The Power of Complementary Colours: Enhance Your Colour Palette with Dynamic Pairings

A sketch of a dining area with blue-painted walls, a light blue-painted ceiling and wainscotting, and two doors opening to a bright orange hallway. A sketch of a dining area with blue-painted walls, a light blue-painted ceiling and wainscotting, and two doors opening to a bright orange hallway.

The Power of Complementary Colours: Enhance Your Colour Palette with Dynamic Pairings

If you love the energy and drama colour brings to any space, a complementary colour scheme is the perfect option for you.

A colour wheel with a white perimeter around a section of blue hues and a section of orange hues.

Understanding Complementary Colours

Complementary colour schemes consist of two colours that are opposite one another on the colour wheel. These colour pairings create high contrast, dynamic spaces. Opposite “complementary” colours combine a cool colour with a warm one.

What are Complementary Colours?

  • Red and Green
  • Orange and Blue
  • Yellow and Purple
A split wall painted in cool gray and soft orange frames a wooden side table showcasing a white modern desk lamp and several planters.

Incorporating Complementary Colours in Interior Design

There are many different tints and shades within every colour family. Considering these nuances broadens complementary colour scheme options even further!

For example, you can pair a deep hunter green like Salamander 2050-10 with a soft rosy peach like Georgia Peach 031. Or consider using a cool, blue-gray more prominently on an upper wall, with a playful pumpkin orange less prominently on the wall’s lower half, as seen here.

Tips for Using Complementary Colours in Room Décor

  • Use hard surfaces like tile, brick, marble and flooring to guide colour selection. A rich blue on the walls, like cool Kensington Blue 840, for example, will strike a design cord against warm-toned terracotta tile floors.
  • Create complementary colour schemes by pairing paint colours with hues found in artwork, pillows, rugs, bedding and curtains.
  • Go beyond saturated hues: Homeowner favourites like neutrals and grays can also be used in a complementary colour scheme. The trick is to decipher the colour’s undertones. Compare your chosen hue with others that are similar—holding colour chips next to one another should show you the subtle differences and help you to figure out the undertone.

Complimentary vs. Complementary?

As stated above, “complementary” refers to colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel.

“Complimentary” is related to expressing admiration—which clearly, the just-right complementary colour scheme is sure to evoke!

A playful, small powder room with a split wall featuring a saturated pink on the top, forest green on the bottom, an oval mirror, and a white basin sink.

Where Can I Use Complementary Colour Schemes?

If you are new to using complementary colours, consider them for smaller rooms like powder rooms, mudrooms, and kids’ rooms. These spaces lend themselves to unexpected, playful pops of colour.

This bold powder room is a great example: saturated Pink Punch 2006-50 meets sumptuous Rainforest Foliage 2040-10, resulting in an eye-catching design statement.

As always, colour choices are personal and depend on the look and feel you want to convey in any room. Find inspiration in our Interior image library.

A charming children’s bedroom with a soft green-painted bunk bed, light pink walls, a blonde wood dresser, and pops of orange and coral colored bedding accents.

Mistakes to Avoid When Working with Complementary Colours

Using complementary colours 50/50 in the space.

Solution: Take the time to think through proportion and ratio. For example, use one colour as the dominant one, sprinkling the other colour in as an accent.

Ignoring the brightness or saturation level of both complementary colours.

If one colour is bold and vibrant, select a muted version of its complementary colour companion to create equilibrium.

Not observing your complementary colour scheme in all lighting conditions (artificial and natural light) before painting.

Test paint colours with colour samples. While dark Black Raspberry 2072-20 looks dreamy alongside buttery Windham Cream HC-6, seeing them both in your space will help you achieve peace of mind before kicking off your painting project.

Shop Colour Samples
Pretty light violet-painted corner walls, white crown moulding, trim and fireplace mantel with modern artwork and purple vases, and a white hallway door on the left.

Balancing Colours in Your Home

Use existing hues on tiles and floors in your space as one of your two complementary colours.

Here, the soft yellow undertones of the fireplace surround and the woven basket warms up the cool-toned violet walls. The result? An effortless complementary colour scheme.
A light-filled living room with light blue-painted walls, a white ceiling, dark comfy sofa, three pieces of modern art over a cabinet and an orange accent wall at the end of a hallway.

Harmonizing Complementary Colours in Different Rooms

Using complementary colour schemes in adjoining rooms creates eye-catching yet cohesive colour flow throughout your home.

