Color Guide: How to Use Red Ocher

Red ocher is yellow ocher’s fraternal twin. Both are ancient colours initially derived from clays and minerals. Both were utilized extensively in ancient artwork (Cro-Magnon artists used it to paint caves), and both are still utilized in traditional artwork and layout from Africa to Australia.

Red ocher is the color of the clay the Namibian lady squirt in their hair and skin. It is the color of the cliffs of Sedona, Arizona, along with the dust in Kauai, Hawaii. It is red and orange and brown all wrapped into one — almost burnt orange, almost barn red, almost terra-cotta brown. It is burnt umber, sienna, copper. Almost.

Like its yellow sister, red ocher is rich, warm and mellow. There is not any such thing as a cool ocher. Nonetheless, it’s the dramatic of the two and not as able to blend in the background. It is earthy and organic looking, reminiscent of autumn and flame and grime (and I mean that in the nicest way).

It goes nicely with warm whites and yellows, and all sorts of fall colours. It also looks amazing with charcoal gray, which tames it somewhat (think slate and terra-cotta together). I also enjoy it with grass green and azure blue — also colours of the planet.

As you can see in the 17 illustrations below, it’s versatile too, playing nicely with all manner of styles — from Southwest to traditional to contemporary.

FORMA Design

Red Ocher about the Walls

Red ocher accent walls flank a dove-gray chimney and also add a lot of warmth to this understated, contemporary room.

Zuniga Interiors

An extremely bright, very orange red ocher causes this conventional room sizzle. Dare I say sexy? Who would have thought?

ARTISSIMO – Idit Deutsch

The real red ocher is that strip right above the mantel that looks almost brown, but these fall-friendly ochers are all in the exact same household and look good together.

McCroskey Interiors

Another formal room in red ocher. Maybe it’s because it’s so ancient and elemental, yet this color really does go with each style. I mean I can envision John Adams sitting.

Mark Newman Design

A brown and orange variant — like a sunset against the reddish faces in Zion National Park or Ayers Rock in Australia — in a modern setting. Like other warm colours, red ocher is supposed to stimulate the appetite, which makes it ideal for a dining room.

Abelow Sherman Architects LLC

The brick wall along with the timber flooring are red ocher.

House + House Architects

A red ocher. Warm and earthy but still contemporary.

Welch Forsman Associates

Red ocher glass tiles. This kitchen is crisp and clean and wholly contemporary. Nonetheless, it is not chilly, in large part because of the tile.

Burnham Design

Decorating With Red Ocher

Red ocher accents within this diverse room — take a look at the window therapy — add a little flame to the room. Notice the hot white and the blue.

Chloe Warner

Some call this midcentury modern favorite orange. But we know it’s really red ocher (an orangey one).

Valerie Wills Interiors

Gray, white and red ocher. I just love this color combination. It might look great in an outside also.

Rikki Snyder

A layered mess of ochers, oranges, reds and browns makes for a bohemian-chic little napping area.

The dashes of red ocher add brightness and warmth to this large contemporary room.

Jay Vanos Architects

Adobe. Now this is the real thing: reddish dirt.

House + House Architects

Red ocher adobe from purple. This has Mexican layout written all over it.

The building zone, ltd..

The mountains of Sedona glow red ocher, and the paneling on this home almost gets there also.

Tom Hurt Architecture

Red ocher accents on the outside of this modern house bring its bones out and also look good with green.


Roycroft Copper Red 2829 Paint

A dark red version.

Benjamin Moore Brick Red 2084-10 Ben Paint – $35.95

Lighter and having a little more brown.

Benjamin Moore

Tea Paint

A medium brown version, with lots of pink.


Spicy Hue SW6342 Paint

Quite orange — this really is the red-rocks-at-sunset color.


Rookwood Terra Cotta SW2803 Paint

A light, brown version.

Benjamin Moore

Egyptian Clay CSP-1140 Paint

A Great Deal of pink. This is almost like a brown salmon.


Red Cent Paint

An even lighter variant of red ocher, still with lots of pink.


Decorous Amber SW0007 Paint

Nearly terra-cotta. But still ocher.

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