Smashing Color

with Maggie Maggio

The Complement of Blue is . . .


Frederic Church - Twilight in the Wilderness 1860

Orange?  Yellow?  It depends?

There are two Holy Grails in color study. Perfect primaries and exact complements. After years of searching for both, I have come to the conclusion that perfect primaries do not exist and  exact complements do not matter.

Expand the range of the traditional pairs and you have a good enough guide:

Blue-Orange = Any color from Cyan to Blue Violet and any color from Yellow to Red-Orange.

Red-Green = Any color from Magenta to Red-Orange and any color from Blue-Green to Yellow-Green.

Yellow-Purple – Any color from Yellow Green to Orange Yellow and any color from Blue-Violet to Red Violet.


  1. Becky Preston

    July 2, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Cheers! I think the not quite precise colors are much more fun.

  2. Thank you. Coming from someone I consider one of the most knowledgeable people about color, this post is a breath of fresh air. Brought up in the old ‘red-yellow-blue are primaries’ classes, just letting go of that has been a struggle. There’s been so much struggle to find ‘correct’ color matches or compliments. Yet I see so many colorful works that appear to not follow rules. Hooray for relaxed rules, and making them guidelines!

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