Pin Me

Seeing Red: Using the Color Red in Desktop Publishing Projects

written by: Haley Montgomery•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 6/29/2009

Stop signs, fire engines and lipstick are all iconic uses of the color red. What unspoken messages does RED communicate when you use it in a desktop publishing project? Read on to discover some of the prevalent cultural associations with red and how you can effectively use it in DTP projects.

  • slide 1 of 1

    Using Red in Desktop Publishing Projects

    Article Image Red is often considered the most primal of the primary colors. From fire-engine reds and hot pinks to deeper wine and rose colors, hues in the red family can, no-doubt, inject DTP projects with an added sense of power. Because of their powerful intensity, vibrant reds must be used carefully in desktop publishing projects to avoid dominating the design's goals.

    What unspoken messages does red communicate when you use it in your desktop publishing projects? Let's find out. Based on the following feelings and color theory associations prevalent in response to colors in the red family, you can determine if red is a good option for your next DTP project.

    Color Associations

    When the eye sees the color red it actually sets off a physical chain reaction in the body, causing an increase in adrenaline production, heart rate and blood pressure. With its association to blood and fire, basic red has a life-sustaining and vigorous reputation that commands attention. Because red tends to increase appetite and speed up metabolism, it is often the color of choice for restaurants and food products. Although red sometimes signifies danger based on how it appears in nature, it is most often equated with excitement and energy. Red at it's most vibrant, like that of a fire engine or stop sign, is seen as aggressive, passionate, and dynamic. From the curvaceous lips on pin-up posters to racy lingerie and muscle cars, red also adds a seductive, sexy tone wherever it is displayed. In design, red has an arresting effect and will almost always cause the viewer's eye to stop and pay attention.

    Deeper red tones like wine or burgundy connote a richer, more refined look than vibrant reds. These colors are seen as more authoritative and mature than bright red and can suggest a more expensive, upscale look of class and reliability in DTP designs. Hot pink tones, on the other hand, suggest a more youthful spirit while maintaining the same high energy as basic red. However, hot pink, especially in its brighter, florescent renditions can be faddish and is sometimes associated with the retro look of the 1980s. Milder magenta and fuchsia versions can offer a more grown-up happy medium. As white is added to red, producing lighter pinks, the color loses its stark sensuality in favor of a more romantic, feminine look. Pastel pinks are also perceived as sweet tasting and smelling. More rosy tones almost always signify good health and optimism, from cherub-like "rosy cheeks" to indulgent "rose-colored" glasses.

    Among the negative connotations related to the color red, people often associate it with anger or embarrassment. Therefore, it sometimes can be seen as a confrontational color. In addition, cultural associations of the 20th century typically use red in reference to communism.

    There's no question that red is a powerful addition to any desktop publishing color palette. As an active color in almost all of its variations, it infuses layouts with a lively and eye-catching sense of movement. The color red provides a powerful contrast to black and white designs and can also serve as a counter point to cooler, more subtle color combinations.

Using Primary Colors in DTP Projects

The primary colors encompass a full range of emotions from energetic to sedate. What do the red, yellow and blue communicate when used in desktop publishing projects? This 3-part article series highlights each primary color and describes its cultural associations and DTP design considerations.
  1. Seeing Red: Using the Color Red in Desktop Publishing Projects
  2. Mellow Yellow? Using the Color Yellow in Desktop Publishing Projects
  3. True Blue: Using the Color Blue in Desktop Publishing Projects