© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. The evidence presented in this paper is a first effort to contextualize aspects related to the sourcing, production and uses of red paint during the second millennium BC in Northern Peru. The site tested was Gramalote, a fishing settlement of the Peruvian North Coast. The results show that the inhabitants of this settlement had access to a local source of hematite but they also used cinnabar that came from a distant region located in the Southern Highlands. Based on the abundance of lithic and bone tools, shell containers and ceramic seal stamps, the authors of this article study the process behind the production of this painting. Using physicochemical techniques such as Portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology complemented with structural analysis through X-ray diffraction, applying conventional and synchrotron radiation on selected samples, the authors look at issues related to sourcing, production and uses of the red pigment. In addition, isotopic analysis helped to determine the provenience of cinnabar which is also the earliest evidence of human use of this mineral in the Andean region. Temporal and contextual distributions of these artifacts are analyzed to understand the manipulation and uses of the red paint. Finally, this study also gives a glimpse of the symbolic meaning red pigment could have played in the daily life of a second millennium BC maritime community on the Pacific coast of Peru.