Photoshop Tip: Choosing Complementary Colours…FAST!

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: July 9, 2012

Category: General

Hi Folks,

Well seeing as today marks the start of the first ever Adobe Creative Week [Link] I thought I’d kick off with a very quick Photoshop Tip.

Like most tips and techniques it doesn’t have to be complicated or long winded; and this one certainly isn’t BUT it’s incredibly easy and something I use a lot, and what we’re talking about here is a very quick way to choose a Complementary Colour.

In its simplest terms if we think of the 360° colour wheel, a complementary colour is the colour that is directly opposite and is so called because well, opposite colours just go well together 🙂

Anyway, here’s a very quick way to choose the opposite/complementary colour when using Photoshop:

1) Double Click
Double click on the Foreground Colour in the tool bar to bring up the Colour picker dialog box:

2) 360° Colour Wheel
Thinking of the 360° colour wheel, look at the section giving the H, S, B values (Hue, Saturation, Brightness) and whatever the H (Hue) value is set to, simply add or take away 180

In this example the HUE value is currently 60° so by adding 180 to get the opposite side of the colour wheel it becomes 240°. Conversely if the Hue value had been 240° it would become 60° … easy huh 🙂

Before (HUE 60°) 

After (HUE 240°)

Extra Tip
One last little tip about the colour picker dialog box…

Once you have a colour selected, by moving the pointer Left or Right you can adjust the Saturation (Left = Less, Right = More) and moving the pointer Ip or Down adjusts the Brightness value (Up = Brighter, Down = Darker)

Right, that’s all from me for today so I hope that was useful 🙂

Be sure to keep an eye on the Adobe Creative Week schedule for everything that’s going on by visiting the website here [Link] Today kicks off with Creative Industry Overview.

Have a great day and I’ll catch you tomorrow,
Glyn 🙂

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  1. Russ

    Thats a neat trick Glyn; a simpler version (for the primary colours, eg if you want to quickly adjust colour casts) is
    Red Cyan
    Green Magenta
    Blue Yellow

    In your screen-shots above, they are opposite each other, and so are easy to remember.

  2. Russ Robinson

    Fantastic tip…especially for those who want to avoid leaving Photoshop. However, for times when a bit more “robustness” is required, I find the following [free] site to be a great resource:

    Thanks as always for sharing your vast PS knowledge!

  3. DaveT

    I had used the colour picker before to pick up a colour that was already in the image but had never thought of using it this way. And that extra tip about using the arrow keys is a real bonus

    Thank You


  4. Bearhawk

    Why not just use the invert “CNTRL I” ?

    • Glyn

      Because that doesn’t work when you want to change the foreground or background colours in the tool bar.

  5. Brian Rodgers Jr.

    Through experimenting I’ve found a way that’s a little quicker and requires absolutely no math. Simply invert the color by pressing Command + I. That will give you the exact opposite color on the color wheel.

  6. Gilmar

    Thank you bro!

  7. Ryan

    Thanks Glyn, That is super easy! Much better than opening illustrator to find a complimentary color

  8. Ivan

    ‘ Control + I ‘ will invert the color but you explained the theory of it. Thank you very much.

  9. Christine

    This was a great tip for me. I’m just learning all that there is to learn in PS, and this lesson was so helpful. Thank you for sharing; even after all these years. Welcome to “In the time of Covid-19,” where we have all this wonderful time to pursue our passions.

    • Glyn Dewis

      Thanks for looking in Christine



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