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How many colors are used in a double complementary color scheme?

How many colors are used in a double complementary color scheme?

A double complementary color scheme uses 4 colors that are spaced evenly around the color wheel. This type of color scheme takes advantage of color theory to create visual interest and vibrancy in designs. Complementary colors are located directly across from each other on the color wheel and create high contrast when placed next to each other. Using two sets of complements allows for even more dynamic color combinations. Understanding how this color scheme works and how to use it effectively can help designers create eye-catching images, websites, logos, and more.

What is a Double Complementary Color Scheme?

A double complementary color scheme uses 4 colors arranged into 2 complementary pairs. Complementary colors are located opposite each other on the standard color wheel. Common complementary pairs include red & green, yellow & purple, and blue & orange.

In a double complementary scheme, you select 2 sets of complementary pairs. For example, you could choose blue & orange along with yellow & purple. This gives you 4 distinct colors to work with that have high contrast and visual interest when combined.

The 4 colors should be evenly spaced around the color wheel. Most color wheels are divided into 12 segments, so in a double complementary scheme, you would select colors spaced 3 segments apart. This creates color harmony in the combinations.

How to Identify the Colors

Follow these simple steps to create a double complementary color palette:

1. Choose your base color to start. This can be any hue that you want to be dominant in the scheme.

2. Identify the color directly across from it on the color wheel. This is its complementary color.

3. Move 2 spaces clockwise and 2 spaces counterclockwise from the base color. The 4 equidistant colors make up the double complementary palette.

For example, if you choose green as your base color, red would be its complement. Moving 2 spaces clockwise leads you to yellow, while moving 2 spaces counterclockwise leads you to violet. This gives you a palette of green, red, yellow, and violet.

You can start with any color and follow this method to quickly generate a quality double complementary palette. Adjust the shades and tones of the colors as desired to get the exact scheme you want.

Color Wheel Showing Double Complementary Colors

Here is a color wheel showing an example of a double complementary scheme:

Base Color: Green Complement 1: Red
Complement 2: Yellow Complement 3: Violet

As you can see, the 4 colors are spaced evenly around the wheel, giving us balance and harmony between the color combinations.

Benefits of the Double Complementary Color Scheme

Using a double complementary color scheme has many advantages for designers:

– Creates high contrast and visual interest – The complementary color pairs have inherent contrast that attracts attention

– Allows for color variety – With 4 distinct colors, you can create more diverse palettes

– Balances warm and cool colors – Usually uses a mix of warm and cool complements for balance

– Offers color harmony – The equidistant colors naturally work well together

– Adds vibrancy to designs – Complementary colors have intense visual energy when combined

– Versatile for many applications – Works great for websites, print materials, interior design, fashion, and more

Use of Complementary Colors in Design

Complementary colors are best used together in controlled amounts. When placed side-by-side, complements create afterimages and vibrate on the retina, so they are most effective when combined thoughtfully. Here are some tips:

– Use one color as dominant and the other as an accent. This creates harmony.

– Separate complements with white or black space. The contrast shines through.

– Apply complements to adjacent shapes, not mixed together. This prevents vibration.

– Add a tint or shade of a complement for softer contrast.

– Repeat all the colors across your design for unity.

The goal is to harness the power of the complements while giving the eye spaces to rest. When used with care, they can take any design to the next level.

Examples of Double Complementary Color Schemes

Here are some examples of effective double complementary color palettes:

Blue, Orange, Yellow, Red

This scheme anchors the palette with a versatile primary color, blue. Its complement orange pops against the blue. Yellow and red add warm accents.

Green, Magenta, Violet, Red

This palette has an earthy yet vibrant feel. The green and magenta complements contrast beautifully, while red violet add richer tones.

Yellow, Purple, Blue, Orange

A bright, lively palette utilizing two primary color pairs. The yellow complements the purple, while the blue complements the orange.

Red, Green, Orange, Blue

A flashy palette utilizing two intense secondary color pairs. The red-green and orange-blue combinations are equally dynamic.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless for creating stunning double complementary combinations.

How to Use a Double Complementary Scheme in Designs

There are no strict rules governing how to use this color scheme. But here are some tips for applying it effectively:

– Determine the color dominance. Use 60-70% of the base color, 30-40% secondary colors, 10% accents.

– Use tints, tones, and shades of the colors for more depth. A monochromatic approach with one color can also work.

– Distribute the colors evenly across the design for unity. Repeating colors ties elements together.

– Avoid using complement pairs side-by-side or equally. This can be jarring. Use one as the star.

– Add plenty of white or black space between colors. This “resets” the eyes.

– Use double complements for impact on focal points. For example, button colors on a website.

– Apply lighter tints of complements for backgrounds. Bolder shades work best on design elements.

Keep these principles in mind as you experiment with double complementary color combinations. Trust your eye and adjust the scheme until you achieve the desired effect.

Color Emotions and Meanings

Color choices also influence the emotional response and meaning conveyed by a design. Here are some common associations with the 4 colors in this scheme:

Blue – trust, professionalism, calm, intelligence, stability

Orange – cheer, enthusiasm, creativity, vibrancy

Yellow – optimism, happiness, friendliness, energy

Red – power, excitement, boldness, intensity

Use these associations to inform your color and layout choices based on the message or mood you want to create. For example, emphasize calm blue for a professional website or cheerful yellow on a children’s book cover.

Tools for Creating Color Schemes

Several useful tools can help you experiment with double complementary schemes:

– Online color wheel – Visualize complements and rotate hues

– Adobe Color CC – Create and save palettes digitally

– Coolors – Generate random color schemes that you can fine tune

– Canva – Design images and graphics using preset color schemes

These tools allow you to see color relationships as you create, making the process intuitive. Rely on your own artistic eye as well to guide you to impactful color combinations.


A double complementary color scheme utilizes 4 colors arranged evenly around the color wheel. Choosing 2 sets of complements creates high contrast and visual excitement. This scheme is flexible enough for websites, print materials, apparel, interiors, and more. Using the colors thoughtfully maintains harmony while allowing for vibrant combinations. Experiment with double complements to see the dramatic impact they can have. Just be sure to give the eye places to rest by spacing out intense colors. With some practice, you can master this colorful technique for all your designs.