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How Red Can Make You Feel Excited, Angry and Passionate [DYOB Color Series] Color Series - How Red Makes you Feel Excited, Angry and Passionate Color Series - How Red Makes you Feel Excited, Angry and Passionate. And how to use it in your blog's design


How does it make you feel? Angry? Provacative? Excited? Red is a color that naturally evokes strong feelings, whether they are positive or negative.

Red is hot! It’s associated with excitement and energy. It demands attention.

Red is the color of blood and fire and can be associated with war, danger, power and rage.

At the same time red is sophisticated, sexy and passionate. It can be linked to feelings of love and desire.

We’re exploring the meanings of colors in this new series. Each month in 2014, we’ll cover a new color and discover how it is perceived by others and how it works with other colors. It should be noted that this color series is written from a Western-world point of view and some colors may have different meanings in other cultures.

Today we’ll be talking about Red. Be sure to check out the links to the rest of the series here.

Why Does Red Have Such Strong Emotions Behind It?

Because red activates your pituitary gland which causes your heart rate to increase and your breath to become more rapid. This in turn causes you to make quicker and occasionally rash decisions. It can make you angry or it can excite you into driving faster. It is also said to stimulate the appetite, which is why it’s so prevalent in fast food restaurants.

But red can also be a positive “attention-getter.” Used as an accent color, it can draw attention to a particular element and be used to stimulate people to make impulsive decisions. Take a look at a Warning sign for example. It quickly lets you know to stay away or be aware.

A red ‘X’ usually means you’ve made a mistake that needs to be corrected. But in the instance of a red ‘Buy Now’ button, red can entice you to click it without thinking twice.

Bright reds immediately grab your attention. Use these for warnings or Buy buttons.

The bright red Donate Now button immediately grabs your attention here

The Affect of Red on Age and Gender

Children are naturally attracted to red when they’re young because it’s bright and cheerful. But as we get older, it’s said that it’s more extroverted types that prefer red.

Red happens to be the third favorite color of men even though only 7% of them consider it their favorite color. On the other hand, red is the fourth favorite color for women, but 9% of women choose it as their favorite color.

These are things to think about when selecting colors for your target audience.

So Many Meanings!

Because red is so versatile and can have so many different feelings, how do you know you’re giving your audience the right impression if you decide to use it?

By the shade you use and the context you’re using it in. Red isn’t always mixed with strong emotions.

Shades of Red and What they Usually Mean

See what happens when you mix other colors into red.

  • Bright Reds immediately grab your attention. Use these for warnings or Buy buttons.
  • Mid-tone Reds are usually linked to happiness and sometimes freedom. That’s why you’ll find red in many patriotic flags.
  • Add more white to red to create Pink and now it becomes one of the favorite colors of women. Light red or pink represents joy, sensitivity, femininity, love and romance.
  • Adding black to red commonly gives the impression of willpower, leadership, longing or wrath. Dark Reds often feel goth, anarchic or Rock n’ Roll. But dark red can also be passionate and sexy. Think lipstick, velvet and lingerie.
  • Adding a little blue to dark red creates more of a Burgundy color and it subdues the strong effect of black-red. It becomes more opulent, elegant and refined much like wine.
  • Brown mixed with red produces a Rusty Red which is associated with warm and cozy feelings of harvest and fall.

How to Use Red in Your Blog Design

Red is not usually the main color in a design because of it’s strong emotions. In fact, I couldn’t find a single woman-owned blog that had a majority of red in it.* In your blog, red is probably best used as an accent color. Use splashes of it to draw attention to things on the page.

If you really want to use a lot of red, use contrast to lighten it up.

Pairing red with white can create a really nice classic effect

Pairing red with white can create a really nice classic effect

Use contrast to lighten up a lot of red

Use contrast to lighten up a lot of red

Pairing Red with Other Colors

Use other colors to play down the power of red…or to enhance it. What are the feelings you get when you look at these blogs and websites?

Pairing red with royal or dark blue gives a reliable and trustworthy impression. That’s why you see this combination in a lot of financial websites:

Red and blue create trust

Red and blue create trust

To create an energetic and exciting palette, pair a bright or mid-tone red with aqua blue. This is a pretty popular color combination as you can see here:

Red and aqua color palettes are very popular in blog design

Red and aqua color palettes are very popular in blog design

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Mid-tone or muted reds mixed with a muted blue create a retro vibe:

Mid-tone or muted reds mixed with a muted blue create a retro vibe.

