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What are the opposites of the color wheel in makeup?

The color wheel is a visual representation of color theory that shows the relationship between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. When it comes to makeup, understanding color theory and how to use opposite colors on the color wheel is crucial for creating harmonious looks.

What is the color wheel?

The basic color wheel consists of 12 colors. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors together – green (blue + yellow), orange (red + yellow), and purple (red + blue). Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the wheel, like red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, and red-purple.

Colors that are opposite each other on the wheel are considered complementary colors. These color combinations create maximum contrast and vibrancy. Some examples of complementary color pairs are:

Color 1 Color 2
Red Green
Orange Blue
Yellow Purple

Using complementary colors together can allow makeup looks to really stand out. However, it’s important to use them in balance, as too much contrast can look jarring.

Applying opposite colors in makeup

There are a few key ways to use opposite colors from the color wheel to create striking, yet wearable makeup looks:


Choose eye shadows in complementary color pairs, like purple and yellow, blue and orange, or green and red. Use the darker or more intense shade in the crease and outer corner of the eye, and the lighter or brighter shade on the eyelid.

You can also use a pop of a complementary color in the inner corner of the eye or lower lash line. For example, use a bright yellow inner corner with a purple eye look.


Colorful eyeliner is another way to incorporate contrasting colors. Try a blue liner with an orange shadow, or a chartreuse liner with a red shadow.

You can also use white or black liner on the upper lash line to define the eyes, paired with a bright splash of the opposite color along the lower lash line.


Look for blush in a color opposite to your lipstick or eye makeup. For example, try an orange-red blush with a green shadow or blue lip. Or, pair a pinkish-purple blush with yellow shadow.

Focus the blush onto the apples of the cheeks to lift and define facial features.


Lip color is one of the easiest ways to add a pop of contrast. Try a blue-based red lipstick paired with copper and orange eyeshadow. Or an orangey coral lip with purple eyeshadow.

You can also wear a more neutral lip if the eyes and cheeks are done in complementary colors. Just add a touch of lipgloss for shine.

Best color combinations

Here are some foolproof color pairings from opposite sides of the color wheel to try for makeup looks that really pop:

Eyes Lips Cheeks
Purple Peach Yellow
Green Red Pink
Blue Orange Peach
Bronze Red Blue

Tips for pulling off complementary colors

It can take some practice to successfully pair opposite colors in your makeup. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use sheer or shimmery textures which allow colors to blend together more easily.
  • Make one color more dominant – say 70% vs. 30% – for balance.
  • Softer, more muted shades tend to work better than neons or pure pigments.
  • Add definition with black liner and mascara so features don’t get lost.
  • Aim for a glowy complexion that ties the look together.

Skin tone considerations

The way opposite colors interact can vary depending on your individual skin tone. Here’s how to pick flattering complementary color schemes:

Warm skin tones

Those with warm golden, peach, or olive skin tones look best in warm color palettes. Try oranges with blues, bronzes with greens, reds with purples.

Cool skin tones

People with cool pink, red, or blue-based skin should stick to cool color schemes. Great options include pinks with greens, plums with yellows, and blues with peach tones.

Neutral skin tones

If you have a more neutral skin tone, you can experiment with both warm and cool complementary color pairings. Just be sure to look in the mirror and make sure the shades you choose don’t overpower your complexion.


Mastering the use of complementary colors in makeup allows you to create looks that are visually exciting and full of contrast. Just remember to pick shades that complement your individual coloring. When used strategically, opposite colors on the color wheel can take your makeup game to the next level.

The key is to start with small pops of contrasting colors, like a bright liner or lipstick shade, instead of going overboard. Build up from there once you get a feel for color pairing. With a little practice, you’ll be able to effortlessly balance and blend complementary shades for stunning beauty looks.