Yellow is another one of the primary colors, which means you cannot mix your own “pure” yellow, since it is a primary color. However, there are endless opportunities for mixing a great variety of different shades of yellow color.
Knowing what colors make yellow different shades when mixed and how to make them is invaluable. Especially if you are an artist, or in a profession that works a lot with color. As it is extremely powerful to know how to make the color yellow you want when you need it!
What colors make yellow different shades?
Yellow is a different color in that it is the brightest as well as lightest color on your palette after white. Any color that you mix with yellow will have a strong influence on it because of how light in value it is. Therefore, one of the most difficult colors to mix is a