Complementary colors - Color circle & color theory (2022)

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    I mention complementary colors a little now and then and explain quickly in some posts. Here is a post about some color theory, color circle & explanations. So now I thought I would "go to the bottom" with this in a detailed post about complementary colors!

    I have also added some extra information on how to mix colors with tips, pictures and video. :)

    Table of contents of complementary colors:

    1. Color circle
    2. What are complementary colors?
    3. To highlight another color
    4. Primary colors & secondary colors
    5. Neutralize colors
    6. Conclusion on complementary colors
    7. How to mix colors?

    Color circle:

    The color circle shows how the colors are connected, and that green turns into blue which turns into purple may not be very interesting, but the color circle is actually a great tool! I have attached a picture of the color circle below, some call these color wheels as well. Further down there is also a color circle for basic colors / primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors.

    Complementary colors color circle

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    complementary colors color circle color wheel

    What are complementary colors?

    Complementary colors are the colors opposite each other in the color circle, some even call these opposite colors or contrasting colors. You can see that, for example, the blue tones are opposite the yellow, orange tones. Thus, blue is the complementary color to yellow / orange. Green is a complementary color to purple / purple-pink, but a green tone in the blue direction is also a complementary color to red.

    Here you see a picture of the complementary colors blue and orange.

    complementary color to blue orange
    Food photo created by master1305 - www.freepik.com

    To highlight another color:

    To highlight another color is done by placing two complementary colors next to each other.

    Examples for highlighting colors using complementary colors:

     Blue eyes  highlighted by  yellow ,  orange  gold , and  warm brown shades .
     Green eyes  highlighted by  lila / lilarosa .
     Brown eyes  highlighted by  cool shades such as blue, silver and gray . This is because brown is not included in the color circle but is a mixture of several colors, but since the opposite is highlighted and brown is a warm color, it is highlighted by cold colors.

    Here you see a make-up where I highlight my blue eyes with just yellow, orange and warm brown shade.

    complementary colors highlight blue eyes color circle
    Orange & yellow make-up that highlights my blue eyes ⤸
    Click here to get to the post

    Primary colors and secondary colors:

    • What are primary colors or base colors? One primary color or primer is a color used for mixing secondary colors or otherwise forms the basis of a color system. These may differ depending on whether it is additive paint mixture or subtractive color mix.
    1. Additive color mixture = colors in TV and monitor. Abbreviated RGB and stands for RED, Green and Blue
    2. Subtrative color mix = colors for e.g. print. Abbreviated CMYK and stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and addition of Black (K = Key-color) Color mix in painting is also Subtrative color mix and the primary colors are Yellow, RED and Blue
    • What are secondary colors? Secondary colors are colors that occur when primary colors or base colors are mixed. Below you see a picture of both RGB (left) and CMYK (right) and how the colors become when they are mixed with each other.
      primary colors secondary colors color circle

    Neutralize colors:

    How to neutralize colors? To neutralize a color, the complementary colors are also used, but then they are applied on each other instead of next to each other and the result is then neutral.

    This is because if you mix the three primary colors RED, blue and yellow so it always will be brown / neutral (the other shades in the color circle are obtained by mixing colors, but red blue and yellow can never be obtained by mixing) So if you want to neutralize one of the base colors, you have to add the other two!

    Examples of how to neutralize e.g. blue circles under the eyes or a red pimple:

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     Hide blue circles under the eyes  - neutralized by red and yellow  (= orange) 
     Cover red pimple or reduce redness on the face  - neutralized by blue and yellow (= green)

    Also read my posts I made earlier about reducing redness / covering pimples. You can find the posts here - dampen redness on the face and cover a scarlet pimple.

    The conclusion about complementary colors:

    Complementary colors on each other - Neutralized.
    Complementary colors beside each other - Reinforced.

    How to mix colors?

    To mix colors in painting, you start from the basic colors (primary colors) yellow, red & blue.

    Here you see a color circle with primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors:

    how to mix colors

    Primary colors can not be mixed with other colors but are the basic colors.

    You can not mix yellow, red or blue from other colors because these are the basic colors that create the other colors.

    Secondary colors mixed by mixing primary colors with each other.

    • Yellow and red turn orange.
    • Red and blue turn purple.
    • Blue and yellow turn green.

    Tertiary colors mixed by mixing secondary colors with each other or mixing primary colors and secondary colors.

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    • Yellow and orange become light orange.
    • Red and orange become red-orange.
    • Red and purple become red-purple.
    • Blue and purple become blue-purple.
    • Blue and green become blue-green.
    • Yellow and green turn yellow-green.

    What colors do you mix to get brown?

    Depending on what brown color you are looking for, it is a little different how you mix brown color. As a basis for mixing the color brown, you can start from the colors red and green in equal parts.

    What color will it be if you mix red and green? Equal parts red and green to mix brown.

    To then get lighter, darker or redder brown colors, just add other colors. You can use this color generator to try mixing different colors online, click here.

    The simple answer for which colors turn brown is red and green.

    Then you get different shades from brown color scale so you can mix a little whatever. Here you have a film when an artist creates different shades of brown.

    What colors do you mix to get blue?

    Blue is a base color and can not be mixed.

    What colors do you mix to get pink?

    Red and white give pink, if you want a more peach pink you can mix in a little yellow. For a more purple pink, mix in a little blue.

    What happens if you mix all the colors?

    If you mix all the color colors together, it will be black because you have created a substance that absorbs all the colors and for us, the absence of light is seen as black.

    So what colors do you mix to get black are all! :)

    Color generator to display complementary colors:

    Complementary colors - Color theory, color circle & explanation

    Must also suggest a color generator I found, where you can easily choose colors in real time and see which are its complementary colors and so on. Super flexible and available on Paletton.com.

    Hope you got wiser by my great post about complementary colors, color theory & color circle and what they do! Get in touch if you have any questions or concerns and feel free to write a comment!

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    Helena Amiley
    Helena Amileyhttps://www.imakeyousmile.se
    I write mostly about beauty but also offer glimpses from the entrepreneurial life and the construction of our own camper van. Vanlife here we come!

    4 COMMENTS

    1. PRIMARY COLORS ARE RED, BLUE AND YELLOW (NOT GREEN)
      GREEN IS SECONDARY AND MIXED BY YELLOW AND BLUE, ALSO EX. PURPLE BLAZED BY RED AND BLUE.

      RGB- are the colors in computer / tv = the colors of monitors are made up of rgb

      With kind regards,
      ANNIKA
      ARTIST

    2. Hi Helena,

      Good description, ended up here when I searched for complementary colors. And your post made me understand why complementary colors match well. However, I think there is a small error in the theory. You're talking about the base colors, which I guess are the same as are sometimes called primary colors. These are Red Green and Blue (RGB). Yellow is not primary but secondary, and you get it by mixing red and green. In addition to yellow, there are two other secondary ones in the color wheel: cyan (turquoise) and magenta (purple). The color wheel thus has three primary and three secondary. If you mix two primary you get a secondary, if you mix two secondary you get a primary. Red (primary) + green (primary) = yellow (secondary) and cyan (secondary) + magenta (secondary) = blue (primary). The logic here is that if you mix two primary, you get a secondary color which is at the same time the complementary color to the third primary. Red + green = yellow which is a complement to blue. / Robin

      • Cover, creo that is quite confounded: the green is not the primary color, its amarillo. I will not get any red and green mezclando. The color of these colors gives an dark red with a green tone or a dark green with a red tone, always depending on the proportions. Always tending colors "quebrados".

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