The Color Red in Fine Art and Decorating

Thomas McKnight Framed ArtRed décor is certainly a bold statement by anyone’s standards… but is it too bold? What would it feel like to be engulfed by red decor? How does fine art look on red walls?

The color red is associated with honor, Love, intimacy, passion, sensuality, vitality and anger. Red can make one feel irritated or more aggressive. It has been known to stimulate the adrenal glands and the appetite, which is why some restaurants incorporate red into their décor.

Red rooms aren’t unusual, but they can be unique and luxurious, if done with a little sophistication.

George, a decorative artist is used to painting boldly colored rooms for his high-end clientele. He commented,

“I painted a red music room that overlooked the seashore from a wall sized picture window. The central focus of the room was a long black lacquered harpsichord that stood in front of the window as you entered the room through tall double doors. It was an older home with wide moldings and plaster walls. A Hearth stood adjacent to the window wall. The plaster relief ceiling was painted a cool flat white. The walls and trim-work were glazed a darker red striated over a lighter one in high gloss.”

George said that the effect of the glazed red room was absolutely regal and elegant. However, he warned that the right intensity of the final red glaze was accomplished with some expertise.

“Painting walls a high gloss red is like taming a beautiful wild animal. The key is not to be afraid of it. There are ways to calm its wild nature, but you don’t want to kill its spirit.”

He goes on to say, “Painting the entire room in the same glazed red effect instead of painting the trim-work white, unified the room so the eye could rest. Even the drapes on the window wall were red. It made the room look larger.”

Red is a blanket term for various kinds of red. It can actually be a cool purple-red hue, or all the way to a warm yellow-red hue. Commercial paint stores offer various shades of each color, but the intensity must be done as a custom mix.

Artists often alter reds as well, but obtaining the desired red, its shade or value and intensity is often easier to create in artist’s pigments.

If the paint store doesn’t have your choice in reds, it is possible to mix a color swatch of artist’s pigments and bring it to the paint store for a computer analysis. The computer can choose the universal pigments needed to make up your color choice. There is sometimes some tweaking to do, but it can help. A knowledgeable paint store color specialist would be of great assistance, as well.

It is important to remember that your lighting affects the color, intensity and value of your red. Although there are some general guidelines, your room will have the final say in how your red reveals itself. Colors are often lighter and brighter on the wall than on the color chip, but fortunately, if a first coat is applied to the walls, smaller areas can be recoated to help you see how that color will show. Often, color tweaking is done in the consecutive coat[s] of paint.

If you are working with either a red fabric or reds within the color scheme of a fabric, it can guide your paint color choice as well. A perfect match isn’t necessary to get a great overall effect.

Your artwork may have some reds in it too, but it’s not necessary in order to be visually supported by your red room. Some art museums use red walls as a backdrop for paintings.

A great source for viewing a collection of Thomas Mcknight’s artwork, or to purchase prints of his work, visit

Leagh Janell is passionate about fine art and decorating. His 30 years as a fine artist and decorative artist for a high profile clientele have afforded him some authority in those fields. At present, Mr. Janell writes for Framed Art Decor.


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