I've been looking into complementary colors and appealing color schemes, and I couldn't find any which suggested that this shade of yellow would look good with this shade of red. However, the picture below from Tarantino's Death Proof looks amazing (to my taste...).

What is the principal that ties these two colors together? And if possible, I would love to see more examples to demonstrate it.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Interesting question; but it is worth noting that the yellow is not really yellow: extract it, and it turns out a very bright orange, and therefore contains a good deal of red.
    – benteh
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 22:52
  • I did extract and notice it, but it is worth noting that the car as a whole, as also her outfit, seem yellow enough.
    – hizki
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 22:54
  • 2
    The presence of a pretty girl certainly doesn't hurt matters. haha
    – blaineh
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 23:16
  • @blaineh haha, I was about to write the same thing.
    – SaturnsEye
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 9:18
  • I think you'll find this answer very interesting as well.
    – Yisela
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 9:24

2 Answers 2


I think the genius/expertise in that photo is perspective, not color. The viewer's eye is intentionally drawn right to her torso. The door, the mirror, the feet, the hair, her face, the building, and the billboard all use the middle of her torso as the focal point.

Every aspect of that photo makes Ms. Winestead the focal point.

enter image description here

The color use between the red and the yellow are high contrast. High contrast makes colors work well together in many aspects. You can use online contrast tools to check the contrast between two colors to verify there's enough difference to make readability/legibility useful. Using the deepest read and the deepest yellow, you can see here that the contrast ratio is workable.

If you convert to values (greyscale) and bump the contrast, you'll see that the interior of the car (red) is a value "hole" in the image and Ms. Winestead is emerging from that empty spot, further making her the focal point.

enter image description here

The use of the "grabber yellow" is used in combination with her outfit to further set her as the focal point. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the color of her uniform in the film was specifically selected due to the color of the mustang. The eye will naturally see the surrounding yellow then the yellow spot in the middle of a field of red. Any bright color at the edges, a field of dark color, then the same bright color in the center will draw the eye to the center spot.

enter image description here

Color is only used as an additional solidifying aspect. The entire orchestration of everything in the image is what is masterful in my opinion. Simply thinking, "The red and yellow work well here" is not giving enough credit to everything else going on and that same yellow against that same red could easily fail in many other uses.

Side note.. I've got that same Mach 1 in my garage, but with a black interior and no cheerleaders. :)

  • Extra points for the black interior. Better combo. What does Tarantino know? I'm a Mopar man myself, but yellow and black in any brand is fast. And for the record, that is yellow, not orange as others implied. You guys must be wearing tinted glasses or something. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 3:07

Someone else will surely come with a longer background on colour theory; but I would just like to point out that our eyes trick us quite often. In the image, the yellow is really rather orange, and the red more towards a dark red. So the two colours have more in common than simply "yellow" and "red", as entities in the colour wheel.

What often tricks us, is light and depth, and the tendency to ignore backgrounds; "supporting" colours. Tarrantino is a master of the stylised mise-en-scène, he uses colours almost like painters do.

Just as a quick demonstration; the first image is the actual colours in the scene, the second have a bar of red (ed1c24) and yellow (fff200). There is a large shift there. Of course, where sunlight reflects, you get a another value, but our minds "middle" for us.

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    I agree it's got a bit of orange to it. But it is what Ford called "Grabber Yellow" in the 70s.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 23:38
  • I would call it cadmium yellow medium.
    – horatio
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 14:33
  • @horatio almost agreed. In my paint box it lies between gamboge and cadmium orange.
    – benteh
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 15:04

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