Complementary Colors

This post is a follow up to my previous post— Color Wheel. A post about complements or complementary colors. 

Complementary Colors

If when you mixed two colors in equal amounts together and the resulting color is a neutral gray, these two colors are complementary to each other. Previously we've learned that the complement to a primary color is a secondary color (two primary colors combined).

Fig. 1: Any 2 colors mixed together that create a neutral gray are called complementary colors

For example, the complement of red is green, which is a mixture of yellow and blue. The other complements to the primary colors are: purple complements yellow and orange complements blue.

But the complementary relationship doesn't apply only to the primary and secondary colors. Any two colors mixed together that create a neutral gray are considered complementary colors.

Distinguishing Complementary Color

Finding out which colors are complementary, the color wheel becomes very useful. The colors that are directly opposite of each other on the color wheel are the complements of each other. Drawing a line from one color through the central axis of the wheel to another color, you will find the color that is complementary to your chosen color. You can do this with any color on the wheel.

Fig. 2: Finding the complementary colors on the color wheel

Why is it useful?

One reason why complementary colors are useful is the knowledge that when 2 colors equally combined will end up with a neutral gray color. And mixing colors in differing amounts will create colors closer to gray. This is one way of muting colors or lessening the intensity of a pure color. Figure 3, illustrates the gradual progression mixing varying amounts of the 2 compliments together, in this case orange and blue. Mixing a little orange with blue reduces the intensity of the color. The same applies to the other side, adding a little blue to the orange calms the color's intensity. Continuing the process, gradually mixing more and more equal amounts of each color together you will neutralize the both colors and eventually have gray.

Fig. 3: Mixing complementary colors
There is much more that is useful about working with complementary colors. Complementary colors have a dynamic relationship and can be used to create balance or tension. Many artists use complementary color schemes as a guide with their painting.


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    web design


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