Placing Colors Side-by-Side – JUST RED Blog Series

red, pink, color, paint, diy, idea, light, scarlet, crimson, color wheel, colour wheel, colour, color palette, html color codes, art, creative, artist, create, fashion, fashion designer, template, design, abstract art, graphic design, pastel, sculpture, pop art, watercolor, street art, paper artist, fiber, knitting, fabric stores, quilt shops, lettering, fancy text, tip, coloring pages, coloring book, coloring, make, ink, shade

placing colors, red, pink, color, paint, diy, idea, lightPlacing colors right next to each other can result in colors seeming to magically change. Why does this happen?

As was previously discussed in my blog post Mixing Paint Colors, combining two complementary colors results in GREY.

This key concept also comes into play when colors are placed next to each other but in a slightly different way since these colors are not being directly mixed.

What is mixing, however, is the reflected light.


(Watch this episode of Vsauce  for a mind-blowing discussion of how we see color and the concept of “qualia”.)

When we see colors, our eyes are detecting and interpreting reflected light. Each pigment reflects light in its own way and gives us individual colors.

As discussed in The Artist’s Handbook by Ray Smith (this book can be purchased here), Chevreul, a published color theorist from 1839, discovered the Law of Simultaneous Contrast.

According to Chevreul, the LAW of SIMULTANEOUS CONTRAST demonstrates that strong color radiates its complementary color into the surrounding area.

If we apply this theory to just RED, the color RED casts a GREEN-aura.

Any color put directly beside RED will fall under this GREEN radiation of light. You can’t actually see this “aura” on its own, but it will affect the colors placed directly beside any strong color.

placing colors, red, pink, color, paint, diy, idea, light

This is the reason why a RED square placed inside a BLACK square looks emphasized or larger.

The RED’s “aura” is adding a slight hint of GREEN radiated light to the BLACK. The BLACK is so dark you cannot actually see the hint of GREEN.

When sitting next to RED, this new BLACK now has a GREEN-bias making the RED pop.

placing colors, red, pink, color, paint, diy, idea, light

Whereas, in this example, the RED’s aura is adding a slight hint of GREEN radiated light to the ORANGE making the orange feel muddy.

placing colors, red, pink, color, paint, diy, idea, light

It is because of this radiated light, that color will change how it looks depending on what color is put directly beside it.

And, to follow this theory even further, what happens if a color put right beside RED has its own aura complementary to RED’s GREEN-aura? It will dull the radiated light slightly towards GREY.

So what does this all mean for us? Stay tuned…

Other posts in the Just RED Blog Series…

Color Theory Blog Series Focusing on JUST RED

50 Arty Facts About the Color RED

Color Variation Discussion

5 Tips for Organizing Color

Color Temperature

Mixing Paint Colors

Placing Colors Side-by-Side

Glossary of Color Theory Terms


RAW Designs Update
Frankly, I’m a bit of an introvert & don’t have that much to say really. I totally respect your privacy and promise not to fill your inbox with lots of junk.

Leave a Reply