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Red Color Psychology

Updated on September 1, 2017
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I love color! What's life without some good colors to brighten it up?

Red fireworks
Red fireworks | Source

How do you see red?

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Red is Passionate

Ahh, red! The color of love, passion, excitement, activation, and vigor! Who can resist the glory of red? From the tempting redness of a strawberry to the brightness of a fire engine, red is definitely a powerful color.

The last time you were in an upscale restaurant or cocktail lounge, what was the color of the walls? Probably a warm color, like red or orange. That's because time is likely to be overestimated when one is under the influence of red light. Warm colors like red are suitable for living rooms, restaurants, and bars or lounges where time in "slow motion" would likely be preferable to "real time".

"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Or Is It?", painted by the author
"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Or Is It?", painted by the author | Source
General Appearance
Mental Associations
Direct Associations
Objective Impressions
Subjective Impressions
Brilliant, intense, opaque, dry
Hot, fire, heat, blood
Danger, Christmas, St. Valentine's, flag
Passionate, exciting, fervid, active
Intensity, rage, rapacity, fierceness

Table data from "Color Psychology and Color Therapy" by Faber Birren, color consultant extraordinaire.

Danger!  Even wading can kill!
Danger! Even wading can kill! | Source

The Color of Rage

But red also has its dark side -- if left unchecked, passion can develop into aggression or over-excitation which can be dangerous. In fact, subjectively the color red may seem much more intense as applied to oneself than it would as applied to external objects.

A high temper, danger or hazardous conditions, and destruction are also applied to the color red, and it gives people a sense of power. So when using red in company marketing, do it judiciously!

A bright red fire box
A bright red fire box | Source

Healing Disease with Red

Those who practice Ayurvedic chromatherapy (color in healing), believe that red has certain properties:

  • It stimulates the sensory nerves, and is used in cases of deficiency of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch
  • It activates blood circulation and excites the cerebro-spinal fluid and related systems
  • Psychologically, red is used to bring the ego back to the self (i.e. the extrovert back into his shell)

They also believe in the power of red rays:

  • They produce heat which revitalizes and energizes the physical body (i.e. contracted muscles)
  • They decompose salt crystals in the body
  • They liberate body heat and clear congestion

A red sofa and red artwork enliven a room
A red sofa and red artwork enliven a room | Source

Decorating with Red

In order to not overwhelm your room, employ red as an accent color -- patterned pillows, area rugs, vases, or artwork with red tones are all excellent choices to include the many shades of red in your home.

Or, if you really love red, go for one large, bold piece, like a sofa!

Facts About Red

  • Red is associated with comedy
  • Irradiation with red light may result in elevated blood pressure and a faster pulse
  • In 1875, a European doctor (Ponza) outfitted several rooms with walls, windows, and furniture in the same color; one of the colors was red. So what happened?

"After passing three hours in a red room a man afflicted with taciturn delirium became gay and cheerful; on getting up the day after his entry into the room, another madman who had refused all food whatever asked for breakfast, and ate with surprising avidity."

  • Newton related colors to the notes of the diatonic scale, with red standing for C, and Rimsky-Korsakoff considered F sharp as strawberry red
  • A pure spectrum red (vermilion) tint makes food appear more succulent
  • Red suggests the shape of a square or cube, appearing solid and substantial with its structural planes and sharp angles
  • In ancient heraldry, red signifies courage and zeal.


Amber, Reuben: Color Therapy. Aurora Press, New York, 1983.

Birren, Faber: Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Citadel Publishing, New York, 1950


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