What Is the Opposite of Cyan? (Complementary Color)

Illustration with color wheel and text saying what is the opposite of cyan

Cyan is one of the most popular colors for tranquil interior design, seaside paintings and photographs, smart advertising and marketing, various printed artwork, and thought-provoking high fashion. Many individuals use turquoise and green-blue synonymously as these hues are very similar. If you are an artist or designer, you can use cyan intentionally and skillfully by incorporating its opposite color into your project. When you pair cyan with its opposite color on the color wheel, you can make sure that cyan catches your audience’s eyes and holds their gaze. You can also use its opposite carefully when you wish to tone down its pigmentation or neutralize the color altogether. Follow along in this guide to learn:

  • Why is it important to know the opposite of cyan?
  • What is the opposite of cyan on specific color wheels?
  • What are opposite colors to different cyan shades?
  • How do you find the precise opposite of a cyan hue?
  • What are the common uses of cyan and its opposite?

Why Is It Important to Know the Opposite of Cyan?

Sporty woman in red hoodie on cyan background.

If you have just come across the idea of pairing opposite colors in art or design, you may be curious to know why it can make a difference in your work. Opposite colors are famously complementary, hence their alternative name, complementary colors.

They pair well together due to how your eyes perceive color through light. Your eyes have limited and restricted photoreceptors, allowing them to perceive a certain amount of colors with high amounts of light and a certain amount of colors with low amounts of light. Therefore, when they interpret colors that can absorb each other’s light perfectly, as with opposite colors, the eyes can perceive both colors accurately and simultaneously. Likewise, your eyes may draw towards the more vibrant or bright color because the opposite, darker color stands in stark contrast. Understanding how opposite colors can draw your audience’s attention and produce a perfectly-balanced effect is key for any art or design work.

Additionally, understanding opposite colors can help in scenarios where you need to make a color correction. For instance, if you thought you would like a particular hue of cyan for your wall color yet feel it is too pigmented now, you may wish to subdue the cyan with a tiny bit of its opposite color. Likewise, if you wanted to subdue its opposite color by using a little bit of cyan, you could also carry this out easily. Furthermore, if you mix enough of a complementary color with a primary color, you can completely neutralize the colors and create a grayscale shade such as white.

What Is the Opposite of Cyan?

The opposite of cyan is red. However, when artists and designers ask about the opposite of the color cyan, it is essential to consider what media they are utilizing, for it can change both the specific hue and the shade of the primary color and the opposite color.

You can find the opposite of cyan by looking at different color wheels. For example, a digital artist working on projects an audience will view through a screen uses an RGB color wheel. On the other hand, an artist creating printed work uses a CMY color wheel or a RYB color wheel. Continue reading to learn more about each color model and what the opposite of cyan is on the respective color wheel.

What Is the Opposite of Cyan in RGB?

Circle of white and red megaphones over cyan blue background.

RGB is the color model and wheel of choice for anyone working with art, photography, and videos that viewers will see through a device screen. RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue, the primary colors of light transmitted through a screen. As it is an additive color model, your colors are brighter and lighter when you add color. When a color reaches 255, it is at its most vibrant. If you add red, green, and blue together at 255 each, you can produce pure white light.

When you are looking at the RGB color wheel, you may notice cyan is a secondary color. It is composed of 255 green and 255 blue. Directly across from cyan on the RGB color wheel is its opposite, red. Red is a primary with 255 red, 0 green, and 0 blue.

On either side of cyan, you will find a tertiary of green and blue. On the right side, you will find turquoise, which has red-orange as its opposite. On the left side, you will find ocean blue or light blue, with orange as its opposite. Since the hues of cyan venture into both green and blue, you may find the opposite colors of cyan in RGB range from pink to orange.

Hex #FF0000
RGB 255, 0, 0
CMYK 0, 100, 100, 0

What Is the Opposite of Cyan in CMY?

