What Is the Opposite of Red? (Complementary Color)

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

When you are working with colors, it is important to pay attention to color theory. Whether you are designing an aesthetically pleasing living space, creating a magnificent painting or graphic design, or performing a hair color correction, learning opposite colors can be crucial to a smooth process and a successful result. As such, you may be curious about the opposite of the color red. While the short answer may be ‘green’, it is actually more involved than this!

Follow along with this informative guide to find out:

  • Why is the opposite color of red important to know?
  • What is the opposite of red on various color wheels?
  • What are the opposite colors of common shades of red?
  • How can you find an exact opposite for a particular red?
  • How do you put this knowledge to practical use?

Why Is the Opposite Color of Red Important?

Color circle of pencils with complementary colors.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, opposite colors are complementary colors. These colors lie directly opposite each other on the color wheel. When they are next to each other, they are very pleasing to the eye.

In particular, your eye perceives different colors accurately due to varying amounts of light in the colors. There are certain receptors in your eye that can process high amounts of light and a few receptors that can process low amounts of light. When your eyes see two colors opposite each other on the color wheel, they are able to utilize both types of receptors simultaneously. For this reason, they are perfectly balanced according to your eyes and brain. Accordingly, many artists and designers use opposite colors when they are working on projects to create a certain look or provoke specific feelings or reactions.

Furthermore, you can mix true complementary colors together to neutralize or cancel each other out. For instance, if someone has a green tone to their blonde hair, a red toner should neutralize the green. In this way, it is equally important to understand opposite colors in situations where you wish to cancel out a color or tone down a color. Many professionals, such as hairdressers, makeup artists, and painters, use these techniques.

What Is the Opposite of Red?

While many people may be quick to indicate the opposite color of red is green, the specific color actually depends on which color model you are using. The three most commonly used color models are RGB, CMYK, and RYB.

What Is the Opposite of Red in RGB?

Abstract art using red and cyan opposite colors.

The RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color model is a digital representation of colors, seen on television, computer, and personal device screens. Essentially, this model uses light in order to produce its three colors from a completely black base. When you add each color, you can choose different intensities.

In this way, your eye can perceive a wide range of colors rather than simply three standard colors.

Using the theory behind a color wheel, it is easy for graphic designers to create intentionally pleasing or attention-grabbing digital art or designs. Additionally, it can help them to understand how viewers will perceive and interpret the colors. For instance, if they select two complementary colors and combine them with full intensity, they will create a white or gray light.

On the RGB model, the opposite of red is cyan. Cyan is a vibrant greenish-blue color. Moreover, in CMYK, cyan is a subtractive primary color, which means that it begins on a white base and becomes darker or blacker as color is added. It stands in opposition to red because red is an additive primary color in RGB and RYB.

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

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

What Is the Opposite of Red in CMY?

Abstract piece using cyan and red.

The CMY (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) color model or the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) color model works with printed colors. In contrast to the RGB color model, it starts from a white base and subtracts light by adding black to its three colors. If you add all three colors with similar intensity, it forms the color black. However, as the CMYK color model indicates, modern printers have black ink in order to create a true black and cut color ink costs.

When artists or designers use the CMY color wheel, since they print the work, they can combine complementary colors in order to create a custom color. Of course, they can also choose opposite colors in order to improve the harmony of a work.

Similar to the RGB model, the opposite of red on the CMY color model is cyan. However, the color cyan is actually darker than on the RGB model. It does not use additive light to create the color and rather, uses subtractive light. Therefore, viewers will see the cyan slightly differently once printed.

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

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

What Is the Opposite of Red in RYB?

Contrasting red and green candies.

The RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue) color model is the most commonly known color model. It is perfect if you are just beginning to learn color theory or art, as every artist or designer can use it. The wheel uses three primary colors, which are subtractive. In this way, painters can start from a white canvas and add the colors, subtracting light if they choose to darken the color or mix the colors together.

With the RYB color wheel, artists can determine which colors they can add to another to neutralize colors, tone colors, or change colors. Any alternative color apart from the three primaries is a combination. As such, knowing what opposite colors are help determine which tones or shades can change if added to the mixture.

Furthermore, as hairdressers and makeup artists do, placing one color over another can often cancel out the first color. In this way, they can carry out corrections with the use of the RYB model.

In particular, on the RYB color model, the opposite of the color red is green. When green is on top of red, it can cancel out the red altogether. Likewise, when red is on top of green, it will neutralize the red. Furthermore, when red pairs with green, it can create a visually satisfying image. For instance, you may associate most red and green with Christmas, a warm-hearted and spirited holiday.

Hex #ED1C24
RGB 237, 28, 36
CMYK 0, 88, 85, 7

Hex #00A65D
RGB 0, 166, 93
CMYK 100, 0, 44, 35

What Are the Opposites to Different Red Hues?

When you view the world, your eyes can perceive and interpret many different hues of red. Digitally speaking, there may be hundreds of red colors, red shades, and red tints. On traditional color wheels, you may only be able to distinguish between a few, depending on how detailed the wheel is.

