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— Color coordinates —
Hex triplet #DC143C
RGBB (r, g, b) (220, 20, 60)
HSV (h, s, v) (348°, 91%, 86%)
Source X11
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

Crimson is a strong, bright, deep red color combined with some blue, resulting in a tiny degree of purple. It is originally the color of the dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now also used for slightly bluish-red colors in general that are between red and rose.



Crimson was produced using the dried bodies of the kermes insect, which were gathered commercialy in Mediterranean countries, where they live on the Kermes oak, and sold throughout Europe. Kermes dyes have been found in burial wrappings in Anglo-Scandinavian York. They fell out of use with the introduction of cochineal, because although the dyes were comparable in quality and color intensity it needed ten to twelve times as much kermes to produce the same effect as cochineal.

Carmine is the name given to the dye made from the dried bodies of the female cochineal, although the name crimson is sometimes applied to these dyes too. Cochineal appears to have been discovered during the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniard Hernán Cortés, and the name 'carmine' is derived from the Spanish word for crimson. It was first described by Mathioli in 1549. The pigment is also called cochineal after the insect from which it is made.

Alizarin is a pigment that was first synthesized in 1868 by the German chemists Carl Gräbe and Carl Liebermann and replaced the natural pigment madder lake. Alizarin crimson is a dye bonded onto alum which is then used as a pigment and mixed with ochre, sienna and umber. It is not totally colorfast.


The word crimson has been recorded in English since 1400[1] , and its earlier forms include cremesin, crymysyn and cramoysin (cf. cramoisy, a crimson cloth). These were adapted via Old Spanish from the Medieval Latin cremesinus (also kermesinus or carmesinus), the dye produced from Kermes scale insects, and can be traced back to the Turkish kırmızı (red in Turkish), which in turn stems from the Sanskrit krmi-ja, a compound meaning "produced by a worm" from krmih "worm" + -ja "produced" (from the Proto-Indo-European *gene-).

A shortened form of carmesinus also gave the Latin carminus, from which comes carmine.

Other cognates include the Old Church Slavic čruminu and the Russian čermnyj "red". Cf. also vermilion.


Main article: carmine
Main article: Kermes (dye)

  Carmine dyes, which give crimson and related red and purple colors, are based on an aluminium and calcium salt of carminic acid. Carmine lake is an aluminium or aluminium-tin lake of cochineal extract, and Crimson lake is prepared by striking down an infusion of cochineal with a 5 percent solution of alum and cream of tartar. Purple lake is prepared like carmine lake with the addition of lime to produce the deep purple tone. Carmine dyes tend to fade quickly.

Carmine dyes were once widely prized in both the Americas and in Europe. They were used in paints by Michelangelo and for the crimson fabrics of the Hussars, the Turks, the British Redcoats, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Nowadays carmine dyes are used for coloring foodstuffs, medicines and cosmetics. As a food additive, carmine dyes are designated E120, and are also called cochineal and Natural Red 4. Carmine dyes are also used in some oil paints and watercolors used by artists.

Alizarin crimson

Alizarin Crimson
— Color coordinates —
Hex triplet #E32636
RGBB (r, g, b) (227, 38, 54)
HSV (h, s, v) (348°, 90%, 77%)
Source =BF2S Color Guide
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

At right is displayed the color alizarin crimson. This is an artificial created color, used to replace the difficult to obtain rose madder.

Crimson in human culture

Computer & Video Games
  • A color of Nintendo DS Lite(crimson on top, black on bottom)
  • In the arcade game The King Of Fighters, one of the main characters is called Ash Crimson owing to his red outfit and his personality.
  • Crimson is a name given to Rosso in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII for her red outfit and bloodthirsty nature.
  • In the 1997 playstation strategy game Vandal Hearts the Crimson Guard were a bloodthirsty order of knights and soldiers thats crimson armour matched the color of the blood they spilled.
  • "Death Crimson", a series of light-gun based shooters on Saturn and Dreamcast.
  • Alizarin crimson is one of the colors listed in Donovan's Wear Your Love Like Heaven.
Cultural references
  • In English, crimson is traditionally associated with the color of blood, and hence is associated with violence, courage and martyrdom. It was the most distinctive color of British officers' uniforms until the introduction of khaki camouflage, and remains in use for the colours (flag). The King's Royal Hussars still wear crimson trousers. However, the haemoglobin red is darker and has a lower chroma, and the haemoglobin molecule is structurally unrelated.
  • In Polish, karmazyn ('crimson') is also a synonym for a Magnate, i.e., a member of the nobility.
Emblem colors
  • The international non-profit Greek letter organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (ΔΣΘ), Incorporated, uses crimson and cream as its official colors.
  • Crimson is the school color of several universities, including Harvard University, Indiana University, New Mexico State University, Saint Joseph's University, University of Alabama, University of Oklahoma, University of Utah, Washington State University, Korea University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The daily newspaper at Harvard is called The Harvard Crimson, and the daily newspaper at Alabama is called The Crimson White. Harvard's athletic teams are the Crimson, while the University of Alabama competes as The Crimson Tide. The University of Kansas uses crimson paired with a deep blue to create its traditional colors.
  • Crimson is a color of several high schools. Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey, a prep school founded by Harvard graduates, has Crimson as its team names. Maple Grove Senior High School in Maple Grove, Minnesota, is called the 'Maple Grove Crimson' and the high school's colors are crimson and gold. duPont Manual High School adopted the Crimson in 1892 and the football team is known as the Manual Crimsons. The teams of Juneau-Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska are known as the 'Crimson Bears' and their colors are crimson and black.
  • In fiction, the primary villain of Stephen King's Dark Tower series is the Crimson King. The Crimson King also makes appearances in other King works, such as the novel Insomnia. Bev Vincent notes in his The Road to the Dark Tower that the color is intended to symbolize sickness, madness, and pain.
  • In the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, Calvin's alter ego 'Stupendous Man' wears a crimson outfit.
  • In the Dutch comic strip Suske en Wiske (Spike and Suzy) the name of the bad guy is Krimson
  • In the American G.I. Joe comic series, the COBRA terrorist organization's elite troopers are called the Crimson Guard.
  • King Crimson has been a popular rock group since the debut in 1969 of their first album, In the Court of the Crimson King.
  • Crimson is the title of an album by the Swedish death metal band Edge of Sanity. They also made a follow-up to that album, entitled Crimson II.
  • Crimson is the title of an Alkaline Trio album.
  • Crimson Thunder the 2002 album of Swedish power metal band Hammerfall.
  • Kill to Get Crimson is the title of Mark Knopfler's 5th solo album released in September, 2007.
  • Crimson and Clover is a song and album by Tommy James and the Shondells.
  • Behind Crimson Eyes is a rock band from Melbourne, Australia.
  • A Sentenced album.
  • On the public television show The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross usually used alizarin crimson as a color on his palette.


  1. ^ The first recorded use of crimson as a color name in English was in 1400 according to the following book: Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930--McGraw Hill Page 193; Color Sample of Crimson: Page 31 Plate 4 Color Sample K6
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.(ΚΆΨ) adopted Krimson and Kream for it's fraternal colors.

See also



  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Etymology OnLine

Alizarin Amaranth Burgundy Cardinal Carmine Cerise Chestnut Coral Red Crimson Dark Pink Falu red
Fire engine red Hollywood Cerise Magenta (Process) Maroon Mauve taupe Orange-Red Persian red Pink Persimmon Red Red-violet
Rose Ruby Rust Puce Sangria Scarlet Terra cotta Venetian red Vermilion
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Crimson". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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