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Opposite of Orange: Color Wheel Investigations

We’ve just investigated the opposite of blue, so now it’s time to ask another complementary colors question: What is the opposite of orange on the color wheel? Well, there is an easy answer, and then a more complex one.

As background, my name is Lillie, and I’m an artist and teacher who hand-illustrates all of the color mixing lessons on this site. Even though I’ve been doing this for many years, the answers still surprise and entrance me!

What is the opposite of orange
What is the opposite of orange?

What Does “Opposite Color” Mean?

When we talk about a color being “opposite” from another, we’re speaking of what is called complementary colors — colors which are directly across from each other on a color wheel. This is useful information to know in design, decor, fashion, and art, because when placed next to each other, these complementary colors create a striking juxtaposition that almost vibrates or pops out to the eye.

When mixed together, complementary or “opposite” colors cancel each other out and form a neutral. For example, what red and green make when combined is brown or black, because they are opposite colors.

(Note: I learned the hard way that the spelling of “complementary” in this context is with an “e” in the middle, not “i.” See my new lesson on compliment vs. complement for more on why.)

Opposite of orange
Opposite of orange on the RYB color wheel.

Opposite of Orange

So, what is the complementary color to orange? Well, in the traditional RYB color wheel, the three secondary colors are red, yellow, and blue, and they form the secondary colors, orange, green, and purple. As you can see in my illustration below, when that is displayed on a wheel, the opposite of orange is blue.

RGB and CMYK Color Wheels

We’re not done there, though! In fact, there are several other color models that provide different answers. In the RGB model that is used with screens, as well as the CMYK model that is used in printing, the opposite of orange is actually azure color — a lighter blue that is closer to the bright and greenish blue, cyan.

The complement to orange in RGB and CMYK
The complement to orange in RGB and CMYK is azure.

What About Brown?

As we learned in our recent article on the opposite of brown, the color brown is just a darker version of orange. Therefore, just take everything we learned about orange’s complement here and add black to make a darker shade to find the invert of brown.

Do Orange and Blue Go Together?

Now that we know that the two colors are complementary, or opposites, the question becomes whether they go well together, like pink and purple. Well, it depends what effect you’re aiming for!

The thing about complementary colors is that they vibrate or “pop” out at you when placed next to each other, so if you want a striking and eye-catching contrast, go for it! I’m particularly partial to the sunny blue-sky feel of azure with it, as illustrated below. If you prefer something more subtle, you may want to steer away from the warm, bright colors of the orange family, altogether, though.

Complimentary color of orange in RGB
Azure is the complementary color of orange in the RGB model.

Opposite of Orange, in Sum

Now when someone asks, “What is the opposite of orange on the color wheel?” You can answer, “Traditionally in the RYB model, the complementary color is blue, but in RGB or CMYK, it’s azure.” If you want to take this to the next level, you can dive into what orange and blue make when the two colors are mixed together…

Want more? Check out “What Colors Make Orange?” for a surprising answer — it doesn’t just have to be red and yellow that make this juicy secondary color.