Cyan, red and black abstract square background.

CMY is an excellent choice for any experienced artist or painter wishing to work with a wide range of print, paint, ink, or dye colors. If you are still a novice artist or do not need many colors for your work, RYB may be easier to manage. CMY stands for Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. Many find that the CMY color model is similar to RGB. However, it is inverted and darker. It is a subtractive color model, meaning the more color you add, the darker and more saturated a color becomes. When all the primaries add together in equal pigmentation (100), you achieve the color black or dark brown. Modern printers also include the color black (K) to make this process easier and cheaper, indicating the CMYK color model or wheel.

As you can see, cyan is one of the primary colors on the CMY color wheel. Cyan is 100 cyan, 0 magenta, 0 yellow, and 0 black. Its complementary color on the CMY color wheel is red, just like in RGB, except this color red is a secondary color in CMY. Its mixture is 100 magenta and 100 yellow. So naturally, you may also find this color of cyan and its opposite color, red, is darker than RGB.

On either side of cyan, you will find its tertiaries of turquoise and ocean blue or light blue. Their respective opposites are similar to RGB, red-orange, and orange. However, again, these colors are darker or more subdued. Since the colors are different and require different combinations of colors, it is crucial to make sure you are working with CMY colors and codes when selecting your appropriate colors. If you work with RGB, the printed colors will significantly differ from your intended colors.

Hex #FF0000
RGB 255, 0, 0
CMYK 0, 100, 100, 0

What Is the Opposite of Cyan in RYB?

Red-orange maple leaves on bright cyan background.

RYB is an excellent choice for artists or designers working with makeup, hair, fashion, wall colors, home decor, and other projects that may not require a wide range of colors. That said, some professionals in these areas prefer to use CMY as it allows for greater precision. RYB is also one of the best choices for art and design students, as it is easier to learn and use when grasping color theory. RYB stands for red, yellow, and blue. Much like CMY, it is a subtractive color model. When you add more color, you will accomplish a darker color. For example, adding red, yellow, and blue all together at equal saturation will produce a dark brown.

The RYB color wheel is typically more straightforward than the other discussed wheels, although you can find painter’s wheels with more colors. On the RYB color wheel, the opposite of cyan is vermilion or red-orange. On either side of cyan, you will see green and blue. Respectively, their opposites are red and orange. When you select cyan from a RYB color model, you typically will not find other hues of cyan.

Hex #E34234
RGB 227, 66, 52
CMYK 0, 71, 77, 11

What Are the Opposites to Different Cyan Hues?

Red flowers in artistic cyan green background.

As you may have seen from the discussion of color wheels, the opposite of cyan can vary. Similar to the cyan color itself, ranging from turquoise to ocean blue, the opposite is a range from pink to orange. Since this is the case, you may wonder what the exact opposites of different cyan hues are. Below, you will learn about popular hues and their opposites.

What Is the Opposite of Teal?

Teal is a dark, blue-green color. Most people refer to teal as being a dark version of cyan. Commonly, designers use teal in interior design for walls, cabinetry, and select home decor items. Since it is so pleasing and calming to the eye, it is prevalent in homes. When teal pairs with its complementary color, Light Coral, designers can brighten up a darker color and incorporate joy into a peaceful space.

Hex #008080
RGB 0, 128, 128
CMYK 100, 0, 0, 50

Light Coral
Hex #FF7F7F
RGB 255, 127, 127
CMYK 0, 50, 50, 0

What Is the Opposite of Robin’s Egg Blue?

Robin’s egg blue is a pale, turquoise blue. However, it pairs incredibly well with its opposite, a deep red called Wine. Together, these two colors add deep contrast in a unique, aesthetically-pleasing way.

Robin’s Egg Blue
Hex #96DED1
RGB 150, 222, 209
CMYK 32, 0, 6, 13

Hex #69212E
RGB 105, 33, 46
CMYK 0, 69, 56, 59

What Is the Opposite of Aqua?

