Forbidden Color Combinations?

Forbidden Color Combinations?

Color theorists and designers in fashion or computer graphics have coined phrases based around what colors shouldn't go together. A recent forum post, Red and Green Should Not Be Seen? discusses two of the sayings ("Red and Green Should Not Be Seen" and "Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen Without Something in Between"), and some lovers have even responded in protest, showing how there is no 'wrong' in love. Here are some palettes and applications of the forbidden colors that really work.

Red and Green Seen

ze cod 05Tin Car Bell
napolitanasummer tree fairy

shot downsalsa for the people
rosacepico de gallo.
green pillow with red fringebrick red and green Victorian home

Blue and Green Seen

blue greensblue green v2
blue green are seenDevblog - Blue Green
Tidepool Flying FishTogether Now
Featheredoutside and beyond
green and blue tieralph lauren blue-striped shirt with green

Oddly, these color rules work under specific contexts, which follow 'clashing' colors. Sure, red flowers on green leaves make perfect sense, and can be beautiful, but red text on a green background doesn't always work, so there is some weight to the statements. Of course, that weight really shouldn't be the end-all. Other color combinations that are said to not work are as follows:

Pink and Mauve

mauvelousnebular red
MUDdlePlum Splat
Quiet and ComfortClear as Purple Mud
Feeling MauveyAubergine Split
skully badges in mauve and pinkgirl on pink and mauve background

Pink and Orange

I Will Remember YouMellow cheddar
nightfall minxMixirica
Safe and SoundFlora Persica
blissful ignoranceSalmon
pink and orange bagpink and orange fabric design

Brown and Black

one night onlySweets to the Sweet
EvidenceTrick or Treat
BaskingEarly Hallowe'en
Dapper HotdogGuinness Draught
pequin brown and black bagbrown and black zeus statue

What I've found to be true about what's "right" and "wrong" is that a good general rule, opposed to gospel. Because colors are flexible, it follows that these rules don't always apply. What it really seems to come down to is using colors correctly. Using colors that 'clash' properly can give a wonderful contrast. In the world of color, I've found that there's no such thing as 'no' in the world of color.

Do you need help or inspiration finding the right color combination? Check out Creative Market for some ideas and immediate downloads.

Showing 1 - 29 of 29 Comments
Nice article, thank you! There's a whole group about color-clashs and "forbidden" combinations.
Great article. You're right about saying there is "no" to the combination of colors. Look at Dunkin Donuts' logo, Pink & Orange. Works perfectly.
way to tear it down! *goes to make clashy palettes now*
"forbidden color combinations tend to make the most intense, and beautiful pallets. I find this is surprisingly true when seeking eyeshadow pallets for my clients.
re: red &'d think complimentary colors would... ah... compliment eachother (??)

i'm all about mixing it up, though. sometimes those chance-taking palettes are crazy and refreshingly gorgeous.
and now.... some stuff!

Summer Night Makeout



Deep Want

The Imminence




@groutboy: Those are some amazing finds. Have you seen any other combos that "don't" work?
thank you, ruecian.

and as for palettes that don't work:

oh yes.

of course, and many are my own :)

i'd rather not flaunt crap, i prefer celebrating awesomeness... or, at least, intended awesomeness.....soooo i shall not post any broken palettes today.
here we go!

springtime candycane

pnk n prpl make orng


velvet revolution

fade to black

never say 'no' to me!
my red & green ...?
duskish grove
@well: I had to make a palette from it!

Should Not Be Seen
... and some older ones:


fashion mafia

Oops, I've misspelled your name. Sorry, wells.
Stefan, I'll save that palette for Xmas! How about a "Clashful Xmas" with Eggnog:

Clashful Xmas
"What it really seems to come down to is using colors correctly. Using colors that ‘clash’ properly can give a wonderful contrast."

I think when there is a clash, the clash itself needs to be the focus of attention. If you are trying to read text or see what's going on in a photo then a clash can be disorientating and frustrating. When you make a feature of a clash, however, it's pretty fun!

bloodstream disco
I think blue and green go very well together. I wear that color combo often. Here are some of my blue/green palettes.
Summer Day
Nice article, loved reading it. :)
Wonderful article -- very enjoyable and fascinating read :)
Anatomy of Corals

Strawberry Fields

Sweet Like Flesh


Prom Party Makeup
Not to be mean, but the reason red and green are a no-no, especially when it comes to design, is because color blind people cannot see these two color when their side by side. When you put red text on a green background you make it imposable for the color blind to read information. Also, for the non-color blind; bright and annoying shades of red and green together make it very difficult for anyone to read it.

Just some extra information. =)

Oh Gioia
"In the world of color, I’ve found that there’s no such thing as ‘no’ in the world of color."

Glad to see such a well-written article.

Hm... but I do know that in the fashion world, red and green together are a big no-no. That is, unless one wants to look like a Christmas tree.
On the other hand, nobody ever told me about the blue and green "rule".
In the words of one of my good friends, "with art, nothing is concrete". Or something along those lines.
The green tie is a killer!

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