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Is red’s complementary color green?

Is red’s complementary color green?

No, red’s complementary color is not green. Red’s complementary color is actually cyan. Complementary colors are pairs of colors that cancel each other out when mixed together. This means that red’s complementary color is the color directly opposite it on the color wheel. On the traditional RYB color wheel, red’s complement is cyan, which is a mix of green and blue.

What are complementary colors?

Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When complementary colors are mixed together, they cancel each other out and produce a neutral gray or brown. This is because they contain no common colors between them. For example, red and cyan are complements because red contains no cyan and cyan contains no red.

On the traditional RYB color wheel, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. The complementary pairs are:

  • Red & Cyan
  • Yellow & Purple
  • Blue & Orange

When complementary colors are placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast and make each other appear more vibrant. This contrast is useful in design for making elements stand out.

Why is cyan red’s complement instead of green?

Cyan is red’s complement rather than green because of how colors mix together to make new colors. Red, yellow, and blue are the primary colors in the RYB system. Mixing two primary colors makes the secondary colors:

  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Yellow + Blue = Green
  • Blue + Red = Purple

To make a primary color’s complement, you need to mix the other two primary colors. Cyan contains equal parts green and blue. Since green and blue are the two primary colors that red does not contain, combining them makes red’s complement.

Color Mixing Principles

Here are some key color mixing principles that explain why cyan is red’s complement:

  • Mixing any two primary colors produces a secondary color.
  • Mixing two secondary colors produces a primary color.
  • A primary color and its complement mix to make a neutral color.

Following these rules, green cannot be red’s complement because it only contains one of the primaries blue. Cyan contains both green and blue, so it satisfies the complement relationship.

What color combinations work well with red?

Here are some color combinations that go well with red:

Red & Cyan

Since cyan is red’s complement, it creates the highest contrast and makes both colors “pop”. This combination is very vibrant and energizing.

Red & Green

Green and red are adjacent colors on the color wheel so they create less contrast than true complements. But their Christmas color association makes them familiar and festive together.

Red & Blue

Blue and red are a bold primary color pairing. They have a strong visual impact and patriotic feel.

Red & Orange

Red and orange have a warm, fiery energy. This analogous pairing is bold and energetic.

Red & Pink

Light pink tempers the intensity of red. This monochromatic pairing has a cheerful, romantic feel.

How are additive and subtractive color mixing different?

Additive and subtractive color mixing refer to the two different ways that color is produced – with light and pigment. Here is the key difference:

  • Additive mixing (RGB): Combining wavelengths of light produces a new color.
  • Subtractive mixing (RYB): Combining pigments subtracts certain wavelengths and produces a new color.

Additive RGB mixing produces the colors of light. This is how colors are produced on digital screens by mixing red, green, and blue light. Subtractive CMYK pigment mixing is how printing inks combine to absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light. The RYB model applies to subtractive color mixing.

Since red’s complement cyan is produced by mixing green and blue light, it only applies to additive color models like RGB. In the subtractive RYB system, red’s complement is a slightly different mix of pigments but is closest to the cyan hue.


In summary, red’s complementary color is not green. According to color theory, red’s complement is cyan on the additive RGB color wheel and a similar cyan hue on the subtractive RYB color wheel. Cyan is the mix of the two primary colors red lacks, making it red’s true complementary color. While green is not technically red’s complement, it can still create nice color combinations with red.