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Template:Infobox color 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 commercially 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.


Carminic acid

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

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The shade of red on the infobox to the right is alizarin crimson. This is an artificially created color, used to replace the harder to obtain rose madder.

Crimson in human culture

Computer & Video Games
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
  • In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah uses crimson to symbolize sin. Isaiah 1:18 states, "Come now let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool."
  • 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.


  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

See also



Template:Shades of red fa:زرشکی ko:심홍색 it:Cremisi (colore) he:ארגמן simple:Crimson sr:Гримизна боја sv:Karmosinröd