Color wheel complementary colors & split complementary colors are key to paint mixing and home decorating. Many great color combinations are built on complementaries! Here's some essential info (down to the correct spelling ;-)
What are complementary colors?
Complementary colors are any two hues that sit directly opposite each other on the color mixing wheel.
When you mix these two hues 1:1, they "complement" (=complete) each other to a neutral grey. (At least that's the theory. Real-world paint pigments usually produce a murky grayish-brown ;-)
The concept of complementaries was a by-product of 18th-century color mixing theory, which showed that you can create all paint colors out of three primaries (yellow, red, blue). It was developed mainly by painters - and never intended for use in home decorating! Click to see how color mixing works.
The mixing process of the 3-primary color wheel gives you (roughly) six sets of complementaries:
Wall Paint Trick
Stir a bit of the complementary color into your wall paint. This will
Split complementary colors come in sets of three: one hue combined with the hues on either side of its complementary color.
Split complementary colors are very useful in creating color combinations for design/decorating projects.
Below is a full set of split complementary colors from the color mixing wheel. (These are not your only choice, though! Check out the four-primary color wheel for more interesting color ideas!)
Having said that complementary colors are all about paint mixing and not about decorating, I'll admit that complementaries come in very handy if you need an accent color (or just a bit of relief from too much of the same thing).
♦ Many authentic Tuscan homes are decorated in beautiful red-green complementary palettes.
♦ Also, check out both my red and green color palette collections for several gorgeous examples.
Red & green are Mother Nature's favorite complementary colors, and they can work very well in interiors, too. The problem is usually not with the red (which can, of course, attract too much attention) but with the green, which can look a bit fake if you have real green outside the window, e.g. trees, a garden, or farmland.
The solution is to use slightly desaturated greens, or at least mix several hues, tints & shades of green into the color scheme.
So for example, the room above (left) plays off a glowing, saturate red against softly muted sage green walls, while the one to the right shows a murkier, brownish version of the red-green complementary color scheme: rust & olive (with a few teal/turquoise accents thrown in).
♦ The best room examples are on the page about orange bedrooms.
♦ The page about blue bedrooms has some excellent pics as well.
♦ Blue accents feature predominantly in my orange color palettes.
♦ Finally, the page about Tuscan paint colors has good examples of light or rusty oranges with blue.
Blue is everyone's favorite color, but it can look cold on its own. By combining it with some version of its complementary color, you can instantly raise the energy level in the room and add interest to the color scheme.
As you can see in the illustration, you don't need a vibrant, saturate orange to achieve this:
Purple/yellow is the toughest complementary color scheme to get right in home decorating. A room in bright, saturate purple and yellow will generally look garish and unsophisticated (I'm sure there are exceptions, but I haven't seen them).
♦ The collection of purple bedrooms shows how amazing purple can look with desaturated, deep golden or sandstone 'yellows'.
♦ Also, check out the 'hip hotel' color palettes for a few purple-yellow combinations that are definitely on the quirkier side ;-)
♦ Finally, there's a very subtle and sweet yellow-violet bedroom on the page about Swedish country decorating.
One way to pull off a yellow/purple complementary color scheme is to mute/desaturate it into plum + 'dusty'/muddied yellow. Mustard yellow, with its greenish-grey bias, works a treat. Yellow-hued neutrals, e.g. pale straw colors, can look great, too.
E ... Complementary: Definition
"Complementum" is Latin and means "something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect". Complementary colors, when they're mixed 1:1, "complement"= complete each other to a neutral grey.
I ... Complimentary: Definition
"Complimentary" can have several meanings. Here are the two main ones:
1. "Expressing admiration; expressing or containing a compliment" (a complimentary remark, a complimentary film review)
2. "Given free as a courtesy or favor" (e.g. complimentary tickets, or a complimentary bottle of wine at your hotel).
Click A Pic For More Info:
The following books provide loads of color scheme inspiration, including gorgeous color wheel complementary combinations:
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