Complementary Color Wheel

Complementary color wheel highlighting shades of red and green.

Bathroom with Orange, Brown & Grey

This bathroom design makes good use of complimenting orange and brown colors.

Purple Walls & Yellow Furniture

This complementary color scheme utilizes purple walls with yellow furniture.

Yellow Walls with Purple Furniture

The complementing colors in this example uses yellow on the walls with purple furnishings.

Blue & Orange Paint Covered Walls

Blue and orange compliment each other well in this two-tone wall and furnishings example.

Red Walls & Green Couch in Sitting Room

This sitting room has strong bold complementary colors – bright green and red.

A complementary paint scheme involves the use of two colors that are opposite to one another on the color wheel. Examples of complementary colors include red and green, blue and orange, plus purple and yellow. When you use these colors at full saturation, you can create an incredibly vibrant look; however, it is important to manage these colors, as it is easy to get it badly wrong. A complementary paint scheme is the best way to get something to stand out.

Tips for Utilizing Complementary Paint Colors

To get the best out of your complementary color scheme, consider the following advice:

1. Add a drop of the color’s complement to dull it down without the need to add gray or black.

2. Add a small accent of a color’s complement in order to make it stand out more.

3. For the best results in a complementary paint scheme, choose colors that are of similar intensity.

4. Always ensure that one of the complementary colors is the dominant one in the palette.

5. Choose the non-dominant color for contrasting accents and add in a small touch of the dominant hue if you wish to tone it down even further.

Complementary Paint Scheme Pros & Cons

Pros: When you mix a pair of opposites on the color wheel, you’ll end up with a fairly neutral result. While red and green are traditionally seen as intense holiday colors and have the ability to light up a room when used individually, they actually form a warm brown when combined. You’ll find that mixing any pair of complementary colors provides the same neutral look. For instance, blue and orange combine for a cool brown, while yellow and purple give you a nice grayish color.

Cons: Lack of experience or knowledge can lead to bad color choices. For those occasions when you wish to use bright complementary colors in a paint scheme, you may require a more toned down approach. If you wish to flatten the color, you may have to add a darker color to the paint.

See also:

Analogous Paint Schemes
Double Contrast Paint Schemes
Monochromatic Paint Schemes
Split Complementary Paint Schemes
Triadic Paint Schemes