What colour is found on 70 of the world’s flags?

Flags are powerful national symbols that convey important information about the countries they represent. From a distance, the colors and patterns of a flag can immediately identify which nation it belongs to. Upon closer inspection, the specific design elements communicate deeper meaning about a country’s history, culture, and values.

When studying flags from around the world, some interesting trends emerge. One of the most notable is the prevalence of certain colors that appear over and over again. In fact, there is one color that is found on approximately 70% of all national flags – red.

The Use of Red in Flags

Red is by far the most commonly used color in flags. It is estimated that red appears on the national flags of over 170 countries worldwide. That means about 70% of the world’s flags contain the color red.

So why is red so popular for flag design? There are a few key reasons:

Symbolic Meaning

The color red carries important symbolism in many cultures. It is most strongly associated with concepts like courage, revolution, passion, sacrifice, and bloodshed. For many nations, especially those that gained independence through conflict and struggle, red evokes the spirit of the fight for freedom.

In heraldic tradition, red is the color of military strength and fortitude. Placing red on a national flag connects to values like bravery, determination, and resilience.

Easy to Produce

In historical times, red was one of the easiest and cheapest colors to produce for fabrics. Natural dyes from plants and insects were readily available to create red pigments.

Compared to other colored dyes that were more labor-intensive and expensive, red was much more accessible. This practical reason helped elevate red as a staple color for early flags and heraldic banners.


Red is also one of the most visible colors, especially from a distance. In the context of battlefield identification and maritime signaling, red banners stood out clearly and distinctly.

The high visibility and recognition factor of red made it a prime color for establishing the identity of a military regiment or signaling a ship’s nationality from afar. This contributed to its widespread adoption as the predominant color in national flags.

Countries with Red in Their Flags

With about three-quarters of the world’s approximately 200 national flags containing red, there are far too many to list. However, some of the most recognizable and iconic red flag designs include:

United States

The flag of the United States features bold red-and-white stripes along with a blue canton containing 50 white stars. Adopted in 1777 during the American Revolution, the U.S. flag’s red stripes symbolize the bloodshed and sacrifice of the fight for independence.

United Kingdom

The flag of the United Kingdom, commonly known as the Union Jack, incorporates red crosses from the national flags of England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland on a blue field. The red in the UK flag connects to the heritage of the former British Empire.


The flag of the People’s Republic of China is entirely red, representing the communist revolution. The large gold star represents the Chinese Communist Party, and the smaller stars symbolize China’s position as the leader of the Chinese people.


The Russian tricolor flag contains an equal horizontal triband of white, blue, and red. The red band directly recalls the red of the USSR’s communist flag and honors Russia’s revolutionary history.


The French national flag bears vertical blue, white, and red bands. France was one of the earliest nations to utilize a tricolor design. The blue and red were the colors of Paris, while white represented the monarchy.


Canada’s distinctive maple leaf flag, adopted in 1965, places a red maple leaf on a white square background with red borders. The red maple leaf is a nationally recognized symbol of Canada.

Many More

In addition to these examples, many other major nations like India, Mexico, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, Japan, South Korea, and Australia incorporate red in their flags. Red is also common on the flags of many countries across South America, Central America, the Middle East, and Africa.

Other Prominent Flag Colors

While red dominates in terms of prevalence, some other colors that frequently appear on the flags of the world include:


White is simplicity, purity, and peace in symbolic color meanings. It is often used to represent snow, ice, or neutrality. White appears on the flags of 17 countries.


Blue represents concepts like vigilance, truth, loyalty, and perseverance. The blue often depicted is dark navy blue. There are 14 national flags with blue.


The color green is associated with nature, agriculture, growth, and Islam. 13 flags feature green, such as the flags of Nigeria, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia.


Yellow conjures up meanings like prosperity, sunshine, and Buddhism. National flags like Lithuania, Malaysia, and Chad utilize yellow.


Black represents solidity, strength, and determination. It appears on the national flags of 12 countries, including Eritrea and Belarus.

While additional colors see some use, red, white, blue, green, yellow, and black account for the vast majority of non-red colors utilized in flags.

Noteworthy Non-Red Flag Designs

Despite the popularity of red, there are also many national flags that do not contain any red at all. Here are some of the most recognizable national flags that do not use the color red:


Nepal’s distinctive double pennant flag, adopted in 1962, features stylized symbols of the sun and moon in white on a crimson background. The triangular shapes represent the Himalayan Mountains.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian flag displays a green field and white sword, with Arabic script written in green. The green represents Islam and the sword represents military power.


Libya’s flag consists of a simple green field with no additional symbols or designs. It is the only national flag in the world with just one color and no design elements.

Turks and Caicos Islands

This British overseas territory features a blue flag with the red and white shield from the territory’s coat of arms. The blue represents the surrounding ocean.


