Understanding Color Schemes: Complementary Colors


Color plays a significant role in various aspects of our lives, including design, branding, and marketing. Choosing the right color scheme can greatly impact the effectiveness and aesthetics of a project. One popular category of color schemes is complementary colors. In this article, we will explore the concept of complementary colors, their significance in design and marketing, and provide examples and tips for using them effectively.

What are Complementary Colors?

Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are positioned directly opposite each other on the color wheel. These colors create a vibrant contrast when used together, making them visually appealing and attention-grabbing. The primary colors and their complementary pairs are as follows:

  • Red and Green
  • Blue and Orange
  • Yellow and Purple

Complementary colors are often used to create dynamic and energetic designs, and they can be found in various natural and man-made environments.

Importance of Complementary Colors in Design

Complementary colors are widely used in design to create visual interest and balance. They have the power to evoke emotions, convey messages, and guide the viewer’s attention. Here are a few reasons why complementary colors are important in design:

Contrast and Visual Impact

Complementary colors create a strong contrast when placed side by side. This high level of contrast makes elements stand out and grabs the viewer’s attention. It can be particularly effective in highlighting important information or creating focal points.

Balance and Harmony

Complementary colors have a natural balance and harmony due to their relationship on the color wheel. When used together in a design, they create a sense of harmony and cohesion. This can be especially useful in creating a visually pleasing composition.

Enhancing Readability and Legibility

Using complementary colors in text and background combinations can enhance readability and legibility. The contrast between the colors helps the text stand out and improves the overall reading experience.

Evoking Emotions

Different colors have the power to evoke different emotions. Complementary colors can intensify these emotional responses. For example, the combination of warm colors like red and green can create a sense of excitement or energy, while cool colors like blue and orange can evoke a feeling of calmness or tranquility.

Using Complementary Colors in Marketing

Complementary colors can be a powerful tool in marketing to capture attention, convey brand personality, and create memorable experiences. Here are some ways to effectively use complementary colors in marketing:

Branding and Logo Design

Choosing complementary colors for your brand’s logo can help it stand out and leave a lasting impression. The contrast between the colors can make the logo visually appealing and memorable. It is important to consider the emotions associated with the colors and align them with your brand’s values and personality.

Website and User Interface Design

Using complementary colors in website and user interface design can enhance the user experience and guide the user’s attention. For example, buttons or call-to-action elements in complementary colors can attract the user’s focus and encourage interaction. It is essential to ensure that the color combinations maintain readability and accessibility.

Advertising and Marketing Collateral

In advertising and marketing collateral, complementary colors can be used strategically to draw attention to key messages, products, or promotions. By utilizing the contrast between the colors, marketers can create visually striking and impactful designs that resonate with the target audience.

Product Packaging

Complementary colors can also play a role in product packaging. They can help make the packaging visually appealing on the store shelves and differentiate it from competitors. The right combination of complementary colors can convey the product’s attributes and create a positive association with the brand.

Examples of Complementary Color Schemes

To better understand how complementary colors work together, let’s explore a few examples:

Example 1: Red and Green

The combination of red and green is a classic example of complementary colors. This pairing is often associated with the holiday season. In marketing, it can be used to create a festive and joyful atmosphere. For instance, a company selling holiday decorations might use red and green in their branding and advertising materials.

Example 2: Blue and Orange

Blue and orange are complementary colors that create a vibrant and energetic contrast. This combination is commonly used in sports branding and advertising. Many professional sports teams incorporate blue and orange into their logos and uniforms to create a visually striking and memorable identity.

Example 3: Yellow and Purple

Yellow and purple are complementary colors that create a bold and luxurious contrast. This combination is often associated with creativity and royalty. It can be used in branding or marketing materials for products or services that want to convey a sense of uniqueness or luxury.

Tips for Using Complementary Colors

Here are some tips for effectively using complementary colors in your design and marketing efforts:

  1. Consider the emotional impact: Understand the emotions associated with each color and choose complementary pairs that align with your message or brand personality.
  2. Use contrasting values: Incorporate light and dark shades of complementary colors to create contrast and visual interest.
  3. Pay attention to readability: Ensure that text and background combinations maintain readability and legibility.4. Experiment with different color proportions: Play around with the proportions of complementary colors to find the right balance for your design. You can use one color as the dominant color and the other as an accent.
  4. Use complementary colors strategically: Identify key elements or areas in your design where you want to draw attention, and use complementary colors to highlight those areas.
  5. Consider accessibility: Be mindful of color blindness and ensure that your design is accessible to all users. Test your color combinations using tools that simulate different types of color blindness.
  6. Seek inspiration: Look for inspiration from existing designs, art, nature, or other sources to get ideas on how to use complementary colors effectively.


Complementary colors are an essential tool in design and marketing. They create visual impact, evoke emotions, and enhance the overall aesthetic of a project. By understanding the concept of complementary colors and applying them strategically, designers and marketers can create engaging and memorable experiences for their audience. Experiment with different combinations, consider the emotional impact, and always keep accessibility in mind to make the most of complementary colors in your designs.