Get to Know yours Colors: Yellow

Hey guys! So I touched on yellow a little bit when we discussed Orange last week, so this week I thought it would be a good time to dive into one of my personal favorite colours, yellow!

yellow acrylic paint

The Color Yellow

In my previous post I called yellow a happy, good-feeling colour.  This is mainly due to the fact that yellow is the brightest colour in the spectrum.  There is no other colour as bright as yellow (our sun is yellow, after all!).  When painting grass, using yellow among the greens is actually a more efficient way to depict brightness, or areas in full sun than our fallback white highlighting methods.  Using too much white in grass can start to look chalky, whereas yellow tones give a radiant brightness.

Color Wheel Location

Yellow is located in the top-right area of the color wheel, to the right of orange, and as yellow transitions further clockwise into yellow-greens, it signals the edge of the warm half of the color wheel. Yellow-greens are considered warm, once we reach pure green we are into the cool half of the wheel.

Mixing Yellow

Yellow is a primary color, and thus cannot be created by mixing any other colors (even the CMYK color theory model agress with this).  That being said, there are many variations of yellow we can purchase in a tube from the art supply store!  Cadmium Yellow, for example, is an intensely warm yellow. It’s variation, Cadmium Yellow Light, is super vivid and bright, and when mixed with red creates a stunning orange.  On the other hand, Hansa Yellow, while still vivid and warm, is actually considered to be a cooler yellow, and works well with greens.  It also is a great color choice to mix with blues to create bright, full-of-life greens.  Hansa yellow, unlike Cadmium yellow, is also transparent, making it a great choice as a glaze for adding a final degree of overall warmth to a painting.

There are many other yellows to choose from, including Naples Yellow, which is an almost peachy-toned yellow colour that’s great for incorporating into skin tones, and Yellow Ochre, a sandy-coloured yellow that works perfectly with a more earthy, subdued palette.

painting with yellow
What do you notice first in this picture? It’s not the focal point white dandelion is it? It’s the blurred yellow dandelions in the background!

The Psychology of Yellow

Yellow is cheerful, happy, and fun.  It’s proud of being the brightest colour, and basks fully in it’s own warmth.  I chose to use a bright yellow as an accent wall for my own art studio because it creates feelings of energy, hope, an enthusiasm for life, and can also promote intellectual thought and curioisty, two important things when making art!

Yellow is also the colour of wisdom, and promotes mental agility and problem solving skills.  It’s most closely associated with the left side of the brain, the logical side, but in doing so it actually helps us with our emotional and creative right side.  Funny how that works.

Yellow is also a social butterfly, and loves to talk.  It also relates to how we feel about ourselves, so if you’re in need of a self-confidence boost, use yellow in the rooms you spend the most amount of time in. Yellow is the most visible colour, and as such it likes to rely on itself, trusting in it’s own originality, intelligence and confidence.

The downside of yellow is that it can be impatient, wanting to go out and have fun on a whim.  It can also be too analytical, over-analyzing situations, and possibly being too egotistical.

The key to using yellow is to understand that it is the most visible colour, and thus will pop out at any viewer.  Toning it down when necessary to create more relaxed emotions, and letting it stay vibrant to stir up energetic feelings is the key to balancing yellow in both paintings and in our own homes.

Further Reading

Below are more articles I’ve written that concern yellow:

How to Mix Skin Tones

Color Bias

Color Psychology

Thanks for reading, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

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