The vivid yellow and blue trident flag of Barbados is notable for its striking use of primary colors. The trident symbol was adapted from the country’s coat of arms.

South Africa

South Africa’s most recent flag design dates to 1994 with the end of apartheid. It includes horizontal stripes of red, white, blue, green, black and yellow, representing unity.

Many African Nations

The flags of many countries in Africa utilize the colors green, yellow, and black rather than red. This is in part due to the significance of green representing the continent’s landscape and black symbolizing its people.

Oldest National Flag Designs Still in Use

While many countries have changed their flags over the years, there are a few very old national flag designs that have remained in continuous use. Here are three of the oldest national flags still used today:


The Danish flag dates back to at least the 13th century, making it the oldest unchanged national flag design in the world. The white Scandinavian cross and red background represent Christianity and the sacrifices of Denmark’s patron saint.


The flag of the Netherlands features horizontal red, white, and blue bands. It was first introduced in 1572 during the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule. Orange – the color of the Dutch royal family – was later replaced with red.


The Swiss flag, with its distinctive square shape, was formally established in its current form in 1889. However, the design is based on 14th century military banners from the original cantons of Switzerland.

Recent Notable Flag Redesigns

While some flags have endured essentially unchanged for centuries, other nations have undergone major flag redesigns and adoptions in the modern era:

Canada (1965)

Canada did away with its traditional British-based Red Ensign flag and replaced it with the distinctively Canadian maple leaf design in 1965.

South Africa (1994)

With the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa’s flag was redesigned to represent unity and a new democratic era. The old 1928 flag was discarded.

Georgia (2004)

Georgia adopted its current flag featuring five red crosses on a white background after a peaceful Rose Revolution in 2003. It replaced the post-Soviet design.

Fiji (2014)

Fiji updated its flag in 2014, replacing colonial symbols with a light blue field displaying traditional navigation symbols in white.

New Zealand (2015)

After holding a public referendum, New Zealand decided to retain their current flag and not adopt a newly proposed silver fern design.

Country Flag Adoption Year
Canada 1965
South Africa 1994
Georgia 2004
Fiji 2014
New Zealand 2015 (retained current flag)

Most Complex Flag Designs

While some flags like Poland, Italy, and Ireland feature only two colors and very simple designs, others have much more complex and intricate details. Here are some national flags considered to have the most complex designs:


The central emblem on Mexico’s flag, based on Aztec legend, features an eagle standing on a cactus and eating a snake. The surrounding wreath contains dozens of intricate leaves and the eagle has minute details in its plumage.


Belize’s flag displays a coat of arms crowded with mahogany and tools representing logging, waves symbolizing the sea, and a motto on a banner.


Rwanda’s flag has a large golden sun with wavy multi-colored rays over a green field. In the upper left are a blue strip and gold Rwanda emblem.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda’s flag features a central emblem of a yellow sun rising over blue and white imagery of a sugar plantation on a red backdrop.


The flag of Turkmenistan contains a centralized carpet gul design that itself has intricate geometric shapes and patterns in red, green and white.


The sizes of national flags are standardized based on proportions rather than absolute dimensions. Here is a ranking of countries by the relative size of their flags, from largest to smallest:

Rank Country Flag Aspect Ratio
1 Nepal 1.41
2 Switzerland 1.20
3 Vatican City 1.20
4 Denmark 1.18
5 Monaco 1.17
171 Nigeria 1.00
172 Zambia 1.00
173 Albania 1.00
174 Algeria 1.00
175 Angola 1.00

Flags like Nepal, Switzerland, and Denmark have longer aspect ratios, making them some of the largest proportional flags. Flags of Zambia, Algeria, Angola, and over 100 others conform to an equal-sided 1:1 aspect ratio, ranking them among the smallest proportional flags.


Red dominates as the most popular color on national flags, appearing on about 70% of flags worldwide. This prevalence stems from practical factors like visibility and production cost, along with symbolic meanings of revolution, passion, sacrifice, and courage associated with the color red.

While red is the most ubiquitous, other colors like white, blue, green, yellow, and black hold meaning and make appearances in many national flags. Some flags forgo red entirely, like those of African nations emphasizing black and green or island nations highlighting blue and white.

Flag designs range from impressively simple to remarkably intricate and detailed. The flags of countries like Mexico, Turkmenistan, and Belize exemplify especially complex flag art. While new flags are adopted from time to time, the oldest flag designs, like those of Denmark and Switzerland, have remained constant for centuries.

No matter a flag’s colors, complexity, shapes, or symbols, national flags universally represent the identities, beliefs, and ideals of the countries they embody. Red’s popularity and the diversity of other creative flag designs reflect the breadth of human culture and history across our world’s nations.

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