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What Color Is Vermilion? How to Use This Lively Color to Spice Up Your Life

what color is vermilion hdr

Vermilion is a brilliant red pigment color that beautifully takes cues from blood red and bright red!

Well, think of saturated red with a vivid orange tinge and hot red!

That’s the best way to define this bold primary color.

Even though it’s not a very common color – there are plenty of times where you’ve seen it in our world.

Vermilion is not used dominantly in our residential home environments, but is often seen being used in the commercial, healthcare, and recreation sectors.

Very closely related to red – this color is associated with feelings of love, anger, passion, desire, heat, romance, adventure, sensitivity, and life!

If you’ve ever wondered about using this specific color family in your home – well, you can definitely go ahead with it!

verm couch example

However, be sure to bear with the shortcomings of this color.

Don’t worry – I will reveal all the vermilion secrets throughout the rest of this article.

If you plan to use too much of this color – it might get overwhelming and in some cases, uncomfortable and uninviting.

So, this is a color that must be paid special attention to!

Other than that, if you try to locate this color on the color wheel – you will find it somewhere between the oranges and purples.

You’ll also be excited to learn that you can’t form a pure red hue – since it’s a primary color. 

However, you can still definitely make other shades by mixing proportions of pure red with other colors. 

So, are you excited to know what the color vermilion has for you?

Let’s get started!

The Color of Blood and Much More – Vermilion

vermilion on wheel

Before we move ahead with what this color has to offer, let’s first discuss the basic specifications and details of the vermilion color category!

Remember, every category is associated with certain underlying theories and facts that make it equally unique and distinctive!

So, there is something that distinguishes vermilion red with burnt oranges, crimson, and mahogany colors.

And if you have been a big fan of reds – you must have heard of burgundy and Venetian red as well!

Whether it is the undertones or the certain RGB values that describe what the complete color is composed of, here are certain terminologies to look upon!

Also note, light reflectance values can differ for each typology and face! 

Pantone Code= 179 C

Cyan= 0%

Magenta= 71%

Yellow= 77%

Black= 11%

Red= 89%

Green= 26%

Blue= 20%

HEX Color Code= #E34234

This primary-color has a certain charm that is bound to activate the expressions and enthusiasm of the observer!

And after all, the proportions are what helps in differing from shade to shade and tone to tone!

These above-mentioned percentages will help you in the classification of the color and how it is truly made!

Moreover, it is a saturated, warm-toned color – so you can always feel energetic and active!

The Four Faces of Vermilion – Vibrant and High-Spirited

vermilion Variations

Every color is associated with various faces – depending upon the variance in the undertones, proportion of mixes, and reflectivity.

Further elaborating, these faces can be categorized as the tints, tones, and shades of that particular color.

And of course, these variations will have a different color code for each.

As I mentioned about the variety, you must know that vermilion has a wide array of appearances – some may be dark, some bright, some subtle, and some light!

‘Tones’ are basically the results formed by adding gray to a vermilion paint color! 

The result is a more muted and subtle shade – well, something like blush and redwood!

‘Tints’ on the other hand are the amalgamation of white with a vermilion paint color. 

The result is something like Rose or Indian Red!

Whereas ‘Shades’ are the results formed by adding some black to a vermilion paint color. 

The result is quite dark – something like Maroon, Burgundy, or Mahogany!

Diving deeper into these details and these faces – the color vermilion is best known for these four major tones as follows.

Red Orange

red orange info box

A tone of vermilion that inclines more towards the reds than oranges! 

Even though it is quite saturated – you must ensure to limit the use of this bright and bold color.

And if you’re wondering, try best pairing it with teal blues, sky blues, and cyan! This color palette is great for Victorian-style backdrops!

Orange Red

orange red info box

On the other hand, not so pleasant to the eye, this particular tone of vermilion is more saturated and inclined towards the brighter orange. 

This is somehow a very stark and deeper version of vermilion – thus, not really a great recommendation for homes unless it is used as an accent on luminaires or pillows only!

The best colors to pair with are whites and off-whites.

Medium Vermilion

medium vermilion info box

This subtle and soothing tone of vermilion has a strong reddish-orange feel with the tint of orange mainly reigning the color.

This can definitely be used in homes as an accent on the wall or even decorative accessories.

Furthermore, you can even pair it with lemon yellows, whites, and blues.

Chinese Red

Chinese red info box

A pure form of red, this tone of vermilion symbolizes utmost excitement and life.

However, note that you can’t use a lot of this color in your homes unless you’re designing a rich Victorian backdrop.

The best color palette to go is teals and certain tones of blues!

Similar Colors

Now that we have discussed the four notable faces of this bright vermilion – let’s get talking with the similar colors that are closely related to it.

