Color theory examines the visual effects of colors and how they interact with each other. One important concept in color theory is color contrast – how much two colors stand out from each other. High contrast makes colors really pop, while low contrast can make them blend together.
Two of the most popular colors are purple and green. But are they high contrast colors? Do they create vibrant color schemes when used together? Let’s take a deep dive into color theory to find out.
Defining Purple and Green
Before looking at how purple and green interact, it’s important to define what exactly we mean by each color.
What is Purple?
Purple is a secondary color made by combining the primary colors red and blue. In the RGB color model, it comprises amounts of red and blue light. In print and on screens, purple is made by layering magenta and cyan ink or pixels.
There are many shades of purple, from light lavender to vivid violet. But in general, purple hues range from around 270 to 330 degrees on the color wheel.
What is Green?
Green is one of the three primary colors, along with red and blue. It sits opposite red on the color wheel at around 120 to 180 degrees. When light overlaps the blue and yellow cones in our eyes, we perceive the color green.
Like purple, green has many variations, including yellow-greens like chartreuse and blue-greens like teal. But green is typically defined as the hues between yellow and blue.
Contrasting and Complementary Colors
Now that we’ve defined purple and green, let’s look at what makes two colors contrasting.
Contrasting colors are any two colors that appear strikingly different when next to each other. This could be due to differences in lightness, saturation, or hue.
Some examples of contrasting color pairs include:
- Black and white
- Pink and green
- Red and blue
High contrast makes elements stand out from each other and creates eye-catching designs. It can also improve readability by making text easy to see against the background.
Complementary colors are two hues directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange are examples of complements.
These color pairs contrast strongly in hue while sharing similar lightness and intensity. When placed next to each other, they create vibrant visual effects and highlight both colors.
Comparing Purple and Green
Now let’s see how purple and green specifically compare in terms of their color properties.
Purple and green are close to being complementary colors on the color wheel. Purple sits between red and blue, while green is between yellow and blue.
|Color||Approximate Hue Degrees|
This makes them strongly contrasting in hue, though not quite direct complements.
Lightness refers to how light or dark a color appears. Both purple and green can range significantly in lightness.
On the lightest end, pastel purples and light greens exhibit high lightness. On the darkest end, dark greens and deep purples show low lightness.
With varying potential lightness levels, purple and green can be made to contrast from light to dark. But they also can be matched for similar lightness.
Color saturation measures intensity – how vivid or dull it looks. Again, there is variety within purple and green hues.
On the colorful end, jewel tones like fuchsia and forest green have high saturation. On the muted end, lavender and sage contain low saturation.
By selecting different shades, purple and green can be made to contrast in saturation. But soft pastel versions can also have similar muted saturation.
Psychology of Purple and Green
In addition to their visual contrast, purple and green have very different psychological effects. This further makes them contrasting colors in emotional impact.
Research has found that different colors evoke different psychological and physiological responses in people. Some colors are stimulating, while others are calming. The context also matters, as color associations depend on culture and personal experiences.
Purple has traditionally been associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It’s seen as a mystical, spiritual color, linked to imagination and creativity. Lighter shades like lavender evoke spring and femininity, while darker purples seem exotic and magical.
Green is strongly associated with nature, growth, renewal, and environment causes. It represents safety, stability, and balance. In design, green draws attention without being abrasive. Lighter greens represent freshness and life, while darker emerald greens feel elegant and traditional.
So while purple stimulates the imagination, green creates stability. The two colors evoke very different moods and feelings.
Using Purple and Green Together
Now that we’ve compared purple and green, how should you use them together? Can they be combined in the same color palette?
While not exact complements, purple and green offer enough contrast to make an eye-catching pairing. However, the hues need to be properly balanced to look good together.
Picking the right shades is essential for a successful purple and green color scheme. Some combinations to try:
- Amethyst purple with forest or lime green
- Orchid or lilac purple with seafoam or mint green
- Mauve or lavender with sage green
Avoid mixing a warm purple with a cool green or vice versa. Staying in the same temperature range creates harmony.
Make sure the purples and greens you choose are around the same lightness level. Combining very dark greens with light purples risks clashing rather than contrasting.
Try a medium orchid purple with a mid-tone sage green, for example. Or pair deep jewel tones together – like an emerald green and vivid violet.
Adding neutrals helps soften and blend a purple/green scheme. Black, white, gray, and brown create breathing room between the two colors.
You can include neutrals in your design elements or use a neutral base paired with purple and green accents.
Use one color for dominant elements and the other to accent it. For example, have a primarily purple website design with green buttons.
This creates visual interest through strategic contrast rather than clashing colors throughout.
Examples of Purple and Green Color Schemes
Here are some examples of purple and green used effectively together:
Vibrant purple graphics pop against a mint green background. White space separates the colors.
This room features lilac walls with a warm grey sofa and green plants. The green foliage complements the purple tones.
In this garden, purple flowering plants are combined with green shrubs and grass for visual interest.
Here, a purple website uses contrasting green for the call-to-action buttons, helping them stand out.
Are Purple and Green Complementary Colors?
Purple and green are not quite complementary colors. But they still can provide strong visual contrast when used together thoughtfully.
By picking the right hues and shades, balancing lightness, and using neutrals, a purple and green scheme can look bold and beautiful.
The colors evoke very different moods and emotions, adding psychological contrast. Overall, purple and green offer enough differences to be striking, but not so much contrast that they clash.
Purple and green are distinctly different hues that contrast strongly in hue and psychological associations. But they aren’t so opposite on the color wheel that they automatically clash when combined.
By selecting the right shades, balancing lightness, and using neutrals, purple and green can be combined in elegant, eye-catching color palettes. Their contrast draws attention while harmonious hues prevent a jarring look.
With some color theory know-how, you can use purple and green together to create beautiful, vibrant designs that capture attention.