Since this is the case, the opposite of the color red is actually a range of colors, just as red is a range of colors itself. Red ranges from orange-red to magenta. Accordingly, the opposite range is blue to green.

Depending on the media you are using, finding the exact opposite to your particular hue of red may be a challenging experience. If you are using a digital program, it can be somewhat easier as most color wheels function using degrees and hex codes. Yet, if you are attempting to mix paints or dyes manually, this may be more difficult.

What Is the Opposite of Red-Orange?

Gradient blue and orange color abstract background.

Red-orange is directly next to red on a color wheel, or is an analogous color to red. It is a vibrant, warm color and leads with a high red pigment. Its complementary color is Tiffany Blue. Artists typically use these two colors together in full saturation.

Hex #FF5349
RGB 255, 83, 73
CMYK 0, 67, 71, 0

Tiffany Blue
Hex #00ACB6
RGB 0, 172, 182
CMYK 100, 5, 0, 29

What Is the Opposite of Pink?

Pink flower on light blue background.

Pink is right next to red on a color wheel. It has a high red pigment, yet it is slowly leading into a reddish-purple defined as magenta. Many people think of pink as a light shade of red, associated with femininity and love. Its complementary color is Aero Blue.

RGB 255, 192, 203
CMYK 0, 25, 20, 0

Aero Blue
Hex #C0FFF4
RGB 192, 255, 244
CMYK 25, 0, 4, 0

What Is the Opposite of Magenta?

Magenta flowers with green nature background.

Magenta is a reddish-purple color, directly next to pink on a color wheel. It contains high, equal amounts of red and blue, making it look more vivid than pink. Its complementary color is green.

Hex #FF00FF
RGB 255, 0, 255
CMYK 0, 100, 0, 0

Hex #00FF00
RGB 0, 255, 0
CMYK 100, 0, 100, 0

How to Find the Correct Opposite to Red

If you are dealing with a true shade of red, it is easy to find the exact opposite on a color wheel. However, most reds are never pure red. As mentioned, there are actually hundreds of shades. For this reason, it is important to know your specific shade of red and the exact shade of its opposite.

Fortunately, if you are working with digital color, it is easy to find the RGB code for your particular red color. Once you have found this code, you may be able to use an inverter within your color program or online. For instance, Color InverterColor Code Inverter, and Pine Tools are all excellent options.

If you are working with paint, you can use software and specialized equipment to analyze the color and break down its color components. This is the same technology that hardware stores and specialist painting stores use to match paint. In this way, you can determine exactly how much red pigment is in your paint color and exactly how much of the opposite is needed to accomplish your goal.

When you are working with hair dye, you may not have exact opposites to particular shades of red hair dye. However, if you know what components make up the particular red dye, this may be helpful in determining whether you need green, blue, or purple toners. For instance, if you are attempting to get rid of a copper color, blue may be the most effective. Typically, for hairdressers, the RYB model works well.

How to Use Reds and Their Opposite Colors

Complementary colors on barn door with red-orange metal gate and wheel.

When you decide to use an opposite or complementary color, the choice must be intentional. With opposite colors, you have the power to make a bold, attention-grabbing statement or create a truly harmonious design.

Accordingly, there are a few factors that you should consider when selecting an opposite, especially when it comes to a vibrant, powerful color like red. Mainly, as mentioned above, it is important to select the right colors. In this way, you can ensure that the eyes will utilize two different receptors and perceive the colors simultaneously and harmoniously. Alternatively, you can ensure a combination of colors cancels the colors out.

Of course, you must have an excellent idea of your audience and how they react to certain colors as well. Fortunately, color theory teaches us a great deal about the meaning of colors. The color red commonly represents passion and energy. It has the power to speed up heart rate, blood flow, and adrenaline. As cyan, or green-blue, lacks the red pigment completely, it actually promotes the opposite emotions. It is less stressful, impulsive, and immediate. It enhances calmness and healing.

Since this is the case, you can use one or the other to encourage certain emotions and discourage others. For instance, you may use cyan in an environment where you wish to promote mental well-being. Yet, you may decide to utilize both colors in order to provoke comfort. For instance, the right hue of red and cyan together could create a peaceful, warm space.

Furthermore, you can use strategic placements of opposite colors to make one of the colors more vibrant. For example, a dark tint of cyan-blue may be dull as a wall color on its own. Yet, couple it with red accent pieces and you bring a vibrance to the whole room.

Finally, it is important to determine the proper amounts of each color. When you are utilizing opposites, especially such vibrant colors as red and cyan or red and green, calling attention to one or the other can make or break a project. For instance, if you are creating a bedroom, you may wish to keep red to a minimum and use it to accent the room. Rather, if you desire to make sure people are aware of a certain feature, red may be the main color you use.

Moving Forward with Red

Now that you have a greater understanding of the different colors of red and their opposites, you can test out this part of color theory for yourself. You may enjoy creating art that takes complementary colors into account. In particular, red and green or red and cyan may be excellent choices for your designs.