Created By: Zulfiqar on January 10, 2012 Last Edited By: ShanghaiSlave on October 25, 2013

Common Color Combinations

Popular color pairs or triads that get used especially often in specific genres or situations

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Maybe Needs a Better Description.

This trope is intended to be a subtrope of Tropes In Aggregate, which is being YKTTW'd at the moment.

Basic color theory tells us that some color combinations go well together, while others clash. In theory, that means that complementary colors should be the most popular and appealing.

But for some reason, it isn't always the case. Some complementary colors seem to be used together very rarely (e.g., the Yellow-Purple pair), while other pairs or triads are used much more often. What's more, a color combination that's commonplace in one specific genre or situation (e.g., the Orange-Blue pair in poster design) may be almost nonexistent in another (e.g., redheads with blue eyes or in blue costumes are seldom seen, while green-eyed and green-costumed redheads thrive).

Why does it happen? Nobody knows for sure. But it does happen, and here on TV Tropes we provide a list of color combinations that are most common in certain genres or situations.

Note: This page is not intended as a list of all color pairs & triads whatsoever. Only add a combination on this list if it's a very, very common occurrence in a certain genre or situation (not if it has 2-3 obscure unrelated examples). E.g., if you see that the blue-orange combination is used so often in poster design, that it became a trend, it should go in here.

Compare Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.

Pairs


Red & Green

Christmas colors

Blah Blah Blah description

Examples:

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Red & Black

Red and Black, Keep Back

Blah blah blah description

Examples:

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Orange & Green

Green-Eyed Redhead

Blah blah blah description

Examples:

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Redhead In Green

Blah blah blah description

Examples:

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Orange & Blue

Orange/Blue Contrast in graphic design

Blah blah blah description

Examples:

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Yellow & Blue

Blue Eyed Blonde

Blah blah blah description. a) Innocence (or feigning thereof) b) Lawful Good guy/girl (or a wolf in sheep's skin) c) The Aryan ideal (whether it's good or bad in a certain setting)

Examples

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Blonde in Blue or Yellow-Blue costume

Blah blah blah description. Lawful Good heroes. Either a blonde in a blue costume, or a yellow-blue costume (or armor). I think the latter combination is often used for heroic knightly armor (yellow may be replaced by gold), especially for paladins and similar Lawful Good knights and heroes. Though can't remember specific examples at the moment...

Examples:

  • Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, Franklin Richards from Fantastic Four
  • Captain America
  • Supergirl
  • Not a fantasy example, but the Ultramarines (from Warhammer40k) should probably count, in all their ironic glory.
  • X-Men

Green & Purple

Comic book costumes

Blah blah blah description. It's pretty common because you could make them by combining equal amounts of the primaries red/blue/yellow and those colors were usually already used for heroes.

Examples:

Blue & White

Lawful Good Heroes

Almost the same as the Blue & White version. Used even more often.

Examples:

  • The Fantastic Four uniform.
  • Again, various paladins from RP Gs I don't remember at the moment
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Black & White

The Ultimate Contrast

Blah blah blah description. Often used to denote some stark contrast or a dichotomy. In this case, black and white aren't usually parts of a single character's appearance - more likely, it's the contrast between a "mostly white" and "mostly black" character.

Examples:

Night, mystery, death

Blah blah blah description

Examples:


Triads


Red, Yellow & Blue

???

The primary colors. Can be used to theme a Fire, Ice, Lightning trio. Blah blah blah description

Examples:

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Red, Green & Blue

Chromatic Arrangement

Blah blah blah description

Examples:

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Red, Blue & White

AMERICA!

Blah blah blah description

Examples:

Orange, Green & Purple

Comic book costumes

Redhead In Green, but with a green-purple costume. Rather popular in comics.

Examples:

  • The Riddler from Batman
  • That girl from Gen13
  • Lex Luthor from Superman (who was a redhead before he went bald, and still retains hair and/or a beard in some alternate universes)
  • The Joker from Batman is a somewhat odd variation: green hair, and a purple/orange costume (in some incarnations).
  • Blah

Yellow, Blue & White

Lawful Good Heroes

A combination of Yellow & Blue and Blue & White. Either blonde heroes in blue-white costumes, or blondes with blue eyes in white costumes, or something similar.