And can be considered as ‘vermilions’!

So, the first of them is Mahogany!

mahogany vs chestnut

This is a deep red color that exhibits pure luxe and vintage! Again, great to use for Victorian, Classical, and Art Deco. 

On the other hand, chestnut is a similar color to vermilion. 

It feels more like maroon so, remember to use it only on the decor accessories.

Next in the line is the color Bittersweet that feels quite fun-loving and light – hence, a tone that is pleasant to the eye and also quite eye-catchy!

bittersweet vs red orange

Lastly, red-orange is a saturated version that is as bright as blood red! 

It varies in reflectivity so you can always use this with a tinge of yellow and even lighter greens!

Coordinating Colors

vermilion coordinations

Once you mess up with coordinating color schemes and palettes – you mess up with your space!

And you don’t want to do that, right?

So, here I am going to spill some Vermilion beans – so, are you excited?

Well, regardless of the different faces of vermilion – colors that will definitely complement are teals, blues, greens, and purples!

Furthermore, you can always add neutrals like off-whites, whites, and lighter pinks to further complete your palette!

In terms of accent, vermilions are in themselves a big player! However, you must limit their use as much as possible!

Vermilion – The Color of Life 

color of life verm

According to  Merriam Webster, the word vermilion on the surface means, 1: a vivid reddish-orange or, 2: a bright red pigment consisting of mercuric sulfide.

But this color goes further.

Vermilion is a color regarded for its lively and being alive qualities. It’s considered the color of life and eternity in the Chinese Taoist culture.

Chinese New Year decorations incorporate the color in its fanciful lanterns and candles, as a symbol of good luck and prosperty.

Since antiquity, vermilion has been considered the color of blood, and so the connection to the ‘color of life’. 

The name vermilion originates from the French “vermeil”, which means any red dye, and the Latin “vermiculum”, which refers to a red dye created from the bug “Kermes vermilio”.

Vermilion became extremely expensive because of the scarcity of pure cinnabar, and the price had to be set by the Roman government, making it the “color of victory.”

A Staple Color of Power in Ancient History

historical attire in vermilion

The first known usage of vermilion pigment produced with powdered cinnabar, dated 8000–7000 BC, was discovered in the neolithic settlement of Catalhoyuk in modern-day Turkey.

It was discovered in Spain around 5300 BC while in China, the Yangshao civilization (5000–4000 BC) was the first to employ cinnabar as a pigment, using it to paint pottery, cover walls, and floors, and perform religious rituals.

The intensity of the color is determined by how big or small the particles of pigment are.

Up until the 18th century, prisoners worked exhaustively at the Almaden mine in northwest Spain to provide Spanish kings their primary supply of this expensive pigment.

Romans especially loved using vermilion hues:

  • Used it to paint frescoes, adorn sculptures, and even apply it to their skin as a cosmetic
  • Painted the faces of their victorious generals
  • Emperors used this color red for their calligraphic ink
  • Vermilion powder was used at Roman triumphs to hide the faces of the victorious
  • Jupiter’s visage on the Capitoline Hill was likewise painted vermilion.

In the Byzantine Empire official letters and imperial decrees were written in vermilion ink.

A bright vermilion powder was used to coat the body and other objects in the tomb of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico, the so-called Tomb of the Red Queen.

A Color Full of Culture

indian woman wearing color

The unique and vivid vermilion is used broadly throughout art history for thousands of years.

Synthetic pigment of vermilion is applied on the hair dividing line known as sindoor by Hindu women to symbolize their marital status. 

For religious rituals and celebrations, it is also used by Hindu men and women on their foreheads.

Nature holds three vermilion birds known as vermilion flycatcher, vermilion tanager, and vermilion cardinal.

male vermilion cardinal on

Another magnificent place in nature where we see this color is in northern Arizona.

The natural beauty of the Vermilion Cliffs National Park is undoubtedly a spectacular site, bringing out some of the orange that’s associated with our spotlight hue.

I’m ready to visit and soak up this color!

vermilion sandstone cliffs

It was also a crucial component of probably the most legendary vermilion product, Chinese lacquer, which contributed to the moniker, ‘Chinese Red’.

An English-translated Pokémon video game and anime location is known as Vermilion City which was named after the old Japanese name (Kuchiba City) – a port city in the Kanto region.

The word “Vermilion” was chosen in an attempt to approach the translation of Kuchiba, which is an orange-red hue associated with sunsets and fall foliage,

It has also been used in the painting Girl with the Red Hat by Johannes Vermeer in the 17th century.

Fun fact: A cochineal insect was a valuable European import in the 16th century, coming in third after gold and silver. 

This ancient insect dye was quite the marvel. Imagine grinding up red insects to achieve a useful powdery red dye.

