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Colour contrast

Colours themselves

Colour contrast

The seven colour contrasts originated from the colour theory of Johannes Itten. This approach is not based on physical and chemical properties of colours, but on their subjective effects.

The primary colours yellow, red and blue produce the strongest contrast. The colour contrast becomes weaker with secondary or tertiary colours or as the saturation decreases.


Colour contrast

The effect of the simultaneous contrast has its origin in how the eye processes perception. After staring at a colour for a long time and then looking at a neutral grey, the eye forms a simultaneous contrast colour. Red leads to a green tinged grey shade. Green causes a grey area with a red tinge to appear. Colours change their effect due to the influence of the surrounding colours.


Colour contrast

The pairs of colors lying opposite in the color wheel form the complementary contrast from a primary color and the secondary (mixed) color made of the other two primary colors. Yellow-violet displays the largest light-dark contrast, orange-blue the largest cold-warm contrast. Red-green have the same light intensity. The complementary contrast causes the brilliance of the colors to increase.


Colour contrast

The quality contrast, or intensity contrast, describes the distinction between pure colours and murky colours. Mixing pure colours with grey shades makes the former murky and dull, and the quality of colour purity is lost. Pure colours have a dominating effect over murky colours.


Colour contrast

Der Quantitätskontrast bezieht sich auf das Größenverhältnis von Farbflächen zueinander. Eine große Farbfläche mit einer kleinen Fläche einer Kontrastfarbe steigert die Farbwirkung der Hauptfläche.


Colour contrast

The "non-colours" black and white produce the strongest contrast. Even with the "proper" colours, their effect is significant. A light colour next to a dark colour has a stronger effect than next to an equally light or lighter colour. The effect of hues can be intensified by greater differences in brightness.


Colour contrast

In the colour wheel, the warm colours with red and yellow components are located opposite to the cold blue hues. Green and magenta form the neutral transitions. The effect of a predominant colour can be increased when combined with an accent from the opposite colour.

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Further topics on colorimetry

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