Complementary color

Updated: 02/04/2024 by Computer Hope

A complementary color is the color opposite of another color on a color wheel. What colors are considered opposite or complementary depends on the color theory used. However, when the two colors are mixed, they should produce a gray if complementary.

Modern color theory includes the RGB additive color model (red-cyan, green-magenta, and blue-yellow) and the CMY subtractive color model. However, many artists still use the RYB color model (red-green, yellow-violet, and blue-orange), which dates back to the 18th century. We've listed both color wheel theories and examples on this page.

RGB complementary color examples

Below is an example of an RGB color wheel used to help illustrate HSB (hue, saturation, and brightness) and a list of complementary colors.

HSB color wheel and examples of hues, saturation, and lightness.

Tip

Each of the RGB complementary colors is shown on each color code page on Computer Hope.

RGB split complementary color examples

Below lists split complementary colors, which are the colors on each side of a complementary color on a color wheel. The first color listed is the key color, and the next two are the split colors.

RYB complementary color examples

Below are the complementary colors according to the traditional RYB color model and color wheel.

RYB split complementary color examples

Below lists split complementary colors, which are the colors on each side of a complementary color on a color wheel. The first color listed is the key color, and the next two are the split colors.

Is there a complementary color to gray?

Gray color code with complementary gray.

As mentioned earlier, a complementary color is the opposite color on a color wheel. However, color wheels don't have gray. Gray is considered a neutral color made up of black and white, which contain no specific hue. On the Computer Hope color page, we list several gray colors like the picture shown here with a complementary color. This complementary color is a close shade of gray unless the gray has another hue, as seen on the blue gray color code.

Tip

See our gray color code page for an example of gray and other gray colors listed on Computer Hope.

Does black or white have a complementary color?

Black and white are achromatic, which means they have no hue and therefore do not appear on a color wheel. Because they're not on a color wheel, they have no complementary color. Black and white have levels of darkness and lightness; adding white to another color lightens that color, and adding black darkens the color.

Color, Color terms, Hue