As we all know, contrast is something different, unusual, sometimes the opposite of what we expect. In furnishings, contrast creates the all-important tension that brings life and energy.


* Just a tiny line of orange across its partner yellow or a splash of turquoise against its close neighbour green has the effect of softening one and enlivening the other.

* The difference between complementary and contrasting colour is confusing I remember it took me a long time to get it, but the actual opposites, what we might think of as the contrast, are the complementary colours, and the ones next door to each that we might think as complementary are the contrasts.

* So, in colour mixing the colours that sit opposite on the colour wheel are the complementaries, as yellow with purple, red with green. Together they make pleasing combinations.

* Contrasting colours, however sit closer to each other, two – three steps away, depending on the complexity of the wheel you’re using. Principally blue with yellow side of green, green with the orange side of yellow, red with the blue side of purple, blue with the red side of purple, and so on. These colours have just enough of the same colour in the mix for them to be directly related and comfortable with other but with more of their neighbours, so that they vibrate with life.

* Forget some of the more cautious adages about colour combining – when ‘blue and green should never be seen’, and another taboo combination ‘red and pink stink’, These neighbours work extremely well when they are juxtaposed. They need each other to create tension – it’s the hue and the tone that matter .


Josef Albers, a German born American artist (1888-1976) spent his lifetime trying to understand the effects of colours together – for a very readable ….  ref:

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