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Maximizing color through contrast

Maximizing color through contrast

The human brain rejects visual information that is overly bland or extremely chaotic. The color wheel organizes shades in a way that makes it clear which color combinations will form a brain-pleasing contrast and which will turn the viewers off by clashing or blurring.

  • The color wheel is the most important tool for understanding color contrast. The tradition of modeling colors like this goes all the way back to Isaac Newton, and most of us were first introduced to it in grade school.

    Contrasting colors are those that lie directly opposite each other on the wheel—like red and green, orange and blue, or yellow and purple. When contrasting colors are placed next to one another, each appears brighter and more intense. When they are blended, they neutralize each other.

    To create color contrast, choose one from the “dark” half of the wheel—the home of reds, blues, and purples. The other color will be from the “light” half, where the yellows, oranges, and greens live.

    Now lighten the light color, and make the dark color darker, and you’ve created maximum contrast! The colors play off each other in a way that seems natural—but it’s just the laws of color contrast at work.


  • Take a sping around the color wheel

    Put your skills to the test by identifying the highest contrasting color to the hue in the center

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