Discover pink’s symbolic meanings and fascinating history, as well as how to team with other colors to create a cutting-edge design scheme. Pick up pro tips on how to design and decorate using the color pink in this complete guide.
A tint of red, pink is more delicate and playful than its crimson cousin. From baby girls to punk rock, pink has diverse associations that give it exciting potential as a color to use across a variety of designs.
Widely considered as a female-gendered color, pink has tender and romantic leanings, rooted in a deep historic connection with femininity and children. However, it was only in the 1940s that pink became the symbolic color for girls. Learn about this and more fascinating facts about pink below.
Skip to the end of the article to discover three on-trend pink color palettes to use in your designs. You can also discover a whole spectrum of incredible colors to use in your designs with our new color tool.
TANK magazine editor Caroline Issa heads to a fashion show at Paris fashion week. Image by contributor DKSStyle.
How is Pink Made?
Pink is not featured on a traditional painter’s color wheel, because it is a tint of red, rather than a color in itself. Pink is achieved by mixing white with red, to create a pale version of red.
In this color wheel taken from The Colorist, published in the early 20th century, you can see that neither ‘pink’ nor its Latin-derived equivalent ‘rose’ are featured on the diagram.
However, modern color wheels often feature pink, alongside it’s neighboring colors, red and mauve. Pink sits along the visible light spectrum between red and white.
Color wheel images adapted from contributor Antun Hirsman
Varieties of Pink
Pink is a tint of red, meaning that it is achieved by mixing white with red to achieve a gradually paler effect. Paler shades of pink are created by adding more white to red pigment. Darker shades of pink are achieved by mixing more red or adding a small amount of black to the color.
Pink can also be mixed with other colors, like brown, yellow, orange, and violet, to achieve a variety of different pinks. Dusty rose, for example, is created by combining pink and violet, to create a muted pink, while coral pink contains orange, creating a vibrant pink color. Blush contains a hefty dose of purple to create a solid, grown-up pink hue.
Pink has a very broad range of hues, many of which have been identified in historical documents and literature, and each has their own unique mood. Powder pink is a pale shade of pink that is particularly delicate and tender. Cameo pink recalls the shade of the inside of conch shells, and is fresh and sophisticated. Camellia rose is named after the vivaciously-pigmented Japanese flower.
Image by contributor oasis2me.
Beyond this simple range, however, there are more than twenty historically named reds identified by color experts, including carmine (a highly saturated red), ruby (originating from the color of the namesake gemstone), cinnabar (an orange shade of red) and madder (which takes its name from a dye sourced from Rubia or “madder” plants).
You can delve into the world of pink with the Shutterstock color tool, which explores palettes and images related to a variety of romantic and elegant pinks, including flamingo pink, magenta pink, hot pink, and peach pink.
Pink’s Complementary Color
Although as mentioned above, pink doesn’t strictly feature on a traditional color wheel, a pale tint of red would sit opposite to pale or lime green. This means that pink and green work seamlessly together as a contrasting color pairing.
Color wheel images adapted from contributor Antun Hirsman
The Meaning of Pink
Pink is the combination of two colors with contrasting meanings and moods. Pink combines the passion and energy of red with the purity and innocence of white, giving it an energetic, youthful, and tender energy. Pink is generally perceived as a positive emotional color, provoking feelings of gentleness, harmony, and openness.
Pink has a variety of associations and meanings, including:
Pink is often associated with friendship and compassion. Many nursing and care professionals worldwide wear pink uniforms.
Pink is traditionally the color of girls and femininity (though discover more about how this came about, below). It’s also often connected with kindness, care, romance, and love. It is the only color that is generally gender-specific, meaning that the cultural association of pink with females has given women almost exclusive ownership of pink.
However, in America pink does have a history of association with male sport, giving it the double-association of being a preppy, hyper-masculine color in some sectors of society.
Leonardo DiCaprio in Jay Gatsby’s famous pink suit in The Great Gatsby. In early 20th century America, pink was associated with male sports and extravagant wealth.
When combined with some colors, pink can take on specific cultural meanings. When combined with white, pink is associated with children and innocence. Paired with black, pink can be linked to eroticism, seduction, and the exotic.
The Origins of Pink
Pink occurs in nature in sunrises, sunsets, in the coloring of tropical birds such as flamingoes, some gemstones such as rhodochrosite, and in a variety of flowering plants such as roses and cherry blossoms. From early in human existence, pink has been a constant feature, and many ancient writers refer to the color.
Image by contributor jdross75.
In Homer’s Odyssey, written in the 8th Century BC, he referred to pink as the rosy color of dawn: “Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered dawn appeared…”
In Roman culture the Latin term roseus, taken from the flower of the same name, was used to refer to pink. The word pink was first used to refer to a color much later, in the 17th century.
Although pink was not a fashionable color during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, pink’s connections with femininity and childhood can be seen in some paintings depicting the Virgin Mary and Christ. In the Renaissance-era painting the Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael, the Christ child is pictured giving a pink flower to his mother. In this and other religious paintings, pink came to be symbolic of marriage and the bond between mothers and their children.
