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You'll Be Drowning in Compliments: My 5-Step Guide to Choosing a Complimentary Colour Outfit

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

At long last we've arrived at the complimentary colour harmony. I hope everyone appreciates the pun in the title ;)

For this guide I've decided our shoot location is a wheat field and our editing style is light and airy.

Let's get to it!

How Complimentary Colours Work

The colours are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. That means they have maximum contrast between them, even without varying the lightness and darkness.

When colours are in contrast they can be cleverly used to draw attention exactly where you want.

Follow along to see how!

Step 1: Consider Your Location

The colours I’ll be working with in our location are blue sky and nude-colored wheat, so we'll make sure our outfit follows suit.

Did you know that nude is actually orange?! It’s true. We get it by adding white and desaturating orange. I’ll show you how here:

If you’re interested head over to the Paletton website and try it for yourself using colour code #E3BC9A.

Step 2: Consider Skin Tone and Eye Colour

Skin tones fall into the reddish-orange range. That’s perfect for our chosen location and colour style, right?!

I have blue eyes as well, so this will work perfectly to get an entirely complimentary photo.

Almost like this was premeditated . . .

Step 3: Take Cues from Your Editing Style

This time we’re going with a light & airy editing style. This style is all about those carefree, wistful, happy feels. We'll avoid dark, muted colours.

We also want a wardrobe that will withstand the rigors of the editing process (the blacks are usually lifted).

Based on that, we'll choose a light outfit.

Step 4: Use Contrast to Guide the Eye

I can use the fact that complimentary colours naturally contrast, even without changing the lightness or darkness much.

The background will be a nude-y orange, so I'll choose a pastel blue dress (remember we're keeping it light for our editing style).

Notice how the blue dress grabs your attention away from the surroundings and up to my face! The blue of the sky and the dress then work to keep your eyes locked on my face.

I'm not always this egotistical, promise!

Step 5: Add Makeup and Accessories


I’m going to keep it pretty light by using peach and baby blues. Because my eyes are already blue, they're really going to pop against the peachy colour of my skin.


For this outfit I chose a brass bracelet, perfect for those orange tones. I want it to blend in and not steal too much attention.


I painted my nails orange and then made them blue in photoshop. How does it change where your eyes linger? Let me know in the comments!


Brown or nude sandals would have been ideal had my feet been showing.

Alternative Outfits & Locations

Not every location is a wheat field. How would I have gone with other scenarios?

Dark & moody autumn photos: blue jeans or brown slacks with a dark, muted orange shirt or scarf.

Light & airy beach photos: white, nude, or beige dress with blue accessories.

Other Complimentary Colors

Red and green: Best locations would be evergreen or tropical forests. This colour harmony is most often used for the holidays!

Purple and yellow: great locations would be desert, beach, or urban.

It's a Wrap

I hope you've enjoyed this guide to the complimentary colour harmony. If you want to learn more subscribe below!

Until next time!


Photo of Laurie Neale

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