How Complementary Colours Work in Design

When it comes to design, colour is a powerful tool. It can be used to grab someone’s attention, emphasise specific pieces of text, create emotion and to also create a level of organisation amongst a lot of content. Therefore, it’s important that thought and care goes into choosing the colours being used. This is where it’s beneficial to understand complementary colours and their uses.


What Are Complementary Colours?

Complementary colours are two colours that are opposites in the colour wheel, such as purple and orange or red and green. More often than not a cool colour is paired with a warm colour, as this provides the most contrast. These colours, though opposites, are able to contrast each other in a way that’s appealing to the viewing eye. For example, though red and green are contrasting colours, they also look good when used together. Additionally, complementary colours, when combined, should cancel each other out. For example, when purple and orange are combined, a grey colour is produced. In short, complementary colours should be complete opposites in every way.


How Are Complementary Colours Used in Design?

Complementary colours are often used in design, simply because they stand out from one another. Instead of choosing similar colours or those that blend into the background, designers often choose to use colors that grab someone’s attention. The best way to do this is with two colours that contrast, as each individual element will stand out.


There are many different examples of complementary colours being used in design and it’s a technique that’s popularly used in brand logos. For example, the Fanta logo uses blue and orange. Similarly, Heineken uses red and green. These are both examples of brands using complementary colours as a way to stand out.