Complementary colors are colors sitting opposite each other on the color wheel, offering a high contrast and vibrant look when placed together. Yet, they can be jarring if not used in the right proportion or context.
In design or art, you’ll often see these pairs used for emphasis. For instance, a red apple against a green background stands out more. However, a word of caution: these colors can be overwhelming if overused. It’s a balance that artists and designers learn to strike.
These colors find their way into everyday life, too. They can be in interior design, advertising, or even clothing. They create a certain visual buzz that catches our eye.
Different color models arise due to the varied methods of color creation and perception. Let’s briefly see complementary colors in these three models: RYB, RGB, and CMYK.
RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue) is a traditional color model used in art and painting. In this model, you’ll find green directly across from red. These two are complementary. The same goes for blue and orange, or yellow and purple. Each pair brings out the best in the other, making the colors pop.
In RGB (Red, Green, Blue) model, a color model used chiefly in digital displays, the complementary pairs switch up: red and cyan, green and magenta, blue and yellow. When red light mixes with cyan light, we get white light, and the same goes for the other pairs. This relationship is fundamental in digital color representation: adding two complementary colors of light will get white light.
Then there’s CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black), used in color printing. Similar to RGB, the complementary pairs are red and cyan, green and magenta, blue and yellow. The CMYK model operates by subtracting colors from white light, differing from RGB where colors are added to create light.
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