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Yellow is possibly the most striking color on the color wheel and we are all quite familiar with it. It is the color we associate with the sun, gold, sunflowers, tulips, lemons, bananas, and more. As an artist, you might have wondered how to mix and alter different shades of yellow. This article is all about the color yellow, where yellow is seen, what yellow is associated with, and how to make yellow paint for use in your artworks. If you are wondering what colors make yellow, then this article has the answer for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 How and Where We See Yellow
- 2 History of the Color Yellow
- 3 What Colors Make Yellow?
- 4 Technical Color Table of Different Shades of Yellow
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
How and Where We See Yellow
In subtractive color systems, which are used for painting and printing, yellow is considered a primary color. In the RGB model of color, however, yellow is a secondary color that is created by mixing equal parts of red and green. When the sun nears the horizon, the shorter wavelengths of light (violet, green and blue) undergo atmospheric scattering which gives sunlight the characteristic yellow hue during the “golden hours”. The golden hours are a great time for taking photographs because the photos are imparted with a lovely, warm gold-yellow glow.
Yellow is the color of autumn leaves, daffodils, lemons, egg yolks, bananas, buttercups, and canaries. Carotenoids are what supply the yellow color to all of these things. These carotenoids are also what help to absorb light energy and protect plants from photodamage.
History of the Color Yellow
Yellow ochre pigment was one of the very first colors ever used in art. There is a painting of a yellow horse in the Lascaux cave, in France, that is estimated to be around 17,300 years old. In Egyptian tombs, ochre and orpiment pigments were used by craftsmen and artists to represent skin color and gold. The women in Egyptian murals were always depicted with yellow ochre or gold faces, while the men were always shown with brown faces. Ancient Egyptians associated yellow with gold and the imperishable, indestructible, and eternal. They believed that the skin and bones of the gods were made of yellow gold. The orpiment pigment that Egyptians used in their tombs actually contained large amounts of arsenic and was highly toxic. There was a small box of paints containing this toxic yellow pigment found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
The Romans also began using the same pigments in their villas shortly after coming into contact with the ancient Egyptians and in the early history of the Christian Church, yellow was associated both with the Pope and with Judas Iscariot. In China, bright yellow was only allowed to be worn by the emperor of the Middle Kingdom and his family, and only the Emperor’s palaces were allowed to have yellow roof tiles. The emperor would also receive his esteemed guests on a special yellow carpet.
Vincent Van Gogh was known to be an avid fan of the color yellow. He wrote to his sister in 1888 and stated “The sun, a light for the lack of a better word I can only call yellow, bright sulfur yellow, pale lemon gold. How beautiful yellow is!” When Van Gogh lived in Arles, the house he lived in was described by him as being painted a “buttery yellow”. This was the house he lived in when he painted the famous still-life of sunflowers in a vase, Tournesols. This painting consists entirely of different shades of yellow with only a negligible amount of green present. Van Gogh was one of the first notable artists from the time to use commercially produced and distributed paints rather than paints he mixed himself. He used a lot of traditional yellow ochre as well as chrome yellow and cadmium yellow.
Positive Associations of the Color Yellow
It might not come as a surprise that yellow is commonly associated with pleasure, warmth, and optimism. The color is often used to draw people’s attention or to foster a sense of lightheartedness and amusement. Yellow is also used during celebrations to help create an air of festivity and gaiety. When you combine yellow with reds and oranges, it can very easily start to resemble fire and become associated with heat and energy. Yellow is a warmer light color than white light and gives more of a natural and less clinical feel to a space.
In many cultures across the world, yellow is associated with the concepts of wisdom, knowledge, and reason. Islam recognizes yellow as being representative of wisdom while Asian countries associate it with abundance, happiness, harmony, and glory. Surveys in Western Countries associate the color most with ideas of gentleness, humor, spontaneity, and amusement.
Negative Associations of the Color Yellow
Somewhat ironically, an excess of yellow can also create feelings of distress. Some studies have shown that babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms and adults tend to feel overstimulated and unfocused when exposed to too much of the color. Too much yellow can stress people out and prevent them from finishing a task as readily. Being over-stimulated by the presence of a lot of yellow can also make people over-critical, demanding, or irritable.
A lack of exposure to yellow has connotations of fear, insecurity, isolation, and low self-esteem. Some people find that they are more closed off from their emotions and rigid in their beliefs or actions when they don’t come into contact with sources of the color yellow very often in their lives. Ultimately, effective use of the color yellow as an artist comes down to properly utilizing and balancing it.
What Colors Make Yellow?
