Orange is a vibrant and energetic color that can make a bold statement in any design. However, the tone and brightness of orange can be easily shifted by pairing it with different colors. Choosing the right accompanying colors is key to making orange pop or appear softer and more muted. So what colors should you pair with orange to make it look lighter and brighter?
When it comes to color theory, orange sits between red and yellow on the color wheel. This means the complementary colors to orange are shades of blue and blue-green. Complementary colors are opposite each other on the wheel, which creates strong visual contrast. However, analogous colors that sit next to the original color will create harmony.
Complementary colors like blue, blue-green, and cyan make orange appear more vibrant and saturated. The contrast makes the orange stand out against cooler, more subdued backgrounds. Blue has a lightening effect that accentuates the bright warmth of orange.
Some examples of blue and orange color combinations include:
- Bright orange and light blue
- Burnt orange and navy blue
- Peach orange and cyan
Using the split complementary color scheme with colors on both sides of the complement is also impactful. For example, orange goes well with both blue and blue-violet shades. The contrast still makes orange pop while adding visual interest.
Going in the opposite direction of the color wheel, analogous colors next to orange will soften its appearance. Choosing hues like yellow, yellow-orange, and red-orange will subdue the brightness of true orange. The analogous colors blend seamlessly and harmoniously while muting the vibrancy.
Some examples of analogous orange color combinations include:
- Orange and golden yellow
- Peach and coral
- Burnt orange and brick red
These combinations create pleasant, warm palettes while toning down pure orange. This can help orange integrate more easily into softer color schemes. Analogous colors are perfect for shifting orange into a more pastel or earthy aesthetic.
In addition to adjacent colors on the wheel, tints of orange can make it appear lighter as well. Mixing orange with white will soften it into peach, coral, melon, and other diluted shades. Pastel oranges come across as much more airy and subtle next to the boldness of pure orange.
Off-wheel neutrals like white, cream, tan, and light gray can also lighten up orange. These muted backdrops let the orange take center stage while appearing brighter than on darker neutrals. Neutrals help the eye perceive orange as lighter by providing contrast against an ultra-light background.
Here are some examples of color combinations that make orange lighter:
|Color 1||Color 2|
|Bright orange||Baby blue|
|Pumpkin orange||Mint green|
|Copper orange||Pale yellow|
These pairings of richer oranges against paler counterparts make the orange appear lighter by contrast. The cool tones of blues, greens, purples, and airy neutrals let the warmth of orange take center stage.
The psychology of color also plays into which hues make orange lighter or brighter. Lighter and desaturated colors feel more calming, subtle, and gentle to the eye. Brighter shades feel more energetic, youthful, and intense.
Soft pastel versions of orange evoke feelings of cheerfulness, creativity, and tranquility. Pure vivid orange makes a bold, lively statement while muted oranges are more modest.
Often, bright orange against even brighter complementary shades creates an aesthetically displeasing effect for long term viewing. The high contrast can feel jarring and overwhelming. Mixing orange with lighter tertiary colors creates a more harmonious composition for most design applications.
In interior spaces, orange can feel loud and overwhelming on all four walls. However, it makes an excellent accent paired with neutral and earth tone companions. Lighter wood tones, sand, stone, taupe, and mushrooms draw out the brightness of orange highlights.
Blue and green gray walls also enable orange decor and artwork to stand out without clashing. White trim harmonizes with the energy of orange for a clean yet lively aesthetic.
For example, bright throw pillows enliven a neutral couch. Citrus artwork energizes a pastel wall. An orange area rug anchors a light wood floor. Vibrant flowers energize an earthy tablescape.
In fashion, lighter orange and peach shades flatter most complexions. Bright orange flatters darker skin tones and makes them glow while those with fair cool skin often look best in softer oranges.
Pairing vivid orange garments with lighter neutrals creates balance. For example, an orange top with white jeans or skirt, beige jacket and shoes, or cool gray leggings. Soft blue denim harmonizes with bright orange for summery contrast.
Jewelry, scarves, purses, and other orange accessories make great focal points against lighter outfits. Avoid head to toe bright orange which can feel overwhelming. The lighter garments around the orange allow it to attract attention.
For websites, logos, presentations, and other digital projects, bright orange makes for an eye-catching accent. However, large expanses of pure orange will quickly fatigue the eyes. Pairing with plenty of clean white or light gray space allows the viewers’ eyes to rest.
Lighter orange shades integrate beautifully with other bright, cheerful colors like yellow, light green, sky blue, and violet. Dark backgrounds like deep blue and charcoal also contrast beautifully with orange vectors, graphics, and other elements. Just be sure to use orange judiciously as an accent and avoid it dominating the palette.
In cooking and food presentation, ripe vibrant orange produce looks best paired with lighter fare. For example, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and citrus fruits pop beautifully on a white plate. Light wood cutting boards also keep orange ingredients center stage. Creamy dips and sauces pair better than dense gravies that darken the orange.
Salads and grain bowls come alive when topped with orange ingredients on a light baseline of greens, sprouts, herbs, and neutral grains. Vibrant orange smoothies look cheeriest in a clear glass rather than dark metal tumbler. Overall, let lighter supporting ingredients highlight the starring orange foods.
While orange inherently conveys brightness and luminosity, strategic color pairings can make it appear even lighter. Choosing complementary colors, adjacent analogous hues, off-wheel neutrals, and tints of orange creates harmonious, softened combinations. Bright orange pops stunningly against pale cool tones like blue, violet, green, and gray. Earth tones also allow orange to shine as a lively accent.
In spaces, fashion, media, and food, let orange take center stage while giving it plenty of breathing room. Avoid large expanses of pure bright orange which cause visual fatigue. Instead, use judicious and artful splashes of orange to energize lighter surroundings. With thoughtful color combinations, orange conveys all its cheerful, uplifting symbolism in a pleasant, balanced way.