During the 18th century, pink was extremely fashionable among European royalty. Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV of France, was particularly fond of pink, and the color came to be associated with seduction and romance when several famous mistresses, such as Horatio Nelson’s mistress, Lady Hamilton, chose to be painted wearing the color.
In 19th century England, little boys dressed in pink clothing and pink ribbons. Treated as little men, pink was considered the diluted version of red, the color of military uniforms.
Jean Monet on His Hobby Horse by Claude Monet, 1872. Image by contributor Everett – Art.
In the 20th century, pink came to be strongly associated with women. This stemmed from the post-war period, when pink was assigned to denote the female gender, and blue assigned for men. Championed by stylish first ladies, including Mamie Eisenhower and Jacqueline Kennedy, and fashion designers like Elsa Schiaparelli (whose hot magenta pink clothes were a signature), pink quickly became a color beloved by movie stars and fashion-conscious women in the 1950s and 1960s.
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner…I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
– Audrey Hepburn
Image by contributor andersphoto.
The status of pink as a feminine color was reclaimed and radically reshaped by the punk rock movement. Hot and neon pinks were often used on gig posters and album covers. Combined with newspaper collage styling and confrontational type and images, pink became a symbol of rebellion and anarchy.
In the later 20th century, pink also came to be associated with the gay rights movement, which stemmed historically from the fact that inmates in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear pink triangles if accused of homosexuality.
Originating from the LGBTQ community’s connection with pink, and its associations with gender fluidity and rejection of conservatism, pink has come to be symbolic of the millennial generation. “Millennial Pink,” a fleshy pink color, is exceptionally popular with millennial-aged consumers.
In 2016, Pantone declared a soft pink, Rose Quartz, to be their Color of the Year, in combination with Serenity, a tranquil pale blue.
Image by contributor Fangfy.
How to Design with Pink
Pink doesn’t need to be treated with caution. Despite its reputation as a sweet and girlish color, it can actually bring an exceptionally grown-up and sophisticated quality to designs in the right context and when teamed with the right colors.
Interior designers are rediscovering pink and finding that it brings a softness and beauty to schemes that would otherwise be a little dark and moody. Teaming pink with rich, dark colors, like charcoal, black, and navy create interior schemes that balance femininity and masculinity.
Image by contributor NastyaYeah.
In this brand identity designed by Sebastian Bednarek for Italian woodworking business Mimosa, a pale shell pink is used as an accent color, contrasting with rich bottle green and metallic gold, for an effortlessly luxurious color combination.
Brand identity by Sebastian Bednarek for Mimosa.
While orange-pink hues like apricot and peach might have once seemed outdated, these 1970s-inspired pinks are currently enjoying a well-deserved revival in design.
Teaming coral pink or peach pink with related shades of rust, maroon, and orange can look fresh and soothing in interiors, and have the ability to give branding projects a contemporary retro feel. Coral or pale pinks also look beautiful paired with warm natural textures, like rattan and wood.
Image by contributor Photographee.eu.
In these music posters by Spanish designer Quim Marin, he explores how pink can be teamed with hot coral, cobalt blue, and beige for a color combination that is completely contemporary and subtly striking.
Poster designs by Quim Marin.
What Colors Go With Pink?
Colors that go with pink depend on the type of color scheme you want to use:
A monochromatic pink color scheme uses paler tints and darker shades of pink to create an entirely pink palette.
A complementary pink color scheme incorporates pale or lime green. Pink’s neighbor colors, red and mauve, are complementary to dark green and green respectively.
An analogous pink color scheme uses the colors bordering pink on either side of the color wheel. Although pink is a tint of red, and therefore not strictly on the color wheel, its bordering colors are considered to be red and mauve.
A triadic pink color scheme includes blue and golden yellow since they are equidistant from pink on a modern color wheel.
To find the colors and exact hex codes that go with pink, use our color combinations tool. It shows you monochromatic, analogous, triadic, and contrasting color palettes for a variety of pink shades. Try a scheme with flamingo pink, magenta pink, hot pink, or peach pink.
Below, discover three cutting-edge, pre-made color palettes for the color pink.
Palette 1: Art School
Pink has a playful, youthful energy when teamed with blue. This palette has a 1980s art influence, with cobalt blue, tomato red, and charcoal black combining with soft blush pink. This is the perfect palette for illustration or poster work.
Palette 2: Seventies Luxe
Pink looks so luxurious when teamed with rich grown-up shades of bottle green and gold. This palette is sophisticated and soothing, with a rich brown hue giving the palette a slightly 1970s feel. This palette would be a great way of introducing peach pearl pink into an interior’s scheme in an elegant way.
Palette 3: Hot to Trot
Hot, vibrant pinks can be tricky to design with, as they can sometimes look overly girlish or too punk-rock. This palette shows how a version of hot pink can combine with a deep wine red, aqua, and peach pearl for a grounded and fashionable color scheme.
Eager to discover more incredible colors to use in your designs?
Cover image via contributor DKSStyle
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