Yellow is one of the most cheerful and positive colors on the color wheel, and so it’s popular in home decor to give a space an uplifting atmosphere. The symbolism of yellow connects it to confidence and an improvement in mental energy, which also makes it an ideal color to use in the workplace or anywhere you want to increase productivity.
Since yellow is a primary color, it isn’t a color that is commonly made by mixing other colors. In fact, most people will be surprised to learn that yellow is a color that can be created by mixing other colors at all.
Interestingly, yellow can be made by mixing two other colors together. When red and green are mixed, the red neutralizes the blue in green, which leaves us with yellow. This is a trick that works well with lighting but isn’t always as successful when it comes to mixing paints.
Here we look at color theory and how it relates to the possibilities of making yellow, along with the symbolism and associations of yellow.
Can Yellow Be Made Using Other Colors?
Yellow is a primary color, along with red and blue. According to the color theory, we are taught from an early age, primary colors are the ‘original’ colors, and they cannot be created by mixing other colors together. Instead, it is the primary colors that form the basis for all other colors, and to make any color, you will need to combine various primary colors together.
When we understand color from this perspective, yellow is a color that cannot be made from other colors. However, there are other ways to make color, such as using light. The way colors are made on screens, such as on computers or TVs, use a system known as RGB.
RGB refers to the three main colors that are used; red, green, and blue. These colors can be combined in varying degrees to create the colors we see on the screen, and they use a different theory from the color theory we learn as youngsters. When using RGB, the two colors that are combined to make yellow are red and green.
This is because the red light neutralizes the blue pigments found in green, and since green is made up of blue and yellow, when the blue is neutralized, it leaves behind just yellow. Using this principle, yellow is known as a ‘subtractive’ color because it is created by removing or neutralizing elements of other colors.
Creating Yellow Using Paints
Following the traditional color theory, we know it isn’t possible to make yellow using other colors because yellow is a primary color.
Using the RGB principle will not work when it comes to paints, and if you try to mix red and green together then you will end up with a warm shade of brown, not yellow. However, if you already have yellow paint, it is possible to create new shades of yellow using other paint colors.
Yellow is typically a bright and bold color, but this can be too intense or overwhelming in some scenarios. If you want to tone down your yellow color, then the best way to do this is to add a drop of purple. Purple and yellow and contrasting and complementary colors, so when they are held next to each other, they make one another more vibrant.
But when they are mixed, they have the opposite effect and will tone each other down. To make a more muted or subtle shade of yellow, start with your bright yellow and add very small amounts of purple paint. Mix this in fully after each addition to watch how the yellow changes, and stop once you have created the right shade of muted yellow.
Dark yellow can be created in various ways, depending on the tone of yellow you are hoping for. Most people instinctively add black when they are trying to make a color go darker, but this won’t work for yellow. Yellow is a delicate color that will be overpowered by the intensity of black, and even the smallest drop of black in yellow paint is likely to result in a muddy brown color rather than a dark yellow.
Instead, mix orange, brown, or dark purple with your yellow to make it darker. Adding orange to a bright yellow paint will result in a dark, mustard shade of orange. If you don’t have any orange, you can put a drop or two of red into your yellow paint to make it darker, but be careful not to add too much, or the yellow will become orange.
Using orange or red to make yellow darker will also make it warmer, but if you’d prefer a cool dark yellow, then add a few drops of blue-gray to the yellow paint. This will make the yellow darker and give it a very slight green tint. You can also add dark purple to yellow to make it darker, and this will also reduce its vibrancy for a mellow dark yellow.
The only way to make yellow paint lighter is by adding very pale colors to it, such as white or off-white. If you want to maintain the same yellow tone but just make it lighter, then white is the color you’ll need to add to it.
If you want to alter the tone slightly, you can do this by using a light color in the mix. For example, adding a very pale lilac paint to yellow will result in a subdued, pale shade of yellow. To make the yellow light warm, adding in a warm off-white such as magnolia or a very pale peach color will work.
To make yellow warmer without altering the color, you can add orange or red. This needs to be done very gradually, with a large proportion of yellow to a small proportion of red or orange.
Adding too much red or orange will turn yellow to a more orange color, so adding just one drop at a time is essential to avoid going too far.
Yellow can be made cooler by adding a blue-tinted purple shade. Alternatively, you could add a very minor touch of blue to yellow paint to make it cooler, but too much blue will make the yellow turn green. You can also add a cool gray to yellow to tone down the warmth, or a lilac shade will make yellow cooler while also making it more soft and subdued.
Symbolism of Yellow
Yellow is an undoubtedly positive and happy color due to its association with the sun. It also has links to rebirth and new beginnings since it can be likened to the bright yellow flowers that appear in spring. Yellow is uplifting and optimistic, and being around this color can have a beneficial effect on mental health, self-confidence, and intellect.
It is also a color representing friendship, which can help us feel connected. Use this color in rooms where you want to raise energy levels and lift the mood. As a warm shade, yellow can be used to make a space feel inviting and comfortable.