Crafting Golden Hues: Mastering the Perfect Yellow in Art

Yellow is a cheerful, bright color that can lift you and make you feel alive. It’s bursting with energy and vitality; of course, it’s one of the three primary colors. 

So, yellow is one of the essential colors for any artist. But what colors make yellow? As a primary color, mixing the color yellow isn’t so straightforward. 

We’ll look at the significance of the color yellow in this article. Then, we’ll dive into the science of color theory and the different ways to mix the color yellow. Knowing how to mix your own paints is a crucial skill for any artist, so let’s dive in! 

The Meaning of the Color Yellow

what colors make yellow

When you see the color yellow, it probably makes you smile. It’s one of the brightest colors and instantly adds a pop of color to any scene. 

You’ll find yellow abundantly in nature, from the sun’s rays to beautiful wildflowers. It evokes warmness, vivacity, and freshness. So, the color yellow is useful in all sorts of paintings. 

And so, the color yellow can brighten any artwork. It also works as an accent color on canvas or in your home. 

However, you must be careful when choosing which yellow shade to use. Certain green-tinged shades can evoke sickness, ill health, and even jealousy.

As it’s such a bright color, it’s also used in warning signs. Animals and insects also use the color yellow similarly – for example, wasps and bees. 

Using Color Theory to Make the Color Yellow

what two colors combined make yellow

In elementary school, you probably learned that yellow is a primary color, along with red and blue. 

The wisdom goes that you can’t make a primary color by mixing colors together. And that’s mostly true – but there are some exceptions. 

Read on to discover how to make the color yellow. Plus, I’ll share some tips on mixing yellow paint for yourself. 

What Two Colors Combined Make Yellow?

You might wonder, how is it even possible to make the color yellow if it’s a primary color?

what colors do you mix together to make yellow

It is possible, but only if you understand some of the science behind color theory. 

You can make yellow if you know how the additive color system works. This involves mixing different color wavelengths rather than colored pigments. 

The three primary colors in the additive color system are red, blue, and green. So, you’ll see that yellow isn’t a primary color in this system. 

And as a result, you can make the color yellow. The way to do this is by mixing green with red. When combined, these two colors (somewhat surprisingly) make the color yellow. 

You can see how this works in this video:

But this method only works when you’re combining light. So, it’s effective if you’re working digitally or with light beams. 

However, it won’t translate to mixing paint. Mixing red and green paint makes you more likely to have a muddy brown. 

How to Mix Yellow Paint

how to make darker yellow

When we’re mixing paints, these fall under the subtractive color system. In this system, when we mix all the colors, we end up with black instead of white. 

And unlike the additive color system, the primary colors are yellow, red, and blue. 

So, unfortunately, that means there isn’t a way to mix yellow paint using other colors. 

But if you have a yellow color to use as your base, there’s a lot you can do to alter the shade. For example, you can change how light or dark it is, how bright or muted, and its color temperature. 

So, let’s look a little closer at how you can make different shades of yellow by mixing paint. 

How to Make Different Shades of Yellow

what colors make yellow

As with many colors, yellow can vary a lot. It comes in various shades, from pale yellow and fresh citrus yellow to deep burnt sienna and umber. 

So, how can you make these different shades of yellow by mixing colors? Knowing this info will help you make the perfect yellow for any situation.

Here are some simple color combinations for making specific shades of yellow. You can refer to it whenever you need to mix yellow paint. (Make sure to bookmark this page so you can easily find it!).

If you want to make bright yellow, you can mix yellow and a little green. 

how to make darker yellow

Add a little red and orange to your yellow paint to make a mustard yellow. Be very sparing – you don’t need much to make a big impact! 

Making banana yellow is as simple as adding a little white to your yellow paint. Mix it in a drop at a time until you get the desired result. 

For flax yellow, the trick is to add a small amount of gray paint to the yellow. 

And for bright cadmium, add a dab of orange to your yellow paint. 

The Color Yellow: FAQs

How to Make Yellow Darker

ou have a few different options to make your yellow paint darker. 
The obvious choice is to use black, but you must also be wary. Black paint can easily overwhelm a light color like yellow. Plus, it can also make your shade of yellow look dull and lose its brightness.
But the good news is that there are other options. For example, you can add a little dark blue, purple, or gray paint to your yellow. It will make the color seem darker without making it appear less saturated. 
Another alternative is to add a little red paint. While making the color darker will also give it a warmer temperature. 
Finally, you could mix a lighter yellow with a darker yellow shade. This method will create a more subtle result. But it will also preserve the yellow color while gradually darkening it. 

How to Make Yellow Lighter

On the other hand, you might want to create a lighter shade of yellow. The easiest way to do this is by adding a little white paint to your yellow. Or you can use light gray if you don’t have any white paint. 
This is an effective method. But both white and gray have the downside of making your yellow paint less vibrant and saturated. 
If you want to achieve a light but bright yellow color, you could use green paint instead. Choose a light green color and add a drop to your yellow paint, adding more as necessary. 

How to Make Yellow Cooler

As mentioned above, you can alter the color temperature of your yellow paint. For example, you may want to make it appear cooler with blue undertones. Or you might need a warmer yellow with red undertones for your painting. 
Let’s start with how to make your yellow paint cooler. 
The easiest way to do this is to start with a cooler yellow color in the first place. You won’t get such a good result if you use a yellow shade with red undertones. The reason is that combining red, yellow, and blue tones can make a murky brown shade. 
So, a good shade to choose is cadmium yellow, as it’s a cooler yellow color. 
The next step is to add just a little blue paint to your mix. Be generous with the amount of yellow paint; you only need to add a drop of blue. 
You don’t want the blue to overpower the yellow shade. Instead, you just want to add a touch of blue to create a cooler temperature. But don’t add too much blue, or you will have a green shade instead.

How to Make Yellow Warmer

In contrast, you might want to make your yellow paint appear warmer. You can do this by following almost the same method but substituting blue paint for red. 
I would recommend using burnt sienna or scarlet to make your yellow paint warmer. Burnt sienna is a good choice if you want a muted result. But if you prefer a brighter shade, scarlet works well when mixed with yellow. 

The Wrap Up

Now, you know everything there is to know about making the color. To recap, you can create yellow by mixing red and green in the additive color system. 

But with the subtractive color system, it’s impossible to make the color yellow from scratch. And this applies to any form of pigment or paint. Although there are ways to make the color lighter, darker, or change its temperature. 

So, grab your paints and experiment with the color yellow.

And if you found this article helpful, share it on social media! Make sure to follow Proactive Creative for more tips and info on all things color theory!  


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.

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