Vermillion Color

Vermilion Color – The Bright and Exciting Vermilion Red Color

Red is one of the top preferred colors among all people and is the topmost color used in country flags around the world. However, there are numerous shades of red, all of which have their own fascination. One of these colors that has quite a history is the vermilion color.



What Color Is Vermilion?

Each shade of red that is produced has its own unique composition, whether it is from pigments or a combination of light wavelengths. This particular color has been around for many years and originates from the powdered mineral known as cinnabar, which is toxic as it contains mercury sulfide. The color is often referred to as a vermilion red color, as it is a bright red-orange that is saturated and warm.

Vermilion ShadeVermilion Hex CodeCMYK Vermilion Color Code (%)RGB Vermilion Color CodeVermilion Color
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 

Bright Vermillion Red Color


Vermilion Color: A Brief History

The word itself is an Old French word vermilion, which is from vermeil, and this is derived from the Latin word vermiculus, which is the diminutive expression of the word vermis, meaning worm. This is associated with the red dye that was made from the insect called kermes vermilio. The production of kermes dye was quite expensive but has been used since ancient times and was quite popular during the medieval period. A less expensive darker red dye known as carmine was later produced from the Mexican cochineal, which is a scale insect. 

The color name vermilion was first documented as an English color name in the late 13th century.

Another source of the vermilion color was a mineral source known as cinnabar, which contains mercury sulfide and is highly toxic. Both cinnabar and vermilion were common names used to describe the color. However, after the 17th century, vermilion became more of a popular choice, while cinnabar was used to describe the mineral. Mining the cinnabar in those days was expensive, difficult as well as dangerous, because of its toxicity. Many of the miners perished while digging up this sought-after mineral.

The very first time the powdered cinnabar was used can be dated thousands of years before Christ in what is today known as Turkey. The pigment was also discovered in Spain and the Ancient civilization of China, where they used the cinnabar pigment to paint floors, walls, and pottery. The pigment became known as China red, which was also used in printing pastes and was used in the calligraphic ink used by the emperors.

Historical Vermillion Red Color Mystic Nativity (1500) by Sandro Botticelli; Sandro Botticelli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 In the Chinese Taoist culture, the vermilion color is considered a living color and is the color of life as well as eternity. Many Chinese New Year decorations also have this color, which is a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Besides obtaining pure and natural vermilion, the Chinese are also recognized for synthesizing vermilion by a heating process using mercury and sulfur.

The Romans particularly enjoyed incorporating color into frescoes, sculptures, and even cosmetics. Romans also painted the faces of victorious generals with vermilion. During the Byzantine Empire, vermilion ink was used for decrees as well as official letters. Pure vermilion became so expensive, the Roman leaders had to eventually fix the price.

The synthetic version of vermilion became quite popular in Europe during the 12th century. 

It was commonly used to illuminate manuscripts, in particular, medieval manuscripts that included various documents, elaborate borders, and miniature illustrations. The synthesized version of vermilion became even more popular during the 14th century, as the process was easy to control and replicate and was even considered better than the natural vermilion pigment.

Since the pigment, whether pure or synthesized, was so expensive, the European version was often adulterated with other cheaper materials like brick dust, red lead, and iron oxide among other additives. This made the final pigment produced more unstable in paintings. Below are some examples of paintings using the vermilion color:

  • Mystic Nativity (1500) by Sandro Botticelli
  • The Origin of the Milky Way (1575) by Italian artist Tintoretto
  • Descent from the Cross (1612-1614) by Peter Paul Rubens
  • Belshazzar’s Feast (1635) by Rembrandt

Due to the toxicity of vermilion, interest declined over the years, and in the 20th century, synthetic pigments came into play, such as cadmium red. You can easily purchase a tube of cadmium red or cadmium red deep from an art store today. However, you can still get the original versions of vermilion, which should be used with extreme caution.

Historical Vermillion Color Belshazzar’s Feast (1635) by Rembrandt; Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Vermilion is still a part of many cultures, for example, Hindu women make use of a vermilion called sindoor, which is placed along the parting of the hairline and is a sign that the woman is married. Hindu men also wear some on their foreheads for certain religious ceremonies. The vermilion color has also made it to modern culture, especially as a color for motorcars. For example, the Maclaren 570s Spider Vermilion Red 2022.


Vermilion Color Meaning

All shades of red share similar attributes, for example, they are all associated with love, passion, romance, energy as well as anger. As mentioned, vermilion is also seen as something that stands for life and vitality. Vermilion, as with all red colors, also draws attention, is stimulating, exciting, and exudes confidence. However, the vermilion color meaning can also be negative. 

