Color Theory/Complementary Colors/??

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Eliot Kramer Contributing Member • Posts: 862
Color Theory/Complementary Colors/??
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Hello.

Not trying to start a storm, so if you are very much emotionally invested in the "color wheel" please disregard. If you like thinking and looking and maybe even photographing out side the box here is a line of inquiry.

The complementary colors don't seem so complementary to me at all. The fact that two colors are arranged on the opposite sides of the color wheel is not sufficient justification. It is an artifact of simply choosing to display the colors in a circle, from original "boring" color line. Someone took the two ends of the color line, put them together and voila, they made a color wheel. But there is absolutely NO meaningful relationship between colors on that wheel, especially at the "break", where the lower wavelenghts suddenly transform into the higher wavelenghts.

On the color line the colors are displayed as a progression of tones in accordance with their wavelenghts. That is a PHYSICAL /OPTICAL phenomenon and is a helpful shorthand for scientists that work with different wavelenght light. It is not a photographic phenomenon. It is not an aesthetic phenomenon at all. Most importantly, there is no cognitive visual reason why the lowest wavelenghts colors would suddenly perceptually transform into the shorter wavelenghts of the blue/violet. So closing the short line and making it into a circle is "cute" and "fun" and "looks nice" but is meaningless and divorced from actual color perception as how it relates to the emotional response of the brain.

If for some reason the original color line was arranged alphabetically, then the color order would be different, and closing that line into a wheel would produce completely different "complementary" colors by picking opposing pairs off that new wheel.

Examples of how "nice" red goes with blue are in my opinion based on "shocking" the visual system into seeing a very contrasty image, one that is not usually available in nature. But that is not complementary, which would imply some mutual enhancement. It's like having a very loud engine revving up next to a person singing. It sure is contrasty, but is not complementary, most would prefer to hear a guitar or violin next to a human voice, even though the frequencies of musical instruments are actually very much closer to the voice. So maybe complementary colors are adjacent, not opposing?

Is anyone aware of a more coherent color scheme that is more rooted in human visual and cognitive science rather than the gimmickry of the "color wheel"? Something closer to the way we actually perceive color from the three different receptors in our eyes?

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