Product Photography Using Complementary Colors

My blog audience generally falls into one of three categories: knitters, crafters, or my mother. So, I’m going to dedicate a few posts to the knitter/crafter folk (sorry, mom) about using color to help stage photos of your work. Even if you don’t sell your work, it’s still nice to have a portfolio of your completed creations (a la Ravelry, knitters, right?).

Time to drop some color theory on you.

One of my go-to tricks for staging my product photography is using complementary colors.  A pair of complementary colors is any two colors directly across from each other on the color wheel (a chart used to organize the colors and their relationships). 
So, for instance, green/red are complementary colors.


image borrowed from

When used together, complementary colors make each other pop and seem brighter.  They’re like the perfect couple if colors dated and had feelings.

Consequently, when you pair a piece you’ve made with its complement somewhere else in the photo, your work will pop and pull the viewer in, which — particularly for those of us selling online — is what we want.


Here, I’ve paired a blue-violet dress with a yellow-orange mitten.  Scroll up and check the color wheel… complementary colors, right?  Hopefully, your eye is drawn immediately to the mitten, set off by the blue-violet background.  If your eye was drawn to the shed, I will try not to judge you.

This example matches the color wheel colors almost exactly, but it’s okay to be a bit looser in your interpretation.  Let’s look at another.


Red hearts, green plate.  Yes, technically they’re not all red, but burgundy, berry, salmon pink, etc.  And the plate is not your basic green, but has hints of yellow and brown in it. This doesn’t really matter, though.  I’ve found that when dealing with complements,  as long as you’re in the same color family, you get the same effect.  So don’t overthink it:  red hearts, green plate.

Finally, a word on backgrounds when using complementary colors:  keep it neutral.  Remember the color couple?  They don’t like third wheels.  A color outside your pair of complements will just be visually confusing.   White, brown, or gray backgrounds, though, will keep your viewer focused on your work.

Next post:  Analogous Colors!


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