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Beginner’s Guide to Contrast Colors

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Contrasting colors are when a set of two colors are from different sections of the color wheel. If you are a beginner, here is you guide to contrast colors for business card design NYC.

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In the color wheel, the three primary colors are Red, Green, and Blue. Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow are the three subtractive colors known as the secondary colors. Meanwhile, there are six tertiary colors, which means a mix of a primary color with its closest secondary color. The tertiary colors are Orange, Chartreuse, Spring Green, Azure, Violet, and Rose.

In science, definitions for contrasting and complementary colors are precise. They are clearly outlined on how they appear on the color wheel according to color theory. However, in fields such as graphic design, there is a looser interpretation of contrast colors.   

For instance, contrasting colors can also be referred to as complementary colors and clashing colors. The complementary colors are pairs from the color wheel that are directly or almost directly opposite from each other.

Examples of Complementary Colors:

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

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Red and green are opposites on the color wheel, making them complimentary colors. However, in graphic design, red also lies on the warm-tone half of the color wheel while blue lies on the cool-tone half of the color wheel. In turn, this makes them contrasting colors in the design field even though they are not exact opposites in color theory.

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In design, each additive primary color (RGB) pairs well with a complementary subtractive (CMY)  color to create contrast colors. With this, shades can vary for additional complementary colors with less contrast.

RGB and CMY:

  • Red (additive) and Cyan (subtractive)
  • Green (additive) and Magenta (subtractive)
  • Blue (additive) and Yellow (subtractive)

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As a rule of thumb, the more transitional colors between two colors on the color wheel, the higher the contrast between them. For example, magenta and green have more contrast between them than magenta and orange based on their positions on the color wheel. Initially, clashing colors may seem like an unappealing concept, but they are actually quite pleasing to the eye. Making the most of contrast colors will help the success of your business card design NYC.

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