Here, the eye is drawn down the hallway to a bright accent wall in Buttered Yam AF-230, a perfect paint pairing to cool, blue-gray walls in Solitude AF-545.

Love these colours? Check out the Affinity® Colour Collection, a curated selection of paint colours designed to mix and match seamlessly.
A contemporary bedroom with a dark blue painted wall, a light blue painted wall, a white ceiling, and a wooden bedframe and rust-coloured chenille throw.

Enhancing Interest with Complementary Hues

After painting your space, use the colour wheel to inspire you when shopping for design elements.

Here, a rust-coloured throw and pillows pop against the Blueberry Hill 812-painted wall and navy bedding. A light blue accent wall in lively Spring Rain 723 adds further dimension to this contemporary bedroom.
A sunlit entryway with green-painted bookshelves, wood floors, a red-painted front door, and a red patterned rug.

More Winning Examples of Effective Complementary Colour Palettes

Green and Red Complementary Colour Scheme

Ceilings, doors, furniture, cabinetry—all these surfaces and more are candidates for complementary colour combinations.

Here, a bold red front door in Smoldering Red 2007-10 paired with a bookcase in Woodland Hills Green 543, a citrusy green, creates a fresh look.

With countless nuanced shades and tints of red and green, this complementary pairing goes way beyond “holidays only”!
A cheery bathroom with orange-red painted cabinetry, bright blue tile walls, red pendant lighting and white-painted walls and ceiling.

Blue and Orange Complementary Colour Scheme

Using saturated colours for your complementary colour scheme delivers a lively look.

This bathroom pairs turquoise blue tile walls with cabinetry painted in Fireball Orange 2170-10, transforming this modest bathroom into a vibrant space.

Other saturated complementary colours we love include:
A small, contemporary bedroom with a painted colour block wall design in green, red and orange against white-painted walls, and a double bed with an orange throw.

Use Complementary Colour Schemes for High Impact Colour Blocking

More of a home décor mainstay than trend, colour blocking uses two or more solid colours to create interesting, dynamic colour combinations. The art of 20th century artist Piet Mondrian is the quintessential example. Colour blocking’s signature mix of geometric shapes and patterns makes a striking statement in any room.

Here, soft Glade Green 498 pairs effortlessly with two bold red-orange hues, Golden Gate 033 and Pan for Gold 181.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are complementary colours?

A. Complementary colours are colour pairings of hues found opposite of one another on the colour wheel.

Complementary colour schemes pair warm and cool colour wheel hues as follows:

  • Red and Green
  • Orange and Blue
  • Yellow and Purple

A stellar example of “opposites attract,” when used together, complementary colour schemes create eye-catching visual contrast since they enhance each other's intensity.

Complementary colours can be bold and saturated or soft and muted.

Q. How do I choose a complementary colour scheme for my home?

A. To select complementary colours, start by identifying the main colour you are dedicated to using. Then, refer to the colour wheel and find the colour directly opposite the one you selected to find the complementary colour. Here is a quick snapshot of complementary colour scheme pairings from the colour wheel.

  • Red and Green
  • Orange and Blue
  • Yellow and Purple
Any shade or tint—from bold and saturated to soft and muted—within these pairings will create a complementary colour scheme.

Q. How can I use complementary colours in my colour scheme without it being overwhelming?

A. There are a few ways to avoid your complementary colour scheme overwhelming your space.

  • You can use softer, more muted tones of the paired colour families.
  • When painting, try a bold complementary colour scheme for a powder room, mud room, or kids’ room versus a more heavily trafficked space.
  • Use complementary colour schemes in moderation by matching them to accent colours within artwork, furniture upholstery and other home accessories.

Q. Can I use shades or tints of complementary colours in my colour scheme?

A. Using shades or tints of complementary colours creates a more nuanced and balanced colour scheme. By adjusting the saturation levels—think pales and pastels or deep jewel tones—of the selected colours, you can achieve a harmonious effect that provides visual contrast.

You can see how a range of complementary colour schemes will look in your space by using the photo and video visualizers on the Benjamin Moore Color Portfolio Mobile app.

Q. Are there any specific complementary colour schemes that work well in certain rooms?

A. While colour selection is always personal, here are some complementary colour schemes we love for specific rooms:

A selection of Benjamin Moore paint colour samples.

Order Colour Samples Online

Try a colour before you commit and be sure you get the perfect hue and finish for your space.

Two-tone wall painted in Subtle AF-310 and Sea Life 2118-40 framed by a black fireplace.

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