Aqua is a vibrant, electric cyan. However, it is simply the purest, most pigmented cyan color. For this reason, its opposite is the most dynamic, pure Red.

Hex #00FFFF
RGB 0, 255, 255
CMYK 100, 0, 0, 0

Hex #FF0000
RGB 255, 0, 0
CMYK 0, 100, 100, 0

What Is the Opposite of Light Blue?

Many people call light blue either ocean blue or sky blue. Its opposite is a dark reddish brown named Caput Mortuum.

Light Blue
Hex #ADD8E6
RGB 173, 216, 230
CMYK 25, 6, 0, 10

Caput Mortuum
Hex #522719
RGB 82, 39, 25
CMYK 0, 52, 70, 68

What Is the Opposite of Turquoise?

Many people refer to cyan as turquoise, although turquoise leans more towards green on the color wheel. The opposite of turquoise is a color called Desire.

Hex #40E0D0
RGB 64, 224, 208
CMYK 71, 0, 7, 12

Hex #E04050
RGB 224, 64, 80
CMYK 0, 71, 64, 12

How to Find the Precise Opposite of Cyan

Abstract art with various shades of cyan and red.

In most situations, it is vital to find the exact color of cyan you need and its precise opposite. In this way, you can make sure you achieve your intended harmony and provoke your desired perspectives, emotions, or behaviors in your audience. On the other hand, if you choose an opposite that is either slightly or drastically off, it may not pull your audience’s attention and may not achieve the effect you wish. If you are working with RYB, your color choice may be simple. However, if you are working with RGB and CMY, you may need to analyze your cyan choices and opposite colors closely.

Fortunately, most modern digital art, photography, and videography software programs include RGB and CMY color pickers for your convenience. They may also include color inverters, allowing you to select a code and invert it to find an opposite color. The process may be more complex if you do not have CMY color pickers or inverters. You may need to choose and invert your color in RGB and then convert your colors to CMY.

If your programs of choice do not include these features, you may use free online tools to accomplish the same tasks. If you are looking for a way to invert colors, try Image OnlinePine Tools, or WTools.

If you are with other media types such as paints, dyes, toners, glazes, or makeups, you may need to invest in particular software and equipment. Some programs can view and analyze the pigments within these substances. From here, they can find the correct opposite. If this is beyond budget, some specialty stores or companies can find your opposite color with a sample.

Common Uses of Cyan and Its Opposite Colors

Abstract poster design in cyan blue and orange colors.

Cyan and its opposite hues, including pink, red, and orange, are excellent color combinations for many different types of projects. Typical uses of cyan and its contrasting colors are:

  • Medical, Mental Health, or Yoga Spaces: Designers often use cyan in spaces to promote relaxation and healing. They incorporate cyan’s opposite colors in these spaces to provide pops of joy and warmth (orange), energy and motivation (red), or childbirth and fertility (pink).
  • Beach-front Hotels, Resorts, and Spas: Cyan is a well-known ocean color, so designers use it for beach-front hotels, resorts, and spas. Oranges and pinks add playfulness to these spaces.
  • Clean Advertising: Savvy advertisers know their audience associates blues and greens with cleanliness and pristineness. They may develop advertising for cleaning products, laundry products, and cleaning companies with cyan and orange to grab your attention and stand out from the competition.
  • Fashion: Fashionistas incorporate certain cyan hues and opposites into their outfits to increase intrigue and achieve harmony.
  • Hair Color: Sometimes, lightening hair colors is a complicated job. If a brunette lifts orange or red tones, the hair colorist may use a green-blue toner to neutralize the color.

Moving Forward with Cyan

After reading this guide, you will be able to easily incorporate your knowledge of cyan and its opposite into your art or design projects. Although cyan is an excellent color to use on its own, you will soon realize how beautiful and engaging your work will become by adding pinks, reds, and oranges.