If you want to create yellow, you will have to mix two additive primaries. But what two colors make yellow? The primary colors you will be mixing to create yellow are red and green. When you mix red and green in equal parts, the colors balance one another out and draw out the aspects that create yellow. This method doesn’t work when mixing paints, however, and will only work if you are a digital artist. Using red and green paint to try to create yellow paint will just create a very muddy brown color. This is because, as mentioned earlier in the article, mixing paint uses a subtractive color model wherein yellow is considered a primary color.
Since paint mixing considers yellow a primary color, you will not be able to create it by combining two or more different paint colors. You will need to purchase a yellow paint that will act as a simple base and then mix it with other colors to alter it as you please. You can alter yellow paint in countless ways to create endless different shades of yellow. You can create warm and cool yellows, dark and light yellows, or dull and vivid yellows just by mixing them with other colors. Below, we explain the different ways you can experiment with altering base yellows in different ways to suit your needs.
How to Make Different Shades of Yellow
To start, we will show you how to make a few of the most common and iconic shades of yellow. These yellows are quite commonly used in art, home décor, advertising, and more. The best part is that they are really easy to create. Follow the simple steps below to get started with mixing your own shades of yellow.
|Color Name||Hex Code||How to Mix||Shade|
|Golden Yellow||#FFDF00||Mix a basic yellow with a little bit of black and red paint.|
|Mustard||#FEDC56||Mix a basic yellow with a little bit of orange and red paint.|
|Flaxen||#F9DA7F||Mix a basic yellow with some gray paint.|
|Cadmium||#FFF600||Mix some basic yellow with some orange paint.|
|Banana||#FFE135||Mix some basic yellow with some white paint.|
How to Make Yellow Paint Cooler
If the shades of yellow above aren’t quite what you were hoping for there are many different ways you can still alter your paints. In this section, we discuss how to make your yellow paints look cooler. To get started you will need a shade of yellow that is already somewhat cool, such as cadmium yellow light. If you choose a warm yellow, it most likely has some red pigment in it. Once you start mixing blue into your yellow to cool it, blue will interact with the red and create more of a brown color.
We suggest using cadmium yellow light as the base paint while you get the hang of creating lighter shades of yellow, as the results will be more predictable. Keep in mind that yellow is a light color and that even the lightest blue is quite strong in comparison. You will need to be sure that you are only adding small amounts of blue to your paint at a time. This is important because if you add too much blue paint to your yellow, it will result in the creation of green or brown instead of a cool yellow.
If you want to create a bright and vibrant but cool shade of yellow, we suggest using teal blue and cadmium yellow light. Teal blue is a color similar to turquoise and has quite strong green undertones. The yellow that results from this mixture will create a bright and vibrant yellow that leans towards brown.
If you would prefer to create a less bright or vibrant cool yellow you can opt to instead use cobalt blue and cadmium yellow light. Pure cobalt blue is warmer than teal blue and will mute your yellow while still cooling it. The yellow that results from this mixing will be a darker cool yellow that leans slightly towards a shade of brown.
|Color Name||HEX Code||Shade|
|Pure cobalt blue||#0047AB|
|Cadmium yellow light||#F8EB00|
How to Make Yellow Paint Warmer
To make a warm shade of yellow instead of a cool one you will want to use a yellow that already has a warmish base. We recommend using some cadmium yellow as your base since it is quite neutral but does still have a bit of red. Once you start mixing to make your yellow warmer, you will start adding some warm red shades to your base. We suggest trying scarlet and burnt sienna.
If you want a warm shade of yellow that is quite fiery and vibrant, you will add a small amount of scarlet paint to your cadmium yellow. Scarlet is a vibrant, bright, and warm shade of red that will not mute your yellow as it warms it. The shade of yellow that you will have as a result of this mixing will be vibrant and lean slightly towards orange.
If you would like a yellow that is not as vibrant as the one above, you can instead add some burnt sienna to your cadmium yellow. Burnt sienna is a shade of red that is both darker and cooler than scarlet and has slight traces of blue. The tinge of blue along with the red helps to mute your yellow as it warms it and will help to create a warm, dark orange-brown shade of yellow
|Color Name||HEX Code||Shade|
How to Make Yellow Paint Darker
There are a few different ways to go about making yellow paint darker. One method is to add the color that complements yellow, which is purple, while another method is to add some red, brown, or orange to your yellow. The former of these options will tend to cool your yellow slightly while the latter will warm your yellow up. Remember that if you use a warmer green or purple, it may alter the predictability of these results.
