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Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are of “opposite” hue in some color model. The exact hue “complementary” to a given hue depends on the model in question, and perceptually uniform, additive, and subtractive color models, for example, have differing complements for any given color.

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Color theory

On the HSV color wheel opposite colors are complementary colors, that when mixed produce a shade of grey.

In color theory, two colors are called complementary if, when mixed in the proper proportion, they produce a neutral color (grey, white, or black).

In roughly-perceptual color models, the neutral colors (white, greys, and black) lie along a central axis. For example, in the HSV color space, complementary colors (as defined in HSV) lie opposite each other on any horizontal cross-section.

In most discussions of complementary color, only fully saturated, bright colors are considered.[citation needed] However, under the formal definition, brightness and saturation are also factors.[citation needed] Thus, in the CIE 1931 color space, a color of a particular “dominant” wavelength can be mixed with a particular amount of the “complementary” wavelength to produce a neutral color (grey or white).

In the RGB color model (and derived models such as HSV), primary colors and secondary colors are paired in this way:

Afterimages

When one stares at a single color (red for example) for a sustained period of time (thirty seconds to a minute should suffice), then looks at a white surface, an afterimage of the complementary color (in this case cyan) will appear. This is one of several aftereffects studied in the psychology of visual perception which are generally ascribed to fatigue in specific parts of the visual system.[1]

In the case above the photoreceptors for red light in the retina are fatigued, lessening their ability to send the information to the brain. When white light is viewed, the red portions of light incident upon the eye are not transmitted as efficiently as the other wavelengths (or colors), and the result is the illusion of viewing the complementary color. As the receptors are given time to rest, the illusion vanishes. In the case of looking at white light, red light is still incident upon the eye (as well as blue and green), however since the receptors for other light colors are also being fatigued, the eye will reach an equilibrium.

Art and design

a Blue-Yellow-Red color wheel. Opposite colors are called complementary.

Because of the limited range of colors that was available throughout most of the history of art, many artists still use a traditional set of complementary pairs, including:

The complement of each primary color (red, blue, or yellow) is roughly the color made by mixing the other two in a subtractive system:

  • red complements (blue + yellow) = green
  • blue complements (red + yellow) = orange
  • yellow complements (red + blue) = violet

When two complements are mixed they produce a brown, or, in the case of black and white, a gray.

The use of complementary colors is an important aspect of aesthetically pleasing art and graphic design. This also extends to other fields such as contrasting colors in logos and retail display. When placed next to each other, complements make each other appear brighter. On an artistic color wheel, complementary colors are placed opposite one another. Although these artistic complements may not be precise complements under the scientific definition, most artistic color wheels are laid out roughly like the HSV color wheel discussed above.

References

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Simple English

Complementary colours are pairs of opposite colours. What is meant by opposite can be different between colour science, and art and the printing process.

Contents

Color science

In color science "complementary colors" are colors opposite to each other on the color wheel. Primary colors and secondary colors are typically paired in this way:

  • red and cyan ( red   cyan ) (where cyan is the mixture of green and blue)
  • green and magenta ( green   magenta ) (where magenta is the mixture of red and blue)
  • blue and yellow ( blue   yellow ) (where yellow is the mixture of red and green)

Afterimages

If a person stares at a single color for about a minute then looks at a white surface, an afterimage of the complementary color will appear. This is because of eye fatigue[1]. For example, if the person stares at a red color, the photoreceptors (cells in the eye which catch colored light) for red light in the retina (the back part of the eye) become fatigued. When photoreceptors are fatigued they are less able to send information to the brain. If the person then looks at white light, all photoreceptors will send information. Because the photoreceptors for red light are fatigued, the information they send will not be as strong as the information about the colors other than red and the illusion of seeing the complementary color is created.

Art and design

. Opposite colors are called complementary.]] Because of the limited range of colors that was available throughout most of the history of art, many artists still use a traditional set of complementary pairs, including:

The complement of each primary color (red, blue, or yellow) is roughly the color made by mixing the other two in a subtractive system (red + blue = purple; blue + yellow = green; red + yellow = orange). When two complements are mixed they produce a gray or brown.

The use of complementary colors is an important aspect of art and graphic design. This also extends to other fields such as contrasting colors in logos and retail display. When placed next to each other, complements make each other appear brighter. On an artistic color wheel, complementary colors are placed opposite one another. Although these artistic complements may not be precise complements under the scientific definition, most artistic color wheels are laid out roughly like the HSV color wheel discussed above.

References

  1. "Color & The Absorption Spectrum". http://www.pitt.edu/~n3lsk/colorabsproc.html. Retrieved January 14, 2007. 


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