When you think of color, you can almost visualize a brilliant splash of these on the palette of your mind. There are so many out there, some known, some never seen before, some attained by creating a combination of the most unimaginable colors you thought you knew of. Who would think that you could achieve a whole array of colors by mixing together the three primary ones - red, blue, and yellow? These go on to create secondary and tertiary colors, each of which have their own shades and tints. This is why perhaps when you walk into an interior paint store, you find yourself lost or spoiled for choice. Just by adding a dash of black or white, you can give a color a whole new dimension.

The same holds true when you go shopping for clothes. Usually, all of us try to create color schemes that include colors that please us, and coordinate well with each other. The purpose is to create an ultimately visually appealing final product. Among these, split complementary colors are often a choice, used to create the split complementary color scheme. So what exactly are these? Here, we will understand what exactly these colors are, by means of some examples, and how they can be used in various settings. However, before this, understanding the color wheel chart is of prime importance.

Understanding the Color Wheel

Enlarge the image on the right of the page, and take a good look at it. What you see is a color wheel. Notice the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. Next to each, are secondary colors, attained by mixing primary colors. As such, orange is achieved by mixing yellow and red, green by mixing blue and yellow, and violet, by mixing blue and red. On either side of secondary colors are the tertiary ones, that are created by mixing together primary and secondary colors. Red-orange or rust as many know it, is attained by mixing red and orange. Yellow-orange by mixing yellow and orange. Blue-green is attained by mixing blue and green to create a teal like color, while blue-violet is attained by bringing together blue and violet. These are literal names that have been provided for your understanding, and each of these may be given different names by different people.


Any two colors bang opposite each other on the color wheel are complementary colors. As such, when you look at the wheel, you will find that violet and yellow, or red and green are complementary colors. With reference to this, split complementary colors are the two colors adjacent to the complementary color. This means, if green is the complement of red on the wheel, yellow-green and blue-green along with red will make the split complementary color scheme. This can be seen in example 1. Similarly, examples 2, 3, and 4 give you an idea of various combinations that can be created using these colors.

The beauty about these colors is that they retain vibrancy when used in combination. However, sometimes a combination may have more than one vibrant color, that may start proving too harsh when combined together. This means, attaining a balance among the colors may prove slightly difficult. For instance, when you look at any of these color combinations, you may find them to be too vibrant. For instance, example 1 may be slightly sober with the really vibrant color being red. However, imagine a room with the color scheme created from example 2. Red, violet, and yellow-green come together only to hurt your eyes. However, there is a solution to this too.

Because colors have tints (colors attained by adding white to the hue), and shades (colors attained by adding black to the hue), the vibrancy of these stark colors can be toned down to attain a balance that is visually appealing. Further, when you try to use one warm color against two cool colors, you will be able to strike a kind of balance, where there is one element that stands out against the remaining in the background. Once you try your hand at combining various colors, you can create interesting combinations with split complementary colors, in spite of some of the drawbacks it may have to offer. As such, you can use such color schemes to come up with home color schemes, website color schemes, and also wedding color schemes.

So whether it's your outfit, a room, a web page you have to design, or a simple work of art you want to create, you can add it to the brightness of split complementary colors, a vibrancy so rarely achieved with any other color scheme, and bring an inanimate object to life.