Besides anger, vermilion can also be associated with aggressiveness, dominance, and impulsiveness.



Vermilion Color Tones

The vermilion red color is most probably a color that is less recognized and can most often be confused with other shades of red like scarlet and crimson. These are all vibrant and saturated colors. You can see the difference if you have a look at each color code, which provides the percentages or differences in the amount of color that makes up each hue. This is represented by the RGB color code for web graphics that uses light and the CMYK color code for ink and printing.

Shades of Vermillion Red Color



As you can see below, scarlet and vermilion are slightly different. You will notice that scarlet has a more pronounced red tone as it has more red in the red, green, and blue (RGB) color code system. 

Scarlet is more of a pure, bright, and intense red. 

Vermilion ShadeVermilion Hex CodeCMYK Vermilion Color Code (%)RGB Vermilion Color CodeVermilion Color
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Scarlet#ff24000, 86, 100, 0255, 36, 0 



Crimson is more of a vivid and deeper red color, with slightly more blue added in, making it a cooler red. The vermilion, on the other hand, has more of an orange undertone, making it a warmer shade of red.

Vermilion ShadeVermilion Hex CodeCMYK Vermilion Color Code (%)RGB Vermilion Color CodeVermilion Color
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Crimson#dc143c0, 91, 73, 14220, 20, 60 

Vermillion Color Meaning


Different Shades of Vermilion

There is a wide range of variations when it comes to vermilion. The red-orange color is part of the Crayola Crayon colors, while the orange-red was part of the first web colors that were available. Medium vermilion is a popular interior design color. 

Chinese red has been around for many years and is the shade used for Chinese lacquerware. 

Vermilion ShadeVermilion Hex CodeCMYK Vermilion Color Code (%)RGB Vermilion Color CodeVermilion Color
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Red Orange#ff53490, 67, 71, 0255, 83, 73 
Orange Red#ff45000, 73, 100, 0255, 69, 0 
Medium Vermilion#d9603b0, 56, 73, 15217, 96, 59 
Chinese Red#aa381e0, 67, 82, 33170, 56, 30 



Vermilion Color Combinations

When dealing with colors and how to use them, you need to have a basic knowledge of color theory. This means learning all about things like a color wheel, and of course, color combinations. Today, you can easily go online and find the various color combinations for a particular color. However, you can also figure it out yourself by checking out the colors on a color wheel.

Vermillion Color Combinations

The most common color combination offers contrast and grabs a viewer’s attention. These are usually your complementary colors, which are on opposing sides when looking at the color wheel. When it comes to vermilion, the color that works best and makes vermilion stand out is a bright cyan or turquoise color.

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Bright Cyan#34d5e377, 6, 0, 1152, 213, 227 
Turquoise#40e0d071, 0, 7, 1264, 224, 208 

Another great color combination is known as split complementary colors. These are also contrasting colors and provide a nice visual color combination. This kind of color palette is quite popular in graphic and web designs. These colors are found on either side of the complementary hue.

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Bleu De France#347ee377, 44, 0, 1152, 126, 227 
Eucalyptus#34e39a77, 0, 32, 1152, 227, 154 


Vermilion Analogous Color Combinations

To create a more pleasant color combination that is easy on the eyes, you can use analogous colors. These colors are all in the same area on the color wheel and usually share similar attributes. 

Below, we can see the colors are shades of pink and orange. 

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Pink#e3347e0, 77, 44, 11227, 52, 126 
Orange#e39a340, 32, 77, 11227, 154, 52 


Vermilion Monochromatic Color Combinations

Looking for a slight variation in your color combination? Then the monochromatic option is the way to go. These colors stem from a single hue and offer various tints and shades of the same color. As you can see in the table, you have a darker and lighter version of the vermilion color.

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Dark Vermilion#b225190, 79, 86, 30178, 37, 25 
Light Vermilion#ec81770, 45, 50, 7236, 129, 119 

Shades of Vermillion Color Code


Vermilion Triadic Color Combinations

This is another triple color combination, that again forms a contrast. The colors can be found on the color wheel and all three colors are evenly spaced, forming a triangle. The same principle applies to the square color combination of four colors. 

You can also get a rectangle or tetradic color scheme. 