Examples:

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Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • January 10, 2012
    KTera
    You're thinking of Orange Blue Contrast.
  • January 10, 2012
    Zulfiqar
    ^ Thanks!
  • January 10, 2012
    TTurtle
    The costuming trope for redheads wearing green is Redhead In Green. I don't know that we would want examples here since there is already a subtrope for that.
  • January 10, 2012
    acrobox

  • January 10, 2012
    Oreochan
    Maybe you should change Green and Orange to Green and Red? Red and green is used much more often than orange and green is, and along with the others associated with those those two in using to create certain effects, it's sometimes creating a celebratory or holiday atmosphere, since Christmas uses them as the main colours.
  • January 10, 2012
    acrobox
    Also The actual comlimentary colors in general
    • Blue and Orange
    • Red and Green
    • Purple and Yellow
    • Black and White
  • January 10, 2012
    ccoa
    For Black & White, Chiaroscuro may count. It's actually black/dark brown with silver/flesh tone, though.
  • January 10, 2012
    Zulfiqar
    @TTurtle: Thanks! Trope added, examples expunged. I guess, some examples will be needed if a specific commonly-occuring instance doesn't have its own trope. So that people would know that it's actually common :)

    @acrobox: I thought Red Oni Blue Oni wasn't about the colors?

    @Oreochan: Hmm, maybe. One problem is that "red" hair isn't actually red, it's orange :) But Red & Green in itself is quite common (e.g., the Christmas example you mentioned), I'll add it to the list.

    @acrobox: Yeah, I know... That's why I think I'll change the working title to Common Color Combinations. Don't want to limit the trope to actual complimentary colors, since in some cases semi-complimentary pairs are used much more often.

    @ccoa: Well, it's somewhat related, but it's not a color trope, it's a light/dark (tone) trope.
  • January 10, 2012
    Oreochan
    I'm not sure if Purple & Yellow, are used very often in media to create a specific pattern. They are the least used of the common complimentary colours in media at least. But I do think they are used for something.

    Yeah, red hair isn't literally red but red and green are fully complimentary (if that makes any sense) instead of semi like Orange and green, but both should be mentioned. Also, Red,Green and orange are often signify nature. Like red rose and green thorns, red and green apples.Both orange and red usually pair up with green to signal autumn, like leaves and trees and the like. So characters with Green Thumb and Petal Power abilities usually have this colour scheme. Although for Petal Power at least pink is usually used instead of red or orange.

    Oh and for black and white contrasts you can add Black Index White Index .

    For Red and Black being used for ominous and evil purposes it's the newly launched Red And Black Keep Back.
  • January 10, 2012
    CharacterInWhite
    • Black and White
      • The Night Circus makes the black and white combination of the Circus an important plot point for the costume designer - she has to make gowns that are suitably flashy/showy for Celia, but must do so in the constraints of the colour scheme (which all performers follow). Considering the setting's contemporary circuses are implied to be colourful, the black/white contrast is supposed to symbolise The Night Circus' unique creativity.
  • January 10, 2012
    Snoninja12
    Orange and Black - Halloween

    Red, Blue, and Yellow - Primary Colors
  • January 10, 2012
    Oreochan
    Red,Blue and Yellow can be used to theme Fire Ice Lightning trio.
  • January 11, 2012
    Snoninja12
    Just remembered: Red, Blue, and Yellow are the three Power Ranger colors that are used in every season with no exception (That I know of).
  • January 11, 2012
    DrMcNinja
    Good luck with this, you already have my hat seeing how it's going.
  • January 11, 2012
    Oreochan
    Blue,Red and Yellow are used as the main colours Sonic,Knuckles and Tails from Sonic The Hedgehog.
  • January 11, 2012
    Maritania
    X-Men should qualify under yellow and blue, If I recall Correctly
  • January 11, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Wasn't there a YKTTW for Red and Black as Evil/Badass? Did it launch?
  • January 11, 2012
    Oreochan
    ^ I think you are talking about Red And Black Keep Back, it just launched recently.
  • January 12, 2012
    arromdee
    The Green Goblin in comic books is green and purple. Also the Impossible Man. It's pretty common because you could make them by combining equal amounts of the primaries red/blue/yellow and those colors were usually already used for heroes.
  • January 12, 2012
    yogyog
    Black and Purple: Goth

