The Color of Demons

Okay, before you read the rest of this post, what color are demons? Not in Nita’s book, in real life. When you think of demons, cartoon demons, movie demons, whatever, what color are they?

Decide before you read the rest of this.

So I googled for text answers and found out that demons come in different colors–really, don’t google “demons”–but mostly they’re red and yellow. (Yellow? Really?) Then I googled for demon images and found a lot of red, black and gray. When I googled for demon clip art, it was overwhelmingly red, with a few blue ones mixed in.

So did any of you reading this think, “Wait. Demons aren’t green . . .” I like it that it’s the wrong color because that’s a huge clue that whoever designed the amusement park knew demons were real because that person started the whole green make-up bit. (Reverse-engineering, it is my specialty.) Is this one of those thing where Mort says “Demons are green” and then later Dag and Rab are green, so you as a reader say, “Okay, in this world, demons are green”?

In other news, I spent some time on those next scene sequences and finally admitted to myself what I’d known all along but had been avoiding: Nick’s scenes suck. (That’s a technical term.) And Mort would be doing things differently in Nita’s scenes. So I’m tearing apart Nick’s scenes and going through Nita’s again. So no scenes today. Scenes tomorrow, demons today.

Also, I’m thinking of getting another tattoo. Oh, and carolc, I have not forgotten this:

“Wait. Soft and hard turning points? Why haven’t I heard of this before? Can we have a Questionable on the difference between soft and hard turning points?”

I just haven’t gotten to it. Short answer, that’s something I made up for my own work, not anything that’s official. But I can certainly talk about it. Once I get Nick’s scenes out of Suck.

Because I was asked, here’s the tattoo I want:

60 thoughts on “The Color of Demons

  1. For me it’s not that demons are a consistent color, it’s just that they’re always the worst version of a color. If it’s red, it’s a burnt, dull red. If it’s blue it’s somehow an angry, dull blue. If it’s yellow it’s dirty mustard yellow. I think my images of demons were heavily influenced by Fantasia and disney movies circa The Black Caldron.

    I didn’t picture a green demon, but I also never went “demons aren’t green” when reading your drafts. Maybe because of the absinthe devil green illustrations I’ve seen?

    Go you for figuring out what wasn’t working in your draft. And go you for having the courage to go in there and fix it. It’s both inspiring and reassuring to see your process.

    1. I think you nailed it with the “worst version of a color”. I looked at the range of colors in Jenny’s row of demons and thought, huh, the two colors at the opposite ends (red, purple). Why? you ask — no idea.

      But then I realized two things: 1) these demon avatars were too “friendly” (smiling, dancing), and 2) the colors were too friendly (like in kids’ toys).

      But if you take the nastiest variations of each color, and the nastiest looking demon figures, it kind of doesn’t matter what color you choose, the result would be revolting, scary, disturbing. Very demon-like.

    2. Yeah, I had no problem with green demons in the drafts. When I thought about it, I also thought “worst version of the color” and lots of dull, bug-like colors, black eyes, etc. But then again, I don’t necessarily think of demons as human-like! I liked Dag and Rab anyway.

  2. Absinthe devil green, oh yes. Really, excepting the absinthe, a devil color is a dirty color. Deep down dirty. Keith Richards playing the blues down dirty. And then even dirtier than that.

  3. Black. I had to think about it really hard – pretty sure I’ve never tried to picture a demon before, but when I got there, they were black as night, shrieking, and mostly teeth. Possibly with yellow eyes. That’ll definitely help me sleep tonight.

    Your demons however are friendly in comparison. The green didn’t trip me at all.

    1. No black demons. Or brown. Or coffee color. Any color picked has to make it clear there are no racial overtones.

      And I know there were none intended. But some people will go there anyway.

  4. Colour didn’t matter to me but all the depictions of pointed ears have left an impression.

    I’ve gotten a pomodoro app and am working to it. I over estimated how much work I have but getting one part done is a start.

    Have tried to push through our long weekend. Will have to push through the week to get theother part done.

    1. Animal-like goat ears, which are pointy-er than human ears. Or like the master in Buffy.

      MJ- trying so hard but trying to work smart too!

  5. I vacillated between blue and green, I don’t know why. Maybe because blue or green are obviously not human or not healthy human? Red was in the mix too, but that is just the stereotype popping up.

    1. And old school green meant Mr. Spock, who was occasionally called a demon for being green (maybe that was in fanfic though).

