What is complementary color?

Imagine a room with invigorating, energetic colors. You might think of warm colors, like reds or oranges. Or you might think of bright blues. But one way to make colors really pop is to use them in specific combinations, called complements.

Complementary colors are those of the “opposite” hue. When placed next to each other, they tend to appear brighter than they are, and they produce pleasing contrasts. Often they are thought of as those that are across from each other on a color wheel. That isn’t the technical definition, because of course it depends on the color wheel being ordered properly, but it’s useful to remember.

Complementary color is not the last word when it comes to contrast. Many contrasting color combinations are not complements. But complements are a mainstay of the way that artists and designers look at color.

Here are some popular complementary color combinations:

Blue and orange

This is a very striking and popular color combination because in addition to being complementary, blue and orange also represent very cool and warm colors. This leads to a brilliant contrast.

Blue and orange art prints and posters can be found to match many themes, because these colors are common in nature as well as urban areas. They are also very common on movie posters.

Decorating with blue and orange art prints creates a striking room that does not overwhelm with either warm or cool tones.

Wolves on High Ground Six Green Leaves

Blue Nude I  c. 1952 Dreamscape II

Yellow and violet

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Allium and Echinop Banana

Red and green

In Western society, red and green together has a “Christmas” association, but this is avoidable by not using a bright red with an “evergreen” color. There are lots of other shades to choose from, for example:

Elephants Turtle Crossing

Here’s an example of using low saturation colors to get around the popular association of red and green. Some people argue that complementary color only applies to high-saturation colors, but we can fudge a bit:

Male Nude on Rocky Outcrop  c.1900 Horse

Another tactic is to head away from the direct complementary pair, in both directions. Moving the red a touch toward violet and the green a touch toward teal means you’re no longer looking at a complementary pair, but it can work without having any holiday association:

Classic Bouquet Freda  Freddy and Fran

White and black?

Technically, white and black aren’t even colors, so they can’t be complementary colors. But when we’re talking about decorating, what matters is how things look, rather than the exact science, so it’s useful to include white and black because of their extreme contrast.

Jack in the Pulpit No. I V Femme

Phalaenopsis  Little Sierra Sea Spleenwort

In conclusion…

Decorating with only complementary colors is not the only way. Many popular and attractive color combinations are not complements, including orange and green, red and blue, and blue and green. And neutral tones are mostly left out of the picture when it comes to complementary colors. Still, understanding complementary colors can help you create a strikingly designed room.

Next: Tips for decorating with earth tones

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Avatar picture for Christiana amakiri I lik complementry colors bcus they are actractive
Avatar picture for LOUISA TOBALL Thanks for your help. Its has really made me understand what complementary colors are and why they are put together as complementary colors.
Thanks once again for your help xx
Avatar picture for Smithd241 Only wanna tell that this is very useful , Thanks for taking your time to write this. geeddfddabdadckd
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