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Which color is complementary color?

Which color is complementary color?

Complementary colors are color pairs that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. When placed next to each other, complementary colors create maximum contrast and reinforce each other. Knowing how to use complementary colors is an important skill for designers, artists, and anyone looking to liven up their space. In this article, we’ll explore what complementary colors are, how to identify them, and how to use them effectively.

What are complementary colors?

The complementary color for any given color is the one located directly across from it on the standard color wheel. The standard color wheel includes 12 colors – 3 primary colors (red, yellow, blue), 3 secondary colors (orange, green, purple) and 6 tertiary colors.

For example, the complementary color of red is green, the complementary color of yellow is purple, and the complementary color of blue is orange. This is because these color pairs are opposite each other on the color wheel.

When complementary colors are placed next to each other, they create strong visual contrast. This is because they have no hues in common. Complementary colors also bring out the intensity in each other – red looks redder next to green, just as green looks more vibrant next to red.

How to identify complementary colors

There are a few simple ways to identify the complementary color for any shade:

Method 1: Refer to a color wheel. Find the color you want on the wheel. The complementary color will be directly across from it.

Method 2: Pick a color and look at its hue family. For example, blue. The hue families are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The hue family opposite of blue is orange. So the complementary color for blue is a shade of orange.

Method 3: Use color theory to deduce the complement. Recall that the primary color complements are:

– Red & Green
– Blue & Orange
– Yellow & Purple

So if you have a secondary color like green, you know its complement is red.

Common complementary color combinations

Here are some of the most common complementary color pairings:

Color Complement
Red Green
Orange Blue
Yellow Purple
Green Red
Blue Orange
Purple Yellow

As you can see, the complementary relationships remain the same whether you start with the primary or secondary color.

How to use complementary colors

Complementary color schemes offer great ways to create visual impact and highlight important elements. Here are some tips for using complements effectively:

Use complements in small doses: Because they have maximum contrast, complements are most effective when used sparingly. Using them equally will create a jarring, vibrating effect. Choose one color to dominate and use its complement for accents.

Pay attention to lightness: The contrast of complements can be softened or hardened according to lightness. A dark blue and light orange provide less tension than bright blue and bright orange.

Use a split complement: This involves one color and the two hues adjacent to its complement. It tones down the contrast while retaining vibrancy.

Try a triad: Pick three hues equally spaced on the color wheel. This creates a versatile and balanced color scheme.

Attempt tetradic harmony: Select two complementary pairs to form a rectangle on the color wheel. This allows for richness, brightness, and high contrast.

Go analogic: Analogous colors sit next to each other on the wheel, creating related hues. Adding the complement of the center color makes the scheme pop.

Benefits of using complementary colors

Using complementary colors in design and decoration offers many advantages:

– Creates energy: Complements garner attention and imbue a design with vibrancy, movement, and dynamism. This makes them perfect for lively spaces.

– Provides contrast: The high contrast of complements helps differentiate elements, creating focal points and visual hierarchy. Differences become more defined.

– Reinforces color: Placed together, complementary colors become richer, brighter, and more intense.

– Conveys meaning: Color psychology links red and green with Christmas, blue and orange with summer, purple and yellow with Easter. Complements help create such associations.

– Offers versatility: A simple swap of color placement completely shifts the aesthetic. Complements create flexibility within one palette.

Examples of complementary colors in design

Complementary colors are commonly used in various fields:

Graphic design: Magazine layouts often juxtapose complements like cyan and red or purple and yellow to grab attention. Call-to-action buttons also use contrasting complements.

Logos: Iconic logos like Instagram, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Windows rely on complementary colors to instantly brand themselves.

Interior design: Complements are ideal for accent walls or energizing a muted room with bright pillows. Pale green walls with maroon sofa and carpets is a popular combination.

Landscaping: Gardening with complementary plants like orange daylilies and purple irises makes the colors “pop”.

Apparel: Complementary color blocking is used on athletic jerseys and women’s dresses. Retail sites will suggest complements to coordinate apparel.

Food: Complementary garnishes or plating elevate dishes. Red sauce over green pasta or a yellow lemon slice on a blue plate accents appetizingly.

Finding inspiration

The world is full of inspiring examples of complementary colors. Observe them in:

– Nature: Red flowers blooming against green foliage, yellow autumn leaves contrasting a blue sky.

– Crafts: Quilts, pottery, textiles from many cultures use hand-dyed complements.

– Photography: Capturing deserts, ethnic clothing, or urban graffiti demonstrates interplay between complements.

– Art: Painters like Van Gogh and Matisse used bold strokes of pure complements.

– Textiles: Ikat weaving and embroidery feature bright complements side by side.

– Food: Complementary garnishes on dishes, fruits and vegetables at a market.

Choosing your palette

Selecting the right complementary colors involves deciding:

– Which color you want as dominant and which as accent.

– Whether to use pure hues or tinted/shaded versions.

– Varying saturation and brightness levels.

– Context for color combination – warm, cool, bold, muted, etc.

– Design goal – drama, subtlety, cheer, energy etc.

– Personal color preference and mood you want to convey.

Test swatches before committing. See how colors interact and the effects created.


Complementary colors, as opposing colors on the color wheel, offer immense design potential. Their high contrast allows them to stand out, grab attention, convey deep meaning, and heighten aesthetics when used thoughtfully. By following basic color theory principles, you can easily identify complementary colors and use them effectively. Whether subtly or boldly, complements add visual interest and vibrancy. Have fun playing with color combinations across different mediums and finding inspiration in everyday life.