    Black and Red: Anarchy / Punk

    Black and Orange: Halloween / Orange phones

    Black and Fire (red, orange, yellow): Hell

    Black and Yellow: Warning Stripes

  • January 14, 2012
    Abodos
    Some of these are covered by Color Contrast, though this seems like it could be a much broader trope.
  • February 13, 2012
    Oreochan
    Bump.
  • April 10, 2012
    TitoMosquito
    Yellow and Pink: Blondes wearing pink. Compare Pink Means Feminine.
  • April 10, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Red, White and Blue are also the colours of the Union Jack and French Flag.

    Red and Green often signifies Christmas but it can be used as an alternative to Red and Blue when you want to show rivalry.

    Red, Yellow and Blue = Superman Red, Green and Blue = The Powerpuff Girls

  • December 28, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Bumping this. Is there any support for this concept?
  • December 28, 2012
    Epiblast
    I think this is a useful concept, yes.

    Red, white, and blue have WAY more associations than America, though. To start with, tons of countries besides the US have a flag in those three colors. They are also to some extent a "hero" palette like red and blue or the primary color triad, whether or not there's any association with a particular country or patriotism.
  • December 29, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Red and black; or red, black and white: Putting On The Reich or Red And Black And Evil All Over. These motifs are often seen with totalitarian governments or their militaries, or generally oppressive organizations (such as the Peacekeepers in Farscape).
  • December 29, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    I do not think this is useful, except maybe as an index, but it is cliche-hunting. There are actual color-meaning tropes such as Good Colors Evil Colors, Orange Blue Contrast, Pink Means Feminine, Red And Black And Evil All Over, and so on. This has no distinct value. What good is an article about "yeah, all that"?!

    The description says "Note: This page is not intended as a list of all color pairs & triads whatsoever." Could have fooled me. Looks a lot like that.
  • December 29, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    As a supertrope and illustration of the general concept.
  • December 31, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    The general concept of colors having meaning? There is also a general concept that words have meaning. Obviously the existence of such an article would be silly.

    Specific color meanings? There are articles about those.
  • January 1, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    This is a supertrope. No, I don't see how it could not be one.
  • January 1, 2013
    lakingsif
    Red, Blue and White is not just the USA. Also see UK, France, Russia, Chile, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, Panama etc.

    Perhaps just 'flags are more than likely to be emblazoned with these three colours'?

    At least change it to USA; South America is honestly more yellow.

    Example for Red & Black is the Black Widow. And the Nazi Swastika.

    • North Latin American Nations (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela) all have flags with the three primary colours stacked on top of each other - yellow on blue on red. There is a Colombian rhyme which goes "yellow is our gold, blue is our vast seas and red is the blood that gave us our freedom". This is probably applicable to the other two countries, too, as they all have sea borders and were once so wealthy in gold that El Dorado was not fictional; it was a story from Spaniard exploradoras (honestly, the Spanish for 'explorer') who were just handed millions of pounds worth of gold because to the Andean nationals it was so common it was worthless, basically sand. Other interpretations for Ecuador and Venezuela say that yellow is abundance of crops and opportunities. The Venezuelan flag also has the yellow representing the goodness and new opportunities, the red Spain and the blue the Atlantic, separating the two (Venezuela is the furthest East of the three).
    • For Yellow & Blue, Link of The Legend Of Zelda is blonde with blue eyes and this is specifically mentioned as making him the chosen one in Twilight Princess as he was made a "blue-eyed beast" in the Twilight Realm.
    • For Black & White the traditional magician's wand (black with white ends) is said to hold all kinds of magic (both good and bad) but the good is stronger and so holds the bad magic inside the wand, not allowing it to come out.
  • January 1, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    "This is a supertrope."

