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What are complementary colors?

What are complementary colors? How to find them? Where can they be applied? What is complementary color scheme? Become the real expert in colors by the means of our article!

color balls

Complementary color definition - complementary colors are disposed on opposite ends of the color wheel and form a complementary color scheme. How does the color complement each other? In order to successfully practice the combination of complementary colors (complementary color list), you need to know their properties.

Complementary color examples

complementary color scheme

We call two colors complementary if their pigments, when mixed, produce a neutral gray-black color. In physics two chromatic colors which when are mixed produce white color, are also considered complementary. Two complementary colors form a strange couple. They are color opposites for each other, but they need one another at the same time. Placed close to each other they excite each other to the maximum brightness and dissolve (when are mixed), form a blue-black tone, like fire and water. Each color has a single color, which is complementary to it. On the color circle the complementary colors are arranged diametrically to one another.

beautiful bird

They form the following pairs of complementary colors:

yellow - violet;

yellow-orange - blue-violet;

orange - blue;

red and orange - blue-green;

red - green;

red and purple - yellow-green;

bright fish

If you we analyze these pairs of complementary colors, you will find that there always all the three primary colors: yellow, red and blue:

yellow - purple = yellow, red + blue;

blue - orange - blue, yellow + red;

red - green = Red, Yellow + Blue.

If you wanted to know complementary color of pink working with design, these colors will be useful: brown, grey, green, yellow, white and pale blue. Green is considered to be opposite to pink on the color wheel.

Complementary color for blue is light orange. Complementary color of brown is not easy to find out, because brown is a mix of different colors. So there are a lot of red, a little bit of blue color and green. In any case, in the end of experiment you’ll see that its complementary color is cyan or blue-green. Complementary color of purple is yellow-green.

yellow fish

READ ALSO: What are nigerian fashion color trends in 2016?

Of all the complementary color scheme has the highest contrast and attracts the attention the most. When complementary colors are arranged side by side, each of the colors enhances the opposite, thereby making each other more intense and brighter. This effect is explained by the simultaneous contrast.

The chromatic contrast in its pure form is rare; usually the colors vary in brightness. The yellow pigment is the lightest, purple is the darkest. In this case, the complementary color contrast is enhanced by light contrast.

poppy field

One of the ways to enhance the color saturation or select it is to place the complementary color. Complementary contrast looks bright, energetic and active, especially if you take pure colors. If you want to create a focus on borders, undertake additional colors similar in brightness and saturation.

The contrast of complementary colors is difficult to apply correctly over large areas: due to the high intensity it can look too harsh and irritating. For example, in a place where people spend a lot of time, the contrast of complementary colors will quickly tire them.

To look harmonious, complementary color scheme requires skillful selection of saturation, and lightness, and it must be built according to certain rules.

Harmony of complementary colors

harmony of colors

The complementary colors neutralize each other applying or mixing. Theorists have pointed out that the achromatic color is solid and complete in its nature, because it does not require the emergence of the different color in the eye of a watcher. It does not cause simultaneous or sequential contrast. When complementary colors are seen together, they cancel each other out. The balance and stability are achieved, so the sight is not tired of the abundance of one tone.

Just as a mixture of yellow, red and blue give gray, a mixture of two or more colors in the embodiment also transforms gray. We can recall the experience from the ‘Physics of color’ when after the exclusion of one of the colors of the spectrum, all the other colors, when mixed, gave its additional color. For each of the colors of the spectrum the sum of all other ones forms its complementary color.

red fish

Physiologically, it is proved that as the phenomenon of image retention and simultaneous contrast, it illustrates the surprising and still unexplained fact of appearing in front of our eyes in the perception of a particular color at a time, and the other, balancing its complementary color, which in the event of a real lack of it is spontaneously generated in our minds. This phenomenon is very important for almost all work with color. In the ‘color harmony’ it has been established, that the law of complementary colors is the basis of balance of the composition because of its compliance with the full sense of balance, created in our eyes.

The use of complementary colors

beautiful duckling

From the lightness, saturation of complementary colors, their location depends on the nature of the color gamut. Diluted color, correct proportions, smooth transitions make the contrast softer and add static. Solid colors, clear lines create movement and dynamism. The use of complementary color depends on the task either highlight or neutralize something. If you want to draw attention to the subject or visually make the color more vivid, the complementary color has a lot of ‘skills’, such as a background. It is best to do a background color with more lightness and less saturated.

blue eyes

To revive the great plain layers people use bright accents of complementary colors. Such a relaxed contrast is not tiring and it’s easier to comply with the measure working with the accents. The complementary color scheme of warm shades from yellow to red looks better in pure tones. The most difficult to work with muted warm colors, because they lose their character. Highly saturated colors of the same lightness are rarely used because they create a sense of ripples in our eyes, and quickly tire. If a color is needed to be dilute or smooth, make it less saturated, gradually add its complementary color. 

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