The California Paints Blog

The Perfect Palette for Complementary Colors

Posted on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 @ 01:57 PM


Color Theory

An Introduction to Complementary Colors

In color theory there are twelve standard colors.  The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue, and the three secondary colors are orange, violet, and green. The combination of these six colors are also included in the standard twelve. A complementary color scheme involves two colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel.  That means we are limited to no more or no less than 6 basic complementary color schemes.Complementary Colors

They include:

  • yellow and violet
  • blue and orange
  • red and green
  • yellow-orange and blue-violet
  • red-orange and blue-green
  • red-violet and yellow-green (my favorite!)

Now these complementary colors are the basis of the color scheme, but that doesn’t mean they can't be manipulated by shades and tones to create countless variations! Just remember to make sure these variations were derived from the same original values!

Designing with Complementary Colors

This season brights are in! Whether it be in denim pants or interior design, this year is all about making a bold statement! And what better way to achieve this than with complementary colors? Scientifically speaking, complementary colors brighten each other.  Using bold interior paint colors can result in an interior space full of energy! However, there are other ways to incorporate complementary colors in design that will allow you to make a statement that isn't so energetic. Let’s explore some creative ways to add complimentary colors to your next project. As always remember to keep all aspects of the room in mind; paint color, fabrics, furniture, decor, etc.

 Bright & Bold

In this space it was all or nothing.  The contrasting scheme of purple and yellow are the focus of the room. Choosing brilliant hues will create that bold, energetic statement complementary colors are known for.  (Complementary colors were the basis of this piece in my pattern series for my color theory course!) 


For a more traditional look try utilizing tints in your interior space. Here I used blue and orange chips found in our Perfect Palette fan deck and picked colors on the lighter side that live closer to the top. Take a trip to your local paint dealer to experiment with paint chips and find your perfect complementary tints!

Neutral AccentTo create a more elegant finish try pairing complements with a neutral accent.  Here the red-violet and yellow-green are mellowed out by the off-white accent for a more sophisticated look. 

As we've seen, complementary colors are very versatile.  They can create a wide range of interior spaces while always providing that pop of contrast that the scheme incorperates.  Not only are they interesting from a science prospective, but they also create a visual interest.   Using complementary colors in any of the above combinations are sure to make a statement! Now to decide on what statement to make!

Happy scheming!


Free Download:Color Psychology: Interior


Topics: interior paint, color theory, complementary colors

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