    ...about the general concept of colors being used to convey meaning. That is not a trope, super or otherwise. Plot, Antagonist, Characters, sure. Meaning? No.
  • January 1, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    "general concept of colors being used to convey meaning" is a trope. Never seen a definition that would work like what you are saying here.
  • January 1, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Um, like "general concept of words being used to convey meaning", no it isn't. Please explain your reasoning beyond saying "is so" repeatedly.

    That's too general. It's not about storytelling, anymore; it's all communication.
  • January 2, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    So like Speech Bubbles? No, you aren't convincing me.
  • January 2, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    No, not like that. Colors are a lot more general than speech bubbles, they (like words) are used in almost all human communication; and you still haven't explained. "No, you aren't convincing me"... I'm afraid the burden of proof is on the person asserting a claim; troperdom should be convinced this draft is tropeworthy, rather than the sponsor being convinced that it's not.

    Body Language is a closer analogy, though that is much less general than color meanings, and it is an index.
  • January 2, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    Well, this circular argument for me is convincing enough - I claimed that colour combinations have meanings and nobody brought up a sensible complaint except "too general", which isn't really a point against a trope. Also, we have plenty of precedent that something can be a trope by being a pattern, such as this.
  • January 2, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Yes it is a point against, and I don't see any such precedent. Speech Bubbles is a false analogy, that is relatively a very specific mode of communication.
  • January 3, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    I am now going to ask Ask The Tropers on this. Also, you might want to read through the TRS thread for Greeneyed Redhead and the Tropes In Aggregate page for this. Methinks this fits the patterns expressed there perfectly.
  • January 3, 2013
    InsanityPrelude
    No comment on the tropability thing, but if we still need to fill in the compare/contrast part- this looks related to Color Coded For Your Convenience.
  • January 5, 2013
    lakingsif
    From this I took it that the use of the colour combinations would tell the viewer/ reader/ general audience about the type of character the wearer is from the start, the point of this trope being that the common color combinations can be relied on to inform the audience this, like with a (I think discarded) YKTTW about names or nicknames commonly given to characters with certain traits so the audience will immediately suppose those traits of the person and it need not be actually established.

    So yeah, the Black Widow dressed all in black with shocking red hair falls under Red And Black Keep Back, symbolism of those colours probably coming from the conventions of ancient martial arts (the older martial arts, but not all the more recent ones, have red and black being the highest belt). Tae Kwon-Do even has colour belt meanings for students to learn; Red is for danger. It is a warning to other students that the wearer is highly skilled in Tae Kwon-Do and to stay back. Black is the opposite of white. It shows the wearer has rejected fear and can challenge darkness. They are highly skilled in Tae Kwon-Do and should be avoided. The highest colour belt in Tae Kwon-Do? Black tag = red and black.

    This should at least be an index of common colour combinations, maybe with explanations I think.
  • January 5, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    ^ That describes an article that already exists.
  • January 5, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^ Is it Color Coded For Your Convenience? When I first saw this page I thought it was a long unnecessary explanation of that.
  • January 5, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    I meant the subtrope of that article's subtrope (Good Colors Evil Colors), Red And Black And Evil All Over. But yeah. The "put information here" information already exists elsewhere, indexed and cross-referenced. "Compare"? It's the same.
  • January 5, 2013
    lakingsif
    Hmm, yeah, this is a list of some of the colour indexes there are. Without bothering to read them, I'm fairly certain they will all, put together at least, describe 'colours are used for [insert reason here]'. There's even an index of all colour-meaning indexes!

    So this is just a long, unnecessary, explanation of Color Coded For Your Convenience.

    Not to mention there's All Your Colors Combined, being so common that 'every colour under the bleeding sun' is a common colour combination, which really makes this redundant as any colours together wind up as common combinations.
  • January 5, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    All these indexes are about specific colours. Not so much for their combos.
  • January 5, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^ So maybe make an index of all the tropes about color combinations, if you like.
  • January 5, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    This might be a good candidate for one. Anyone for/against?
  • January 5, 2013
    TonyG
    The description says that "no one knows for sure" why these combinations are common. In reality, they are based on the color wheel, a picture of which appears on the Color Contrast page. A Useful Notes article on color theory would be helpful to understand color combinations.
  • January 5, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Why shoehorn this into an article about color theory?! It's not one.

    Against. Still don't see distinct value.
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