Retro is so hot right now

Mid-tone or muted reds mixed with a muted blue create a retro vibe.

This website is older, but the retro style still works

Reds and greens work well for food websites:

Reds and green palettes work well for food websites because it looks fresh

Reds and green palettes work well for food websites because it looks fresh

1. 2. 3.

Red and yellow should be used carefully because if you stay too close to primary colors, you’ll end up looking like a fast food restaurant. But red and gold on the other hand can have an exotic feel:

Use red and yellow carefully in a color palette

Use red and yellow carefully in a color palette

red and gold can sometimes feel exotic

red and gold can sometimes feel exotic

[UPDATE 2/7/14: *I finally did find a woman-owned blog that uses red as the dominant color in her blog design. And guess what her second color is? Yup, yellow. See how she pulls it off: the red is more of a wine/raspberry red and that works with the yellow. And how does she pull off using so much red? The name of her blog, Mama’s Losin’ It, and the image of her actually “losin’ it” show strong emotions which are accentuated by the red.]
Mama's Losin It pulls off yellow with red because the red is not primary. Learn more about red in blog design at

This raspberry red works with yellow too

Or adding teal to a red and yellow palette can make it fun:

red, yellow and teal look playful

red, yellow and teal look playful

Red and pink can be girly and playful:

Red and pink are also playful

Red and pink are also playful

Red and black and white give a quite sophisticated appearance:
Red, black and white make for a sophisticated palette
Red, black and white make for a sophisticated palette

So, Should you Use Red in your Blog?

Happy and excited or angry and dangerous, I can’t really tell you either way. It just depends on what you’re trying to tell your audience about yourself.

If you really like the color red then yes you should use it! Just use caution and try to follow some of the principles mentioned above. Are there exceptions to the rules? Of course. There always are and you should do what works best for you. But it’s better to know the rules before you break them.

The point is to pay attention to how colors affect you. Notice how you feel when you view other websites using the same colors you are using or are considering using.

If you don’t like red, don’t use it! There are plenty of other colors you can use that will draw attention, like orange, which we will cover next month! (see links to more posts in this color series) Until then leave a comment and let me know:

Is red your favorite color? Least favorite? How do you feel about red in blog design? Do you currently use it in your blog design? Share with us in the comments.

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  • Great Stuff Marianne

    Looking for inspiration lately as I am getting more into web design!
    some great sites here, and my site is red, so it helps me a lot.

    • Marianne says:

      Oh nice Ashley, so glad it helps! Feel free to come back and let us know the link to your site so we can check it out when you’re done with it!

  • Juliana says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I found your introductory post to this series and got excited as I’m looking into changing the look and feel of my blog. So not happy with the current one. I’m looking at something that will fit in well with a beauty & fashion blog (more b&w with an accent color – found a couple of examples in this post but would still prefer a little more color to cover the beauty side of my blog without making it look ‘cute’)

    I’ve signed up for your newsletters and I’m looking forward to reading your tips and suggestions in this series. Hopefully I’ll find something I like, soon! 🙂


    • Marianne says:

      Hi Juliana, I’m so glad you like the series so far. What about black, white and hot or dark pink? Just throwing out an idea 🙂

  • What a cool blog series idea! Love how you give examples of the color in action. I’m planning on making the leap to wordpress….soon….and will definitely keep these ideas in mind as I’m redesigning. Thanks!

  • Marianne –
    I knew red was associated with anger and power since I was a kid but didn’t know why fastfood corners and restaurants used so much red.

    Actually my favorite used to be royal blue and brown when I was a kid. I still love those two colrs but started liking red a lot more. I love the mulberry color! I also like tomato red and blood red, but not as much as mulberry.

    Thanks for such deep insights of red. An year or two ago, I got a thick printed paper with a large blood red colored header and all red text. I loved it and still have it. Red looked so nice on white paper.

    I’ll check out a lot of shades of red later in the day today. Thanks for this post.

  • Marianne says:

    Red is a great contrast with white, I agree. It just has to be used in the right context. I do like mulberry too. Glad you got a little more insight into the use of colors in design. I should add a note however that although some of the meanings mentioned above apply to several cultures, some of the meanings may strictly be American only.

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