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Does green have a complementary color?

Does green have a complementary color?

Green is one of the three primary colors in the RYB (red, yellow, blue) color model. Unlike red and blue, which have obvious complementary colors in cyan and orange respectively, green does not have an obvious single complementary color. This is because green is located between yellow and blue on the color wheel, meaning its complements are made up of mixtures of colors. So what is the complementary color of green? Let’s take a closer look.

What are complementary colors?

Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This means that when mixed together, they produce a neutral gray or brown. Complementary colors create the strongest contrast when placed next to each other, making objects seem more vibrant. Some common complementary pairs are:

– Red and cyan
– Blue and orange
– Yellow and purple

When looking at the color wheel, complementary colors are located directly across from each other. For example, blue is across from orange. Mixing complementary colors together in the right proportions will always make a shade of gray or brown.

Where is green located on the color wheel?

On the traditional RYB color wheel, the primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Green sits between yellow and blue. It is made by mixing some amount of yellow and blue together. The exact hue of green depends on the proportions of blue and yellow used.

Since green lies between yellow and blue, its complements will also be a mix of the complements of yellow (purple) and blue (orange). Yellow’s complement is purple, while blue’s complement is orange. So green’s complements are made up of mixtures of purple and orange.

What are the complementary colors of green?

Green does not have a single complementary color. But it has a range of colors that can act as complements, depending on the specific hue of green. Some potential complementary colors for various greens are:

– Yellow-green: Purple
– Green with more yellow: Red-purple
– Mid-range green: Red
– Green with more blue: Red-orange
– Blue-green: Orange

So while no single color is the complement of green, shades of red, purple and orange are complementary to different hues of green. The most common complements are:

– Red: For mid-range greens
– Purple: For yellow-greens
– Orange: For blue-greens

Let’s look at some examples of complementary color schemes using greens:

Green Hue Complementary Color
Yellow-green Purple
Mid-green Red
Blue-green Orange

As you can see, adjusting the hue of green changes its optimal complementary color. Most greens tend to look best with red or purple complements.

Why doesn’t green have one complement?

Green lacks a single complementary color because of how the eye perceives color and complementary pairs. Our eyes see green as a mix of blue and yellow light. So to create a complement for green, you need to stimulate both the red and green color receptors in the eye at the same time.

No single wavelength of light can do this – you need a mix. Red light stimulates the red receptors, and cyan (a mix of green and blue) stimulates the green receptors. Mixing these creates shades of red, purple and orange that complement different greens.

The dual nature of green also makes it a harmonious and balanced color. Green tends to pair well with many other colors and creates pleasant, low-contrast color schemes. Having multiple potential complements gives designers more flexibility when working with different shades of green.

Tips for using green’s complementary colors

Here are some tips for working with complementary colors for green shades:

– Analyze the exact hue of green – is it more blue or yellow? This will help you choose the best complement.

– Test out shades of red, purple and orange to see which creates the most contrast.

– Don’t be afraid to mix complement shades, like red-orange or red-purple.

– For yellow-greens, use a purple or magenta complement.

– For mid-range greens, vivid red is probably the best complement.

– Try salmon pink, terracotta, brick red or rusty orange as complements.

– Blue-greens look great with a warm orange complement.

– Avoid using multiple complements together or the scheme may look muddy.

– Check designs on screen and as physical prints to see color accurately.

Examples of green color schemes

Here are some examples of effective color schemes using greens and their complements:

– Forest green and cherry red – A bold high-contrast scheme perfect for posters, graphics and headlines. Provides vibrancy.

– Moss green and purple – A retro color scheme, ideal for 1970s or art deco-inspired designs. Feels nostalgic and stylish.

– Sage green and terracotta – An earthy natural color scheme, great for organic product packaging and brands. Communicates balance with nature.

– Lime green and cobalt blue – A vibrant, energetic scheme for youth brands, sportswear and music. Provides a fun pop.

– Mint green and salmon pink – A soft, playful scheme seen in children’s products, cupcakes and stationery. Creates a gentle femininity.

– Olive green and burnt orange – A moody, rustic scheme fitting for autumn, craft beer labels and rugged brands. Feels grounded and earthy.

– Teal and rust orange – A colorful nautical scheme that conveys oceans and maritime themes. Works well for beach apparel and decor.

As with any color scheme, make sure to test these combinations thoroughly across different media to ensure optimal legibility, contrast and harmony. But using complements gives green more versatility as a design color.

The psychological effects of green and its complements

Green and its complements also produce some interesting psychological effects. Here are some to keep in mind for design and branding:

– Green is the most restful color for the human eye. It relieves stress and promotes healing.

– Dark greens are masculine while light greens are more feminine.

– Yellow-greens create feelings of optimism and cheerfulness.

– Cool blue-greens are seen as more professional and growth-oriented.

– Red complements signify danger, passion and urgency when paired with green.

– Purple complements generate feelings of spirituality and imagination next to greens.

– Warm orange complements make greens feel welcoming, friendly and informal.

Make sure your color combinations match the desired mood and emotions of the brand or design. Testing the psychology with the target audience is key.


While green is the only primary color that lacks a clear complementary, it can still produce beautiful and effective color schemes by pairing with shades of red, purple and orange. The exact complementary depends on the amount of yellow vs. blue in the specific green hue. Designers should experiment with these complements to find what creates the right contrast and harmony. Green’s split nature also gives it more versatility than a single complement would. Clever use of color theory helps uncover green’s full potential.