  6. Red, bruise-purple, black.
    I had the exact reaction you describe: “Oh – in this world demons are green.” And moved right on.
    CateM’s “worst version of a color” is perfect.

  7. For the book I am writing that has demons, Fra Angelico is canonical. So my demons look just the way he painted them, in those colours. They also, when in our world, look like gargoyles. Gargoyles were sculpted from life. The huge advantage of this from my point of view is that I can use other people’s imagination, and also other people’s imagination which my readers will be at least semi familiar with. It means I can have the kind of details I couldn’t make up, just by google image searching gargoyles. But gargoyles are stone — when they appear in my story, they’re flesh coloured, which makes them very disturbing. There’s a problem with mixing supernatural things in the real world that the real world is at a certain level of reality, and when you mix in the supernatural it needs to be at the same level of reality. If I make it all up and try to mix it in, I find it hard to get that level of reality right, the way real things are actually slightly illogical, or have second order consequences. So this kind of thing helps.

    And now I want to work on Lent and not on the thing I’m supposed to be working on, but never mind!

    1. Oh, I love that, that gargoyles are sculpted from life. That’s wonderful.

      I’m just going with “they look just like us because they are like us.”

  8. I hadn’t thought about demons that hard. I know Hellboy, and he’s red, and I know devils are canonically red because Joni Mitchell told me so:

    “Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe
    And I will buy you a bottle of wine
    And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and
    Smash our empty glasses down
    Let’s have a round for these freaks and these soldiers
    A round for these friends of mine
    Let’s have another round for the bright red devil, who
    Keeps me in this tourist town”

    but demons just don’t cross my mind that often.

  9. Demons to me are black with eyes that glow red when angered. Maybe they’re gray as they age. Do demons age?
    I like that your demons are a bilious green.

    1. They’re not a bilious green. Some of them are quite lovely.
      They come in shades of green, just as humans come in shades of brown. (Nobody’s white unless they’re dead or albino. Some of us are just really pale brown.)

      1. Yes: I always describe my original colour as pale green; although I developed more colour when I spent a couple of years in sunny places, thirty years ago – so even a bit of English sun tops it back up each summer.

        1. The incredibly off-putting and yet disturbingly accurate description of my skin comes from the Appalachian region of Kentucky. I’m either “fish-belly white” or “like a grub.”

          Oh! With freckles. I used to pray they would merge and I’d have a tan. LOL.

          And people wonder where I get my lack of self-esteem.

        1. Alis, it’s not just Appalachian or Kentuckian. My mother grew up in south Alabama, and one of her high school friends told her, on seeing her in a bathing suit, “Weezie, you’ve got fish-belly legs.”

    2. That’s what I was picturing too, Robena. Black with red eyes, but then on Sleepy Hollow, the demon is this good looking humanoid person. His eyes glow and he can start fire with his hands.

  10. Bilious green is good. Dirty chartreuse. Dirty pond slime green. Or hey – sprayed-on-tan orange! With a bad comb-over!

  11. If you’re going to go with a science-ish justification, then they’re whatever color is an adaptation to their environment.
    Based on Earth animals, things tend to be more vivid colors in the tropical areas (hot and humid), but otherwise are mostly about being the color of what’s around them, for camouflage. Dull greys/greens/browns in the mountains, yellows/greens/browns in the plains, browns/oranges for the desert, white in the snow, etc.

    Bright colors seem to be reserved for animals that can survive being seen by predators (either because they are the local predator, they’re tough enough to fight back, or have means of escape like flying), and for genders that have to impress the other gender for reproductive rights. Protectors of the babies are more camouflage-colored.

    Glowing eyes are about having night-vision. (They have a reflective surface on the back of their eyes, so that the minimal light in dark places is amplified within the eye.)

    So demons would probably be colored like the areas of hell they’re from, or colored such that they can hide from what hunts them. They would have glowing eyes if they do a majority of their activities in the dark.

    1. Not any more than human beings. They’re a different branch of homo sapiens, so the way the environment affects the way humans look is the way it would affect them. THey’re green because of the chlorophyll in their blood, but the lightness of darkness of the green, whether they’re green, blue-green, or yellow-green, I can see that being affected by environment.

      1. Hrm, humans’ color is determined by 1) blood color, as you’ve pointed out, and 2) the need for our organs to be protected from UV, with the melanin chemical good at dissipating UV radiation. The color is a side effect of melanin concentration. (That is, something that is the same color but not painted using melanin as the pigment may still not be as effective as UV dissipation.)

