If you’ve seen Life in Color by David Attenborough, you’ll know what we mean when we say color is a language. It has been used by organisms for all sorts of displays and functions. From displays of power and danger to courtship and defense, it has been a successful language throughout evolution. So, naturally, on the world wide web, we still use color to seduce, influence, alert and convey countless emotions to our fellow humans through art, advertising, marketing, and much more.
The concept of color is fascinating and it’s at the core of designing, so whether you’re a beginner or a pro, keep reading – there’s a lot to learn! We’ll be discussing some crucial color concepts before we get into how blue got its status in the world of design, blue complementary colors, beautiful hex codes of blue and colors that complement blue, and how you can start designing with blue using free Simplified tools!
The origins of complementary colors and its theories
To best understand how to use blue complementary colors, let’s take a look at how the theory of complementary colors came about.
Building on all the works that came before him, from Claude Botet to Isaac Newton, Moses Harris’s chart is arguably the first full-color circle, as seen in his book The Natural System of Colors. He derived the 18 colors of his wheel from the three ‘primitive’ colors: red, yellow, and blue. And when these are superimposed, the color black is formed, as is seen at the center. In his book, Harris focused on the relationships between colors and how they are coded and created.
What value does blue hold?
The color blue is a contradiction in every sense of the word. This is mostly why blue and blue complementary colors make for such intriguing designs in any space.
This doesn’t just apply to design, either. Blue is a very evocative word that also helps us to express our feelings! In the emotional landscape, we talk about feeling blue when we’re sad, while in the physical landscape, we talk about good weather and happy people when the skies are blue. The blues is considered to be an invigorating and powerful genre of music … we could go on and on.
But we’ll let poet, artist and thinker Goethe take over when talking about the color blue.
“Blue: as yellow is always accompanied with light, so it may be said that blue still brings a principle of darkness with it. This color has a peculiar and almost indescribable effect on the eye. As a hue it is powerful – but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation. Its appearance, then, is a kind of contradiction between excitement and repose.” – Goethe, Theory of Colors
Using blue and blue complementary colors for branding
As Jessica Stillman writes for The Inc about the use of blue in branding,
“The appeal of blue and blue complementary colors, according to experts, isn’t just a fad of the moment. How do we know? As early as the 1940s, when scientists started asking people about their color preferences, tons of people picked blue. That was despite researchers asking thousands of people in hundreds of countries. It was a global phenomenon among young and old, the rebellious and the conservative, Eastern and Western.”
And it’s not just a preference, as Stephen Westland, professor of color science and technology at the University of Leeds explains to The Conversation:
“The world’s favorite color also has measurable effects on the body. Red light does seem to raise heart rate, while blue light lowers it. The effect is small but has been corroborated in a 2015 paper by a group in Australia.”
Therefore, the marketing industry started to take advantage of the countless benefits of using blue and blue complementary colors to create more persuasive creatives. When used the right way, blue and colors that complement blue can create a sensation of trust and security, so a lot of brands naturally incline towards it.
As smashing magazine reports,
“In design, the exact shade of blue you select will have a huge impact on how your designs are perceived. Light blues are often relaxed and calming. Bright blues can be energizing and refreshing. Dark blues, like navy, are excellent for corporate sites or designs where strength and reliability are important.”