It is also important to keep in mind that changing the hue of your yellow to be either warmer or cooler in some way is unavoidable. This is because you do not want to add colors like black or gray to your yellow in an attempt to lighten it. These sorts of dark neutral colors can very quickly overpower your yellow and strip all the brightness from it. You will very quickly change your yellow to a strange, muddy-gray color if you attempt to darken it this way.
How to Make Yellow Paint Lighter
If you have wondered how to make yellow paint darker, then you have probably wondered how to lighten it too. Much like with darkening yellow paint, there are multiple ways you can go about lightening it. The method you choose to lighten your paint will depend on the temperature and vibrancy you would like to achieve in your paint. The colors you can choose between to lighten your paint are white, light gray, or light green.
Using white to lighten yellow paint is the most common and easiest way that artists can go about lightening their yellow hues. White is the most popular shade for lightening any color but is also notorious for muting colors to a degree. Using white to lighten yellow will take away its vibrancy and can even make it appear pastel. However, you can use white to lighten yellows that are either warm or cool without the worry of creating a muddy brown color.
If you specifically want a muted, light-yellow color, and white is not doing the trick, you can use a light gray color to achieve this. Gray will take away a lot of the brightness and vibrancy of any cool or warm yellow with ease. Much like with white, you do not need to worry about light gray paint turning your yellow into brown.
To lighten cool yellow paint, you can use a cool, light green shade. We suggest trying lime green. A cool green shade like lime green will not affect the vibrancy of your yellow as it lightens it. The result of this mixing will be a light, vibrant, cool yellow.
How to Make Yellow Muted
While yellow is known and loved for being vibrant and bright, there is a time and a place for vibrancy and another for colors that are more muted. If you want a shade of yellow that is less overwhelming, you will need to know how to create a less saturated yellow. Muted shades are important for adding dimension to an artwork via shadows and shading. We have already mentioned various colors that can be used to mute different yellows throughout this article, but we will list them once again along with a few others below.
|Color Name||HEX Code||Shade|
|Pure Cobalt Blue||#0047AB|
Technical Color Table of Different Shades of Yellow
Now that the history of yellow and how you can go about mixing yellow have been discussed, it is the perfect time to include a table for the more technically minded people that would like to see the exact hex code or RGB percentage for different shades of yellow. In the table below, we have chosen a few common shades of yellow and provided some technical information about each shade.
|Name||Hex Code||% Red, Green, Blue|
|Amber||#FFBF00||255, 191, 0|
|Dijon||#C49102||196, 145, 2|
|Tuscany||#FCD12A||252, 209, 42|
|Titanium Yellow||#EEE600||238, 230, 0|
|Yellow Tan||#FFE36E||255, 227, 110|
|Butter||#FFFD74||255, 253, 116|
|Bright Yellow||#FFFD01||255, 253, 1|
|Chrome Yellow||#FFA700||255, 167, 0|
|Citrine||#E4D00A||228, 208, 10|
|Mango||#FDBE02||253, 190, 2|
|Canary Yellow||#FFEF00||255, 239, 0|
|Light canary||#FFFF99||255, 255, 153|
|Laser Lemon||#F6FF75||64, 100, 73|
Yellow is a lovely, inviting color that has an interesting history in art and all across the world. If you plan on using more yellow in your artworks, you will be better off knowing how to easily alter your yellows to achieve the effects that you desire. Hopefully, the information in this article proved useful to you and you will test out this knowledge while creating some new lovely yellow paintings of all hues and temperatures. Just remember that there are no two colors that mix to yellow and you will need to purchase base yellows before you can begin!
View our How To Make Yellow web story here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Colors Go Best With Yellow?
Yellow can be easily paired with many other colors including blue, brown, pink, or even green. The color that best complements yellow, however, is purple. If you are looking to create a lovely yellow color scheme, you can pick a few different shades of yellow and balance them with a darker neutral, some whites, and a complement.
What Can the Color Yellow Make You Feel?
Yellow has been shown to make people feel happy, energetic, and spontaneous. Yellow is commonly associated with happiness, hope, and sunshine and is known to be a mostly optimistic color. Keep in mind, however, that yellow can also cause people to feel overstimulated and alert. Try to take note of how much yellow you have in an artwork and how it feels to you and others.
How Does Yellow Affect the Brain?
Color psychology posits that yellow mentally stimulates us and activates the analytical parts of our brain. Yellow readily uplifts our spirits more often than not and can help us to feel enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.
What Two Colors Make Yellow?
No two paint colors can be combined to create yellow. If you try to mix green and red paint to create yellow, you will only manage to create a muddy shade of brown. You can only mix two colors together to create yellow when you are working with additive color systems such as the RGB model used for TV screens and monitors.