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Vermilion#e342340, 71, 77, 11227, 66, 52 
Blue#4234e371, 77, 0, 1166, 52, 227 
Lime Green#34e34277, 0, 71, 1152, 227, 66 



How to Mix Vermilion-Color Paint

When mixing colors, it can be an opportunity to experiment and create your own color palette. There are various types of paint colors, so you might want to simply purchase a vermilion paint tube. However, if you want to start from scratch and mix your paint colors, then we suggest the following.

  • Cadmium red deep
  • Cadmium red
  • Titanium white

Making Vermillion Red Color

Cadmium red can be described as being a color that resembles vermilion the best. To this, you can add very tiny amounts of cadmium red deep and titanium white. Try various proportions to see what will get you closest to the vermilion hue. The white will help with opacity, while the cadmium red provides the brightness.

ShadeHex CodeCMYK Color Code (%)RGB Color CodeColor
Cadmium Red Deep#b72e350, 75, 71, 28183, 46, 53 
Cadmium Red#e300220, 100, 85, 11227, 0, 34 
Titanium White#ffffff0, 0, 0, 0255, 255, 255 

In general, you could try using a cool red, small amounts of warm blue, and warm yellow in various proportions to achieve a vermilion color. To create a more comprehensive color palette, if possible, it is a good idea to always have a cool as well as warm red and a warm and cool blue, as well as a cool and warm yellow for blending purposes. 

When painting with shades of red like vermilion, you do not have to use a large amount, as even small additions can make a difference and will draw attention.



The Vermilion Color and Interior Design

The vermilion red color is a bright and bold color that can successfully be used to bring some liveliness into any room. However, the color does have some limitations, if you use too much of it, you will land in a space that is uncomfortable and overwhelming. You can also use variations of vermilion with other colors.

Vermillion Red Color


Vermilion on Walls

The best way to paint walls with vermilion is to do an accent wall and make this your focal point in a room. However, if you want a different style and a larger space, you can apply it to all the walls. Be sure to break the color with white trim and ceilings, and maybe a light wooden floor. Instead of paint, why not try patterned wallpaper for a dramatic, yet stylish effect? The vermilion color is not only for inside the house, consider painting the exterior of the home. Besides the outside walls, you can add color to the roof tiles. A vibrant vermilion shade for the front door and garage doors can also make a statement and will draw attention to those areas. 

Vermilion color can also be applied to wooden shutters, and do not forget the mailbox.


Incorporating Vermilion Accents

Besides an accent wall, there are many ways to bring in the vermilion color, without it becoming your main theme. Consider furniture pieces in vermilion, or if this is still too much, rather include vermilion colors with cushions or throws, which can easily be removed if you tire of it.

What Color Is Vermillion

Vermilion would look great paired with white, cream, gray, and shades of blue included in the color scheme. Dark wooden textures would go well. You can also bring in the vermilion color through the woodwork, like cabinets or shelves, which can act as a type of showpiece. Other ideas to bring in vermilion include the following:

  • Vermilion countertops
  • Patterned area rug
  • Vases
  • Lamps
  • Curtains
  • Vermilion-themed artwork
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Floor and wall tiles


The vermilion color is another shade of red you might want to consider adding to your color scheme arsenal when designing your next project. This shade of red will bring in some excitement and energy and makes a colorful statement. 



Frequently Asked Questions


What Color Is Vermilion?

The vermilion red color is a bright, saturated, and warm shade of red that can often be confused with other reds, for example, crimson and scarlet. However, all these are separate colors that come with individual hex color codes.


Is Vermilion Expensive?

The pure sources of the mineral cinnabar are rare and expensive, as it has always been in the past. However, the sought-after pigment color was also toxic. Today, you can still get pure vermilion, but you can get much cheaper and safer versions of the vermilion color.


What Color Paint Is Closest to Vermilion?

The paint color that you can find today that most closely represents the vermilion color is cadmium red. To the cadmium red, you can add a little cadmium red deep and white for opacity. Play around with the proportions until you get the color you are after.


Is Cinnabar a Color?

Cinnabar and vermilion are often names used for the same color. Originally, the color comes from the mineral known as cinnabar. Today, vermilion is more of a description of the color, and cinnabar is used more in reference to the mineral.


Cite this Article

Charlene, Lewis, “Vermilion Color – The Bright and Exciting Vermilion Red Color.” Art in Context. November 30, 2022. URL:

Lewis, C. (2022, 30 November). Vermilion Color – The Bright and Exciting Vermilion Red Color. Art in Context.

Lewis, Charlene. “Vermilion Color – The Bright and Exciting Vermilion Red Color.” Art in Context, November 30, 2022.

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