Color Theory: Outrageous Orange

This month, Derek Aimonetto our Color Story column expert delved into the color orange. This hot, fruity and invigorating hue is a love it or hate it color. The only color to be named after an object, you guessed it- an orange. This color invokes the senses, conjuring up imagery of hazy sunsets, crackling fires, pumpkin patches and citrus fruits. Working with orange can be a challenge. A trendy and hip color, it can often be over-powering in a design. We offer some suggestions for working with this bold color and discuss some of the principles behind it’s color theory.

Orange comes in a variety of different shades and hues, from a deep and dark Terracota, to a mellow and soft peach.


  • Dark shades are earthy, they offer feelings of warmth and comfort- they create a feeling of security,
  • Bright shades are invigorating and excite the senses.
  • Soft shades are soothing and comforting.

Creating Hues

You can create varying hues or shades of orange by adding orange to a base color, such as white, ivory, black, yellow, red or grey.

Adding orange to a white base gives brighter more vibrant hues, adding orange to a black base gives much darker cooler tones.

Designing with Orange

Using a color wheel is a great way to find interest color combinations.

Remember, how a color can behave or appear differently when placed next to different surrounding colors. This is a complex area of color theory. This has to do with the brain’s perception of color.

Working with Complementary colors

The complementary color of orange is blue, these color are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Blue can be added to orange to town down an orange into various subdued shades and tones.

Orange can be added to blue and surprisingly, it will DARKEN or deepen the color, so next time you’re stuck making a really dark indigo blue, add a touch of orange!

Here’s a really great video explaining how to create tones using complementary colors from Wilkempartschool.

Tips for Working with Orange 

  • If your orange appears too bright, you can soften it by adding a few drops of blue food coloring.
  • If you are working on a cake design and want to make your orange element stand out more, pair it with either green or blue. Both colors make orange appear more intense.
  • If you want to give your orange more depth of color, add very small amounts of brown or purple to add richness.

Complementary Color Schemes: For a really bold look, pair orange with it’s complementary cousin- Blue

Dynamic Orange and Blue cake by Cake Studio

Dynamic Orange and Blue cake by Cake Studio

Triadic Color Schemes: To excite the senses, choose a triadic color scheme and showcase orange, green and purple. Here orange, purple and green have been used as accent colors against a pure white canvas.

Orange, purple and green cake by Rebekah Naomi Cake Design

Tetradic color schemes: This cake uses two complementary colors, this gorgeous design features Orange, Pink, Blue and Green, with the cool aqua blue playing a dominant role in the design.


As an Accent: For a fresh and Romantic bridal look, use orange as a pop of color to break up a design. Here orange has been paired with contrasting cool tones of white and a soft minty green.

Orange and Mint cake by Stephanie and Bob

Orange and Mint cake by Stephanie and Bob

Analogous Color Schemes: Grouping shades of orange together creates a warm and inviting ombre look. This cake has a warm, inviting and soft feel.

Stunning shades of Orange

Stunning shades of Orange

Contrasting Color Schemes: Orange and Grey make an excellent pairing. The cool grey balances the warm and vibrant orange, making this a sophisticated color pairing.

Orange and Grey Cake by Sugar Creations

Orange and Grey Cake by Sugar Creations

Grounding Orange: For a rustic, earthy and Autumnal feel, pair Orange with deep red, ocre and brown.


Invigorating Orange: For a bright and refreshing and youthful color combination, pair a vibrant orange with a hot pink.

Orange and Pink Cake by Joshua John Russell

Orange and Pink Cake by A wish and a whisk cakes 


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