How to Distinguish the Undertone of Red and Burgundy


How to Distinguish the Undertone of Red and Burgundy

All colours (apart from the orange spectrum) have a warm and cool undertone version so a colour that we may call “red”, “burgundy” or “maroon” could be either warm or cool.

Red is a colour that has many permutations, from baby pink to coral, magenta and burgundy.  Unlike blue or green, that when we add white to (tint) we just call “light blue” or “light green” and when we add black to, we call “dark blue” or “dark green”; red’s shades and tints get their own special names such as pink, not “light red” and “coral” meaning a warm light red.

Distinguishing the Undertone of Red

To tell the difference between a warm undertone red and cool undertone red it’s all about the yellow and blue.

Add a little yellow to your red (more tomato) and it becomes warmer in undertone.

Add a little blue to your red (more raspberry) and it becomes cooler.

How to differentiate a warm burgundy from a cool one?

Burgundy is basically a darker shade of red (a shade is a colour with black added to it).

Just like with the red, adding a little yellow to a shaded red turns it slightly browner and makes it warmer.

How to differentiate warm from cool burgund

Whilst the cool burgundy shades may have either a little more blue (so it’s a dark pink), or just a little more black.

You can see in this image above that the warmer burgundy shades look a little more “burnt”.

While here I’m wearing a very cool burgundy (that looks like a dark pink colour).

How to differentiate between warm and cool reds and burgundies

More Tips on Distinguishing The Undertone of Colours

How to Pick the Undertone of Blue Like an Expert

How to Pick the Undertone of Yellow

How to Pick the Undertone of a Colour

How to Pick Colour Undertones

Think Pink – FABruary Style Challenge

Choosing the Right Green

How to Pick a Warm or Cool Beige



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  • Imogen this is very interesting. My palette is Sophisticated and I was surprised to not find a smoky Burgundy in my palette. The Crimson Red in my swatch looks a bit warm to me. The Rowdy “red” swatch does appear cool, but not Burgundy. Hawthorn is next in my swatch and appears to be a muted rose. Is darker Burgundy a color I should stay away from since it is not in my swatch? Is Maroon the same color as Burgundy or is Maroon a warm version?

    • HI Diane, colour names like maroon and burgundy are all just arbitrary names for darker reds (sorry I thought I’d made that clear in the post, my mistake). A colour palette is just a very very very very small sample of the colours you can wear – any colour just has to “go” with or “blend” with the swatch as I explain in this video You may have a very specific idea of what “burgundy” is – remember that you can go darker and lighter than any colour in your swatch – so just choose darker versions of the reds with a simlilar undertone and instensity and you will have found your “burgundy”.

  • Thanks, Imogen. I need to replace some dated gray garments. I need the cool undertones. Please give some clues and examples of warm vs. cool gray. with appreciation…

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