In some cultures red signifies stop and green go - stop and go can be considered opposites. Is it really different in other cultures?

But suppose I wanted to show a screen with only two buttons, possibly of different shapes, each for a different kind of action. So action 1 and action 2 are not opposites. Is it a good idea to make one of the buttons green and the other red?

  • 2
    Red is considered auspicious in east-asian countries.
    – Ren
    Sep 1, 2019 at 14:44
  • The color will depend on the action the button is needed to do.
    – Ren
    Sep 1, 2019 at 14:45
  • 1
    Why do you want to have buttons of different color and of different shape? How user will then understand that both are buttons?
    – mentallurg
    Sep 1, 2019 at 16:21
  • Other than the fact that there will be people who are colour blind so it will have no discernible effect for them (which means other visual cues or styling will be needed), by default you would only use it if you know that the context is definitely suitable (e.g. traffic lights in US or Australia).
    – Michael Lai
    Sep 1, 2019 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


Red and green are not opposite colors in optics, the opposite and complementary color to red is cyan:

color wheel

But the pure cyan color has more luminosity than red, this causes green to be used as the equivalent opposite. The same goes for green and magenta, its opposite / complementary.


Perception works differently than optics, and red and green can offer opposite meanings. Everyone knows that surgeons use green uniforms to optically counteract the intensity of blood red. But there are also blue uniforms, and not just any blue, but a blue with a tonal value similar to red or darker:

enter image description here

Talking about color and their screen implementation, the red-green choice at the same tonal value is not effective in the percentage of population with deuteranopia, the most common color blind disability, for all of them the two buttons will have the same meaning:

enter image description here

If the buttons don't have opposite actions, I would try to find combinations that do not interfere their operation with some extra meaning. Here are some examples using red as a base in the column on the left and green on the right:

colors 2

And here the respective color perception incapacity test:

enter image description here

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