Remember that opposites attract and you’ll start to get a grip on the concept of complementary colors. But like any relationship of opposites, the passionate pop of togetherness can be festive and passionate or garish and out-of-control.
What exactly are complementary colors? Simply, they are colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel or color circle, a schematic that presents pigment colors in at the least, their primary and secondary relationships. Color circles or wheels dating to the 1700’s help artists and scientists visually understand the color experience (check this Wikipedia link). The complimentary colors opposite each other on the color wheel are pairs, for example: Red is opposite (complements) Green, Blue is opposite Orange, Yellow is opposite Violet. Science and history aside, here are some practical tips for using complementary colors in real life.
- Follow the 80%-20% rule: Create dominance of one color over another by using about 10%-20% of one complement against 80%-90% of the other complementary color. In the photos below, you can see how the red and green of the cup and grass change dominance due to their visual ratio. This is a 2-dimensional example that shows you how colors work in a contained area (print, painting, a computer or tv screen).
Choosing complementary colors for architectural spaces is a different challenge. When using complementary colors in a room or an area where multiple wall colors are visible from different vantage points, the percentages of color will vary with a person’s vantage point. My 80%-20% rule is a guideline, not a mandate, and like any design or art “rule,” can be broken successfully. As a architectural colorist I find that playing with the ratios of various colors is a exciting balancing act that shifts as you walk through a room or in and around a large architectural space.
For color consulting, contact colorist Cristina Acosta. 541-389-5711 [email protected]