color red: a red flag of danger, the red emergency signal. With the traffic control red is the color of the restriction, the red light of the traffic lights, the prohibition signs. The emergency brakes and the alarm buttons are red, a red light in an operating room prohibits access. In football, a player may not stay in the field when the referee shows him a red card.


The color red is also used in accounting to mark debts, hence the expression “red numbers”. It started when the accountants in Italy used ink of this color to mark debts.




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3. How different cultures experience the color red

Red plays an important role in the history of man and his cultures.

– For pre-Columbus cultures (Aztecs, Inca, Maya) this color was one of the main notes of the war. Also in the pre-Columbus map, red symbolizes the east, the place of reason, where light is born. The red color represented the Mexicas (Aztecs). To keep the balance on earth, they brought blood-pouring offerings to different gods. They offered the hearts of their victims while the sacrifice bathed in the blood. Before the Inca culture, the red belonged to ceremonial priests and consecrated virgins. The twilight tones, with orange and saffron hues, could evoke a feeling of fear. That light was called “the sun of the dead.”

– In ancient Egypt, the color red was a symbol of everything that was bad and destructive. It was the stifling heat of the desert. A text from that time says: “Oh Isis, save me from all bad, perverse and red things”.

– In the Roman Empire, the color red was a characteristic of economic well-being and happiness. The brides wore a red veil, the “flammeum”. In addition, Mars, the god of war, was assigned the color red, the color of blood. For this reason it is not strange that the red planet Mars got this name.

– Charlemagne (742-814), who established his residence in Aachen, painted the imperial palace and the cathedral, where his throne was, bright red. In this way he wanted to show his power over the church: what was red, belonged to the emperor. The ruling nobility also prohibited the wearing of red to their citizens, those who dressed in red without belonging to this class were executed.

– During the Middle Ages people believed that the color red protected against the evil looks of demons and jealous people. When the medieval paintings represent a scene of birth (almost always the birth of a saint), the bed has a red cover. Even a canopy and a curtain are almost always of the same color, to give the bed a place that is protected against evil. The pillows that the newborns wore were red or with red ribbons.

– Since the French Revolution, the red color often has to do with revolutionaries, revolutions and people with political ideas from the extreme left. During the Spanish Civil War this color was used to name the militants loyal to the Second Republic “los rojos” (the red ones).

– In Chinese culture, red symbolizes fire, wealth, fortune, joy, it is the color of happiness. Chinese women marry in this color. Money is traditionally offered in red packages or red envelopes. In the China of the Ming dynasty, red was the symbol of the emperor and the dynasty, the forbidden city therefore has red walls.

– Hindu women wear red dresses for their wedding because red is the sacred color of Lakshni, the Indian goddess of beauty and wealth.

– In countries with cold climates, where heat is sought, red has a positive meaning. In Russian, red (scratch) is beautiful, magnificent, good, valuable. The Red Square in Moscow means the beautiful square and it had this name long before the revolution.

– Red is a reminder of the sacrificial blood in the Catholic Church. The clothing of the Catholic priests, the altar garment and the pulpit are red in the days when the passion of Jesus is commemorated, such as on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The cardinals wear red in honor of the blood shed by Christ.

– Western folk cultures. Even today red coral amulets are often made. In Italy, a red hand often appears as a talisman against the evil eye. Little Red Riding Hood carries this color as a magical protection against the angry wolf.

Red is a passionate color. A color that serves to emphasize, that speaks about life in double meaning, positive and negative. It is a powerful color. In a following article I want to tell you about the use of this color in the visual world, the application in art and graphic design. I want to show you the properties of the pigment, how it relates to the other colors, possible combinations and the value of the red tint.

What is your experience with this color? Is it your favorite color? Why? Do you know other meanings of the red?

Photos and text: Ángeles Nieto. Photo Chinese bride: Pinterest



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