Learn to recognize conflicting colors used in graphic design

  1. Here’s a great example of opposites attracting
  2. Contrast: one of the principles of design
  3. Which colors collide?
  4. The importance of color contrast

Here’s a great example of opposites attracting

Contrasting colors or complementary colors are located opposite the color wheel. Using clashing colors is a good combination in print design. These are high-contrast, highly visible pairs that demand attention everywhere.

In color theory, contrasting colors are exactly opposite to each other on the color wheel. Designers use the terms “complementary” and clash more loosely than in the strict sense of color theory. Colors in a small range on the other side of the color wheel — usually one color on each side of a color directly opposite it — are also considered opposites, not just a specific pair of colors.

Conflicting colors can work together in a design, depending on the amount of color and how close they appear on the page or screen. Designs with too many clashing colors, too close together, can shake and overwhelm the viewer.

Contrast: one of the principles of design

Contrast is one of the core tenets of design because it draws attention to an important element of a web page or print design, creating a focal point. Contrast doesn’t just mean contrasting colors; it exists in line widths, textures, color intensity, shapes, font sizes, and other elements.

Which colors collide?

Common color combinations that use two or three contrasting colors include complementary, split, triad, and similar color schemes.

  • Additionally † A complementary two-color combination usually uses two contrasting or clashing colors that are opposite on the color wheel. Examples of complementary colors are red with green, blue with yellow, and orange with purple. Complementary colors are characterized by high contrast and high energy.
  • Optional with separation A split complementary color scheme uses two colors that are next to their neighbors and one that is opposite those two, such as red, orange, and light blue.
  • Triad † The triad scheme uses three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel, such as purple, lime, and orange.
  • Analog † A similar scheme uses three adjacent colors on the wheel. One is usually the primary color (red, yellow, or blue). This style has much less contrast than the others because the colors it uses are so close together.

Using any of these color schemes will draw attention if you use them correctly. You don’t need to use them at color saturation. Using a lighter or darker shade of a color, or a less saturated version, may work better, but the colors still add contrast.

The importance of color contrast

Color is one of the most important elements of many designs. It holds the viewer’s attention, draws attention and emphasizes the elements.

Stay away from certain color combinations where text is used. Making something difficult to read on a printed material or web page goes against what you are trying to achieve.

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