        So if demons are a primate offshoot, then:
        1) Is a point of evolutionary divergence whether or not they’re affected by UV the same way? Are they affected by a different type of radiation, and therefore use a different chemical/color to dissipate?
        2) Is a point of evolutionary divergence that their bodies produce another chemical that is more effective than melanin (and a different color)?

        And then variations in color could come from either the different levels of radiation from the various regions they come from, or from the different chemicals they use to dissipate it. If the former, then you have one shade across all demons that just varies in concentration. If the latter, then you can have a spectrum of different colors.

        1. Well, they evolved in Hell which has a completely different environment. I don’t have the science background to extrapolate that ecology from “they’re green because of chlorophyll in their blood” so we’ll just go with “Because.”
          But they’re similar to humans because I need that for the book to work (SCIENCE! Uh, no.) So again, I haven’t really spent that much time on it.

          1) Is a point of evolutionary divergence whether or not they’re affected by UV the same way? Are they affected by a different type of radiation, and therefore use a different chemical/color to dissipate?
          The UV wouldn’t be UV in Hell, I think. I honestly haven’t thought the ecology of Hell through, or where the species originally began. Possibly there were primates in hell and they escaped to earth and then the two species evolved separately but in parallel forms?

          2) Is a point of evolutionary divergence that their bodies produce another chemical that is more effective than melanin (and a different color)?
          Again, the evolutionary divergence would be because of environment; they’d naturally evolve differently because their context is different.

          Which brings up another tangent: If they don’t have melatonin, how do they go out in the Earth’s sun? So they must have some, it’s just that the chlorophyll in their blood overwhelms it and gives their skin a green tint instead of brown. I should make it clear that they’re not screaming green, they’re green the way humans are brown.

          1. I’m sure that you already know this, but plants are different shades of green because of the different concentrations of chlorophyll in their leaves, which is an adaptation to their environment. A plant evolved to live in a darker environment (rainforest floor, underwater) will typically have darker leaves than one evolved to live in full sun, which will be brighter, because the more chlorophyll a plant contains, the more light energy it can absorb.

            If you leave a plant that doesn’t need full sun exposure in full sun, the leaves slowly bleach and the plant gets sick. So, kind of like the melanin tan effect in reverse. If you follow that logic, Rab is a paler green because he or his family is from a sunny part of Hell while Dag is a darker green because he or his family is from a darker region. If their chlorophyll works like plant chlorophyll, he’ll get pale and sick from too much sun (it would need to be a LOT, though).

            Feel free to ignore all of this. Up until this thread I’d just thought “Huh, demons are green. Cool.”

          2. Building on what Georgia said, you get the other shades of color for leaves in autumn because they’re trying to absorb a different range of light wavelengths! (Because you have less light in autumn/winter than in spring/summer)

            If there isn’t sunlight/UV in Hell, then we’re looking at animals who grow up in caves. They’re usually white+pink-where-there’s-blood. In that context, demons would be fully green, no brown tints.
            But if there are light sources in hell, then either they have a chemical (and you can pick whichever color/shade) that dissipates that level, and maybe you can even have it that this unnamed chemical is more effective than melanin, so that they don’t have to worry about going outdoors on Earth.

            Or, you can just have them with melanin, in which then you’ve got greenish-brown demons, with the concentration of brown dependent on how intense in light the various areas of Hell are, just like with human skin colors.

            Looking at how furless cats/dogs deal with UV might also be useful, since we don’t seem to see them in the same spectrums of colors as human skin.

  12. My generic reaction is that demons are red, demons look like Milton’s description or demons look like really beautiful humans (Michelle West’s demons).

    BUT in books demons are all different colors so I agree with MJ
    “Oh – in this world demons are green.” And moved right on.”

    Your descriptions of demons are natural and believable enough you just read them and keep on going, correctly oriented into your world.

    1. Oh, I should have said “(the demons with the most power in Michelle West’s world). Michelle West’s lower-level demons look …. demonic.

  13. Green demons seem perfectly normal to me, but now I have questions. When they are not maintaining an illusion, what about their eyes? Do they have a colored iris surrounded by white like humans? What color hair do they have? And what about fingernails?

    And Yay! for new scenes (soon) and for a Questionable (eventually)!

  14. Nobody has asked the really important question, which is what kind of tattoo you’re pondering. I’ve got one (right ankle), and will be getting a second one (left ankle) as soon as I figure out the artwork for it.

