How to Use YELLOW in your Next Project for the Best Results

Just YELLOW

“In the west, YELLOW is not a well-loved color; in a 2000 survey, only six percent of respondents in Europe and America named it as their favourite color.” (25) Too much YELLOW also causes anxiety. (24) Because of this, you need to have a plan when using YELLOW in a creative project. Here are some tips to help…

1. CONSIDER THE PURPOSE

More so than any other color, YELLOW requires the end goal in mind for its use.

Do you want to catch people’s attention?

YELLOW is the most visible of all the colors (24) so would be a great color choice. YELLOW is a great way to draw focus. In this case, use a brightly saturated YELLOW.

Do you want to add warmth to a project?

YELLOW is also a warm color and can be used to add warmth to space or color palette. Muted or dulled YELLOWS could be a great choice. (see my blog post Shades of YELLOW and the Hex Codes for some great muted yellows.)

Use YELLOW sparingly. For instance, if you want the feeling of a yellow room, instead of painting your walls yellow use yellow accent pieces. A little goes a long way when it comes to yellow.

2. CONSIDER THE SATURATION

Because YELLOW is so visible, it can compete for attention with other colors.

Take YELLOW’s TRIADIC color scheme YELLOW/RED/BLUE, for instance. If all 3 colors have equal saturation, all 3 will draw attention and confuse the design.

If YELLOW is to be the “star” of the composition, dull down the RED & BLUE. Similarly, if RED or BLUE are the focus, dull down the YELLOW. You will need to push yellow into submission for the supporting role.

3. CONSIDER THE AURA

YELLOW will cast a PURPLE-aura into the surrounding area (see my blog post How to Successfully Place Colors Side-by-Side, to understand the Law of Simultaneous Contrast.)

The graphic below shows how the PURPLE-aura will affect any surrounding colors.

4. THE WOW FACTOR

For the brightest possible YELLOW, put a warm YELLOW next to a cool PURPLE (yellow’s complementary color) to make the PURPLE recede. 

5. LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

In order to see if I could detect any similarities, I compiled a chart of the color palettes used by 10 master artists from history – Caravaggio (44), Rubens(45), Rembrandt(46), Vermeer(47), Van Gogh(48), Cezanne(49), Homer(50), Renoir(51), Sargent(52) and Monet(53) (see the chart by clicking here).

The most interesting thing I learned from this exercise was that out of the 10 master artists only Homer & Renoir used Chrome ORANGE straight from the tube.

All the others had an array of multiple YELLOWS and REDS. The REDS used were both a mix of YELLOW-biased and BLUE-biased reds (see my blog post that talks about color bias How to Mix Paint Colors without Creating Mud).

However, the majority of YELLOWS used were YELLOWS with a RED-bias. (only Van Gogh and Homer used blue-biased yellows – zinc yellow & aureolin respectfully.)

I could totally be wrong in this assumption but this makes me think that possibly YELLOW was not used as a straight color per se but as a color to mix ORANGE.

If these 10 master artists used YELLOW for the purpose of mixing, it makes me think that YELLOW should be used with extreme caution and intension.

To continue on this discussion, here are the other posts in the Just YELLOW Blog Series…

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