Complementary colors


To define the complementary colors it is important to have the help of the chromatic circle . By definition, a complementary color is one that is opposite in the mentioned circle. A primary color will always correspond to a secondary color as a complementary one . In the case of tertiary colors, these will have a complementary that will be another tertiary color. The characteristics of the complementary colors may vary according to the primary color model to be used. That is, if it is RGB, CMYK or RYB. Knowledge of these colors is key to establishing contrasts, achieving shades and darkening tones.


What are complementary colors?

It is defined as complementary colors to those that are opposite in the chromatic circle. In this way, a primary color will always correspond to a secondary color as a complementary one. There are also complementary colors for tertiary ones. In the chromatic circle it will appear as opposite to a tertiary color, another tertiary.

  • Which are?
  • features
  • What are they for?
  • Adjacent complementary colors
  • Examples

Which are?

To know what the primary colors are , you must use a color wheel or color wheel . If we observe, always a primary color will have as opposite in the circle to a secondary one.


Thus, we can identify the three main pairs of complementary colors :

  • Yellow – Violet
  • Orange blue
  • Red Green

For this definition of the main complementary color pairs, the RYB (Red – Yellow – Blue) model has been used .

The color wheel will also help you establish complementary colors for tertiary colors . For these colors, their complement will always be another tertiary.

In this way we can identify three main pairs of complementary colors that are opposite on the color wheel:

  • Yellow Green – Red Violet
  • Red orange – Blue green
  • Violet blue – Orange yellow


The main characteristics of this type of color are:

  • One color is complementary to another when it is at the opposite point on the color wheel or color wheel
  • A secondary color corresponds to each primary color as complementary.
  • Tertiary colors will always have as complementary to another tertiary

What are they for?

In Art Theory , complementary colors play an important role. Its handling allows to generate contrasts, shades and darken tones appropriately.

The use of adjacent complementary colors generates harmony, vibration and movement. Always trying to make one of the colors predominant.

Adjacent complementary colors

If we consider the color wheel, the adjacent complementary colors are those that are next to a complementary, both to the left and to the right. Every primary or secondary color will have a tertiary as adjacent.

Examples of adjacent complementary colors: Yellow’s complementary is Violet, and this will have Violet Blue on its left, and Violet Red on its right, as adjacent.


Taking the traditional RYB model, some examples of complementary colors are:

  • Red (primary) and green (secondary)
  • Yellow (primary) and violet (secondary)
  • Blue (primary) and orange (secondary)
  • Green yellow (tertiary) and Violet red (tertiary)

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