    1. When Lani brings the girls down for the Goddess weekend, Sarah wants to get a nose ring, so we’re going to a tattoo parlor. I think I’m going to get my third tat, the “nevertheless she persisted” on my arm where I can see it. I’ve been wanting it, and my other two are on my back where I can’t see them so that’s no fun.

      ETA: Pic at end of post now.

    2. Carol, that was my immediate question too. I have four, but they’re all pretty small. Left foot, centre back, right hip and right wrist. Once you start it’s difficult to stop…

    1. Hi, lurker. Welcome to the sunlight.

      I wrote a book with two friends, Anne Stuart (aka Krissie) and Eileen Dreyer, called The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. My protagonist in the book, Mare, got a tattoo during the story–not her first–and I’d never gotten one, so I took the picture of her butterfly to Mother’s Tattoo Parlor in Covington, KY, and got a tramp stamp so I’d be able to describe what she was feeling correctly. (As Eileen’s husband said, “Thank god your character didn’t get a sex change.”) While I was there, I looked through the flash books and they had Chinese symbols and one of them was supposed to represent risk. And I thought, “What are the chances that a flash book at Mother’s Tattoos in Covington, KY actually has the right Chinese symbol for risk?” And then it occurred to me that that was the point: if I was sure the symbol was correct, there wouldn’t be any risk. It was perfect. So I also have the Chinese symbol for risk on the base of my neck. Or possibly the Chinese symbol for “This space is for rent,” I have no idea. People ask me what it means all the time, and I say, “Risk,” and they say, “How do you know?” and I just look at them. THAT’S THE POINT.

      Goddess weekend: When Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich and I get together for a weekend and talk and watch movies and eat a lot. We wrote a book together called Dogs and Goddesses (which is how Lani and Krissie met, I pulled them into the project together), so when we’d get together to work on the book, we’d call it a goddess weekend. And we still do it, so . . .

  15. I just bought a tee shirt that said that! (Because I’m too big a wuss for tats, plus allergic to everything, so also chicken.)

    I would have thought black or red for demons, but yes, Lorne, aha!

  16. My first reaction was “whatever color the author wants them to be.” Maybe I’ve read too much fantasy.

  17. Well, without peeking, I said green, red or people-colored. Of course, your green demons are a huge influence upon my decision. My own demons are all people-colored — the main difference is that instead of being carbon-based (earth), they are somehow electric-based (fire). How can that be, you ask? Very simple: a large heaping helping of the element handwavium.

    The I thought about Disney’s djinn, which is a loud blue.

    I often think of demons with pointed ears. Probably interference with elves, and also it’s a nice horn substitute, because none of my demons have horns. I just can’t get my mind around that in my own head. If you told me there are horns, though, I will dutifully imagine horns when necessary.

    The important thing, as you taught us, is just to get it upfront before your readers start solidifying their own demon vision.

    I am very sure I’ve seen old comic books with green demons. If I run across any, I’ll report back.

    1. Maybe you’re thinking of the Green Goblin from the Spiderman comics.
      Nope, I’m not a nerd at all, at all.

  18. I think comic Hot Stuff, even though a Devil, influenced many people in colour of demons.

    People seem to use demon and devil synonymously but I’m quite sure that they’re not.

  19. I think of demons (when not in human form) as being black smoke. Probably got that from Supernatural. But I had no problem with your green demons because you set up the expectations that in this world demons are green. So I went with it. 🙂

  20. I wouldn’t question that demons are green-ish in Nita and Nick’s world, although bright green might create logic problems. I didn’t draw a connection to the designer of the park. For me, that’s a buried clue that I’d probably enjoy discovering later on.

    In my world, demons would be what painters call greyed down (by adding the color’s compliment). The demon would appear to be a very unhealthy human. Jaundice yellow, puke green, etc. Never a primary or a secondary color. Those colors are cartoonish and kid-friendly. They’d also require a really thick foundation on human skin which would look like make-up.

    (I write this assuming that the demons in your world are the same color as the “tourist make-up” which is how they purposefully masquerade as human?)

    Thanks for letting me and the rest of the world chime in. It’s such a pleasure and an education to follow your process.

  21. I realize I am way late here but it took me a while to figure out that for me demons are out of Hieronymos Bosch paintings. Thus strange shape is tbe important thing not skin color. (I do feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea of skin color indicating evil…)


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