Coloring the Page: Red

When I came home today, the sky had turned that eerie surreal tone of a sunset seen through storm clouds. It got me thinking about colors and how we use them in our novels, which if you’re like me, is often. I have a fabulous resource I found several years ago – it’s a description of each major color, as dictated by a gentleman who is blind but had his sight until he was 11.*

It’s such a unique perspective and does the best job I’ve seen of distinguishing between subtly different tones. Ever wondered whether cerulean or azure better describes a tranquil ocean bay? Or which greens to use to describe a new spring forest? Stuck trying to find yet another way to say orange? This will give you a variety of options. (I also usually do a quick image search to double check whether an exact tone matches the color I’m envisioning.)

This color guide is one of my favorite writing references—sort of like a color thesaurus. It always stays on the top of my “writing tools” pile, so I thought I’d share it with you. I’m planning to work my way through all the colors whenever there’s a bit of break in other blogging topics. Today, we’ll start with RED.
  • Apple Red: Dark red to pale red
  • Bay: Reddish brown
  • Beet Red: Dark red
  • Burnt: Reddish brown or dark reddish orange (also Sienna)
  • Burnt Rose: A dark brownish red
  • Cardinal: A bright red
  • Cherry Red: Bright to moderate red
  • Copper Red: Very dark red, but more brown than red
  • Coral: A deep or strong pink to moderate red or reddish orange
  • Crimson: A dark purplish red
  • Fiery Red: Reddish yellow, but red is predominate
  • Hot Pink: Bright strong pink
  • Mahogany: Moderate reddish brown but often more brown than red
  • Maroon: A dark reddish brown to dark purplish red
  • Neon Pink: Glowing, illuminating pink
  • Pink: Very light red, close to white
  • Puce: A deep red to dark grayish purple (Oh, this one has such FUN possibilities! I’m picturing Delores Umbridge.)
  • Raspberry Red: A deep purplish red
  • Rose: Light red to dark red
  • Ruby: A dark or deep red to deep purplish translucent red
  • Ruddy: Reddish in color
  • Rusty: Reddish brown
  • Scarlet: A strong to vivid red or reddish orange
  • Strawberry: Reddish; light red to dark pink
  • Sunburst Red: Bright illuminated red
  • Tomato Red: Strong red
  • Vermilion: Bright red
  • Ginger: A natural red, as in a hair color

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I've found it helps to have the names and ideas handy as you're writing. You never know what other color inspirations they'll spark! The Bookshelf Muse also has great real-world color examples.

*I originally found this guide years ago at When I checked again, I couldn’t find it posted any longer, but they deserve all the credit!


  1. Oooh, great list! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. This is very helpful, thanks! I didn't know vermillion was red...I always pictured it as something yellowish for some reason. Hm...

  3. Very interesting. I've never thought of Scarlet as being a reddish orange. I've always thought of it as a dark red, like blood.

    "Stuck trying to find yet another way to say orange?"

    I don't know why, but that made me laugh.