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What is the contrasting color to red?

What is the contrasting color to red?

The contrasting color to red depends on the color theory and color wheel being used. However, in general, the main complementary or contrasting colors to red are green, cyan, and blue.

The Color Wheel

The basic color wheel that most people are familiar with has 12 main colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and variations of these. On this color wheel, colors that are opposite each other are considered complementary colors. This means that red’s complementary color is green. The reasoning is that red and green contain no common hues or tones and create the highest contrast when placed next to each other.

Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Purple

When you look at the color wheel, red and green are opposite each other. This means that green provides the most contrast and visual pop when paired with red. Using complementary colors together creates very vibrant images and designs.

The Traditional RYB Color Model

The traditional RYB (red, yellow, blue) color model is another color theory system. It is based on the primary colors used in painting and for mixing paint pigments. In this model, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. The secondary colors created by mixing the primaries are orange, green, and purple. On the RYB color wheel, the complementary color to red is cyan.

Cyan is a bluish-green color located between green and blue on the color wheel. When red and cyan pigments are mixed, they create neutral gray or brown tones. Red and cyan provide strong contrast in visuals just like red and green.

Red Orange Yellow Green Cyan Blue Purple

The CMYK Color Model

In printing and the digital world, the main color model used is CMYK, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). This model is based on light absorption, using cyan, magenta, and yellow as the primary colors. When combined, these three colors absorb all wavelengths of visible light and create black.

In the CMYK model, red’s complementary color is cyan. When placed next to each other, the red strongly contrasts against the cyan. Using these two colors together makes designs pop off the page.

Cyan Magenta Yellow Key (Black)

The RGB Color Model

On screens and displays, the RGB color model is used to create colors by mixing red, green, and blue light. This is an additive color system where combining all three primaries produces white light. In the RGB color wheel, the complementary color to red is cyan.

Just like with paints and inks, red and cyan are opposite each other and provide strong visual contrast. Using these two colors together makes images stand out on digital screens and displays.

Red Green Blue

Color Temperature

Color can also be analyzed in terms of color temperature. Red is considered a warm color while blue and green are cool colors. Complementary colors have opposite temperatures. The complementary color relationship between warm red and cool green creates natural contrast and visual interest.

While red and cyan are direct complements, red and blue also provide strong contrast in color temperature. Their opposing warmth and coolness levels allow them to stand out against each other.

Warm Colors Cool Colors
Red Green
Orange Blue
Yellow Purple

Uses of Red and Its Complementary Colors

Using red’s complementary colors is an important design tool for creating visual contrast and vibrant images. Here are some examples of using red with its complementary colors:

  • Placing a cyan call-to-action button on a red website background
  • Using red and green together in holiday designs
  • Adding a blue accent color to a red and neutral interior design scheme
  • Pairing red lipstick with green eye makeup for vivid beauty looks
  • Having a subject wear a bright cyan shirt when posing against a red backdrop

Graphic designers, artists, fashion designers, interior decorators, and many other creatives use the power of complementary colors like red and green or red and cyan to make their work eye-catching and memorable.

Psychology of Red and Its Complementary Colors

The psychology and symbolism of colors also plays an important role in choosing effective color combinations:

  • Red is associated with excitement, passion, danger, and action
  • Green is linked to nature, renewal, calmness, and wealth
  • Cyan evokes openness, tranquility, and intuition
  • Blue connotes stability, wisdom, trust, and loyalty

Using complementary colors allows designers and artists to tap into these psychological associations. For example, pairing red with green evokes both excitement and renewal. Combining red and cyan conveys passionate intuition. Matching red with blue calls to mind trusted action.


In summary, the main complementary or contrasting colors to red are green, cyan, and blue. These colors provide the strongest visual contrast based on color theory models like RYB and RGB as well as color temperature. Using red’s complements allows designers to create eye-catching, vivid images and graphics that attract attention. The psychological effects of these color combinations also help convey meaningful messages and evoke desired responses.