What is a Split-Complementary Color Scheme?

Feature Split Complementary ColorsA split-complementary color scheme involves three colors. You start with one base color. Then, you identify its complement on the color wheel. Instead of using this complement, you select the two colors adjacent to it. This creates a dynamic yet harmonious palette.

In this scheme, you get the contrast of complementary colors without the intensity. Compared with the complementary color scheme, this scheme is more versatile. You can use it in various design settings, from graphic designs to interiors. It offers both harmony and visual interest.

Split-Complementary Color Examples in Different Color Wheels

Split Complementary Color Scheme in RYB Color Wheel
Split Complementary Color Scheme in RYB Color Wheel
Split Complementary Color Scheme in RGB Color Wheel
Split Complementary Color Scheme in RGB Color Wheel
Split Complementary Color Scheme in CMYK Color Wheel
Split Complementary Color Scheme in CMYK Color Wheel

RYB Color Wheel

The RYB color wheel stands for Red, Yellow, and Blue. It’s a traditional color model often used in art and design education.

To create a split-complementary scheme here, choose a base color like red. Locate its complement, which would be green. Then, pick the two colors adjacent to green—yellow-green and blue-green. This combo—red, yellow-green, and blue-green—forms your RYB split-complementary palette.

Besides this combo, you can find other split-complementary schemes like (blue, yellow-orange, red-orange), (yellow, red-purple, and blue-purple), etc. There are countless possibilities in this color model that artists and painters often use for its organic and intuitive appeal.

RGB Color Wheel

The RGB model, which stands for Red, Green, Blue, is digital-based and common in electronic displays.

Let’s say you start with red as your base color for a split-complementary scheme in RGB wheel. Its direct complement in RGB is cyan. Bypass cyan and select the adjacent colors—blue-cyan and green-cyan. After that, you get your RGB split-complementary color scheme: red, blue-cyan, and green-cyan.

Similarly, with green as your dominant color, you can find the scheme: green, blue-magenta, and red-magenta. Choose blue as your starting point, and you will get blue, green-yellow, and red-yellow.

CMYK Color Wheel

The CMYK model stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). It’s the standard for color printing.

For a split-complementary scheme, choose cyan as your base. Magenta serves as its complement. Instead of magenta, opt for the colors next to magenta—red-magenta and blue-magenta. Finally, your CMYK split-complementary palette will be cyan, red-magenta, and blue-magenta.

Of course, the scheme above is not the only split-complementary choice. You can also find schemes like (magenta, yellow-green, and cyan-green), (yellow, cyan-blue, and magenta-blue), etc.

Please notice that you may see some common split-complementary color schemes in both RGB and CMYK wheels. That’s because there’s an overlap between RGB and CMYK wheels – some secondary and tertiary colors of them are same.

Split-Complementary Color Scheme Generator

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