In more modern times, we have seen cars showing up in flashy ways with this color starting in the late 20th century.

The Mclaren 570s Spider Vermilion Red2022  and, BMW X5 Black Vermillion edition are both, set to rock the world of automobiles in 2022.

vermilion bmw car

Let’s not forget the famous Lakme Vermilion Fired and the MAC Vermillion Vee lipstick that is a relatively warm-toned vermillion shade. 

Adidas Yeezy Foam Runner MXT has also been designed in a vermilion hue.

Using Vermilion In Home Décor

vermilion in home decor

Ain’t you exactly waiting for this section?

Well, this is truly the most exciting!

So, first, I would highly recommend this paint on the accent walls, your accent furniture pieces, and could even be on your focal accessories such as throw pillows and vases or urns!

Want to create an attractive exterior? 

Vibrant tiled roof shingles and tie in gorgeously with trim work, shutters, front doors or even garage doors.

home exterior using vermilion

Try avoiding painting a lot of your walls in this color – as it is bound to arise feelings of excitement that may not be too welcoming and comfortable in the long run.

However, if your space is quite large and grandeur – you might be able to use vermilion on all the walls (Eclectic and Victorian interior design adore this hue).

I highly recommend the eclectic maximalism and interior design styles like Hollywood Glam, Victorian, and Grandmillenial to incorporate this saturated primary color.

If you are looking for real-time examples from the famous paint manufacturers – I am going to share two examples from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore!

SW single hearty orange chip

Hearty Orange by Sherwin Williams and Raspberry Blush by Benjamin Moore are notable examples.

However, know that there may be some notable differences here as well.

For instance, Sherwin Williams Hearty Orange feels quite hot, saturated, and warm – a perfect tone of vermilion as accents in your home.

SW also has a popular true red color called Real Red that speaks to the vibrant face of Vermillion.

On the other hand, Benjamin Moore Raspberry Blush is another tone of vermilion red that can be played with.

BM single raspberry blush chip

It is comparatively lighter than the former!

(Don’t worry – you can paint all the walls in this color if your interior design and style allows)

Vermilion on Walls

It is not completely a no-no to paint vermilion on the walls – rather an accent wall would play great with this paint.

Well, you can absolutely do it if you prefer a more luxe, rich, and vintage look. 

You can very seamlessly pair it with crisp whites, creamy off-whites, blues, and dark wooden textures.

However, ensure to keep your color palette as subtle as required – with minimal involvement of other hues.

Have a look at this classical-style living room – sometimes, even too much red is not overwhelming!

In this setup, there is a vermilion imprinted wallpaper on all the walls.


Although, this room feels too warm and cozy!

Vermilion on Furniture – Classical and Eclectic

In some cases, vermilion painted on the walls can be too overwhelming!

So, another way to incorporate this tone in your home is through furniture!

Try pairing it with certain off-whites and whites to create a focal point in your space through this color.

The red on accent chairs is absolutely flawless, right?

Well, yes! That’s how best to make use of this color.

Vermilion on Accessories – Details That Matter

It’s time to have an eye for vermilion detail in your home. 

Remember, a space is not just confined to walls, furniture, and focal woodwork like the cabinets and built-in shelves (even though they play dominant)!


But you can also add tones of vermilion to your room through accessories such as curtains, artwork, rugs, vases, and throw pillows.

And trust me, this is even more recommended since it will not over-excite your space while still being able to use this tone.

Let’s check out some of these pieces that would make a lovely vermilion accent in your home.

vermilion area rug example

A perfect blend of vermilion red and gold, this beautiful and timeless rug is something to have at home. 

It plays a perfect vintage and traditional look – so, don’t hold back from using this area rug in your home!

vermilion curtains example

A perfect touch of luxe and romance, these moody curtains are a great addition to your spaces!

Pair them opposite a white and milky or gray wall to help them further protrude and exhibit a focal feel!

vermilion printed canvas example

Another notable way to introduce tones of vermilion is through your: See this artwork here.

Whether it’s the gallery wall or the large focal artwork piece, introduce a blend of vermilion tinges through your focal art!

vermilion throw blanket example

Want to feel warm and cozy?

This vermilion-toned throw blanket is something to lay over your off-white linen and cotton upholstery.

Summing it Up

Vermilion is a beautiful, bright color that exists in the purest forms.

Even though it exhibits a warm and cozy feel – at the same time, it feels quite classical and traditional!

If you really have the taste for this color – you must use it (but keep in mind those design beans).

So, are you excited to incorporate a touch of vermilion in your home?

Maybe the accent wall, backsplash, or the artwork?

I would love to know how best you incorporate this color in your home! Do let me know your experiences in the comments below!

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