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I am quite news to graphic design so I don't know how to define it better.

I use to design my presentations and some mockups based on complementary colors. e.g. yallowish and orangish as complementary colors.

However when it comes t particular colors (white, black and closer ones like gray scale, yellow..) I have no clue how to obtain the complementary color (if there is an appropriate one) to make the text visible, while being complementary.

What would you advice in this case?

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    I don’t quite understand what you’re asking here. Yellow and orange are not complementary to each other, and orange text on a yellow background (or, even worse, yellow text on an orange background) is not very legible. Are you looking for what colours contrast the best with greyscales? The answer is of course anything that contrasts in brightness with the brightness of your greyscale colour; i.e., a 10% grey will contrast nicely with dark red/green/blue/other, whereas a 90% grey will contrast nicely with light red/green/blue/other. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 31 '15 at 15:08
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You seem to be asking more about finding colors that go together harmoniously than true complementary colors (colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, like red and green). Yellow and Orange are called analogous colors in color theory.

Assuming that you are trying to find colors the pair well with your very de-saturated grey and brown tones, you may try pairing them with:

  • Colors in the same wedge of the color wheel that are much brighter (warm, clay-like grey might go well with a yellow).
  • Colors with a very different value (the relative darkness/brightness of a color. You can think of it as "what they colors would look like in grayscale."), such as a much darker or lighter version of the same color.
  • A brighter version of your color's complement (an orangey brown with a brighter blue).

These are just some of the ways you can go, and there are much more nuanced ways of combining colors that you could try to find by researching color theory. These color wheels may also help:

  • yes, you get my point. thanks for the very clear explanations! – dragonmnl Nov 3 '15 at 22:32
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The complement of a colour is the colour you would add to it in order to arrive at a neutral. The complement of a neutral colour is another neutral colour. It should be obvious that 50% grey text on a 50% grey background would be difficult to read; legibility would depend on a contrast in brightness rather than colour.

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