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Which color scheme is made of two colors directly opposite?

Welcome back, readers! Today we’re diving into the world of color theory to explore complementary color schemes. Complementary colors are color pairs that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. When placed next to each other, they create maximum contrast and vibrancy. This makes them an extremely popular choice for all kinds of designs. Read on to learn all about complementary colors and see some examples of how to use them effectively.

What are complementary colors?

Complementary colors (also called complementary hues) are any two colors opposite each other on the standard color wheel. For example, red and green are complements, as are yellow and purple. When complementary colors are combined, they bring out the highest contrast in one another. This helps the colors pop and stand out more vividly.

The high contrast created by complements makes them ideal for accent colors. They naturally draw the eye wherever they’re placed. Complementary colors also have the ability to make each other appear brighter, more saturated, and more vibrant when side-by-side. This helps explain why the color combination is so popular in all kinds of design work.

Examples of complementary color schemes

Here are some classic examples of complementary color pairs:

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

These are the complements based on the traditional RYB color model. There are also complementary pairs in other color systems, like RGB and CMYK:

  • RGB: Red & Cyan, Green & Magenta, Blue & Yellow
  • CMYK: Cyan & Red, Magenta & Green, Yellow & Blue

You may notice the RGB and CMYK complements are simply the inverse of each other. This demonstrates how complementary colors directly oppose each other in various color models.

Benefits of using complementary colors

There are several reasons complementary color schemes remain one of the most popular choices in design:

  • Contrast – Complements naturally create high contrast when placed together. This contrast grabs attention.
  • Vibrance – The opposites make each other appear more bold, intense, and lively.
  • Versatility – Almost any pair of complements works in any design style.
  • Harmony – Even with high contrast, complements tend to look balanced and harmonious.
  • Simplicity – With just two colors, the scheme is simple to create and implement.

Complementary colors let designers take advantage of these intrinsic benefits easily in all kinds of projects.

Using complementary colors in design

Here are some tips for working with complementary color schemes effectively:

  • Use one color for the dominant areas and the other for accents.
  • Try different color ratios like 60/40, 70/30, or 80/20.
  • Adjust the saturation and brightness of the colors for more subtle contrast.
  • Add neutral colors like black, white, or gray to soften the scheme.
  • Layer complements over crisp white space for maximum pop.
  • Apply the accent complement judiciously for strategic emphasis.

And here are some examples of complementary schemes in various designs:

Design Type Color Scheme Example
Graphic Design Orange & Blue orange and blue graphic design
Interior Design Red & Green red and green interior
Web Design Yellow & Purple yellow and purple website

As you can see, complementary color schemes are extremely adaptable and work beautifully in all kinds of visual media.

Potential issues to avoid

Complementary colors may be vibrant, but incorporating them into designs effectively does take a bit of care. Here are some potential issues to keep in mind:

  • Used excessively without constraint, complements can sometimes read as garish or overwhelming.
  • It takes thoughtful color balancing to ensure the complements work cohesively.
  • Poorly managed complementary schemes may come across as visually jarring or amateurish.
  • Deficient neutral tones can make energetic complements feel unrefined.

Skillful designers sidestep these pitfalls by carefully regulating complement saturation, strategically integrating neutral tones, and using complements in well-designed compositions appropriate for the brand, theme, or atmosphere.

Examples of complementary color palettes

To give you a better idea of how to work with complements, here are some specific color palette examples paired with sample designs:

Blue and Orange


blue and orange color palette

Red and Green


red and green color palette

Yellow and Purple


yellow and purple color palette

As you can see, the complements provide vivid accent colors that make the other shades pop beautifully. This variety and versatility is what makes complementary color schemes so broadly useful.

Complementary colors in nature

The concept of complementary colors is not simply an artistic invention. It has roots in the natural world as well. Certain pigments absorb some wavelengths of light while reflecting others. Pigments that absorb opposite ends of the light spectrum consequently appear as complements.

Some examples of complementary colors found in nature include:

  • Chlorophyll (green) and anthocyanins (red, purple)
  • Blue bird feathers and orange flower petals
  • Yellow autumn leaves and violet morning glories

Nature provides perfect demonstrations of how intrinsically complementary colors help create visual interest and vibrancy. Designers simply replicate these intrinsic effects for aesthetic purposes.

History of complementary colors

The aesthetic effects of combining complementary colors were first systematically studied by famous painters like J.M.W. Turner and Claude Monet. They pioneered new painting techniques using adjacent complements to create vivid atmospheric effects.

In the 1800s, chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul published a comprehensive analysis of how complementary colors interact. He introduced the term “simultaneous contrast” to describe how complements influence one another when placed side-by-side. These early studies established the essential principles still followed by designers today.

With the Bauhaus and modernist movements of the 1920s-30s, complementary color schemes became especially prominent. Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky actually developed acolor questionnaire to quantify people’s color preferences for complements versus analogous schemes. The vivid complements of painters like Piet Mondrian also came to epitomize the energetic spirit of Art Deco style.

Today, complementary colors remain one of the core tools for graphic, web, interior, fashion, and all other kinds of designers. Their strong visual effects are as useful now as in earlier eras.


Complementary color schemes clearly live up to their name. Few combinations complement and enhance one another as naturally as these intrinsically vivid opposites. With a timeless balance of contrast, vibrance, and harmony, complementary colors continue to be a foundational design tool after centuries of use. They provide an easy way to create pop, legibility, and dynamism in any kind of project.

Understanding the interactions between complementary hues opens up a world of possibilities within the color wheel. Implement thoughtfully, this basic two-color scheme can take designs to the next level visually. So embrace the power of complements to make your next project pop off the page!