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Opposite of Purple: Complementary Color Wheel Intrigue

As we continue our exploration of complementary colors, we get to a more complicated entry in our list: What is the opposite of purple in the color wheel? In fact, there are two different correct answers — or more, depending on how we define certain words!

Before we get into why, here’s some background on the person writing this article. I am an artist and teacher named Lillie, and I adore hand-illustrating and explaining detailed lessons on color theory, including our shocking investigation into the opposite of pink.

Opposite of purple
The opposite of purple is…

Complementary Color Fun

Before we begin, let’s just define the term “complementary colors.” This phrase refers to the pair of colors that sit exactly opposite one another on the color wheel, and thus provide maximum contrast when juxtaposed next to each other — and cancel each other out into a neutral when mixed together.

For example, the opposite of green in the RYB model is red. Wait — what do I mean by “RYB model?” Here’s where things get interesting: There is more than one color wheel out there! Let’s start with the most well-known.

The Opposite of Purple

The most commonly-used color wheel is the RYB model, which has red, yellow, and blue as the primary colors. As you can see in my illustration above, in this model, the opposite of purple is yellow! (You may have seen this coming, if you read my article about the opposite of yellow!) Now let’s check out the other models for a totally different correct answer.

Purple's complementary color in RGB.
Purple’s complementary color in RGB.

Complements in the RGB and CMYK Color Wheels

In the RGB color wheel used in screens (which I’ve illustrated above), the primary colors are red, green, and blue. In this model, as with the CMYK wheel used in printing, you can see that the opposite of purple (in this model, called “violet”) is chartreuse — the bright yellowish-green tertiary color between green and yellow (and also what yellow and green make in the RYB model).

Different Kinds of Purple

As you can see by my illustration below, the color “purple” is slightly different, depending on which color model you are using. In RYB, it’s almost more of a plum, whereas in RGB and CMYK, it’s called violet (which is what blue and purple make in RYB), and has more of a blue tone to it.

Purple, yellow, violet, and chartreuse, juxtaposed.
Purple, yellow, violet, and chartreuse, juxtaposed.

Opposite of Purple, in Sum

I hope this color theory lesson on the opposite of purple has been useful. For further reading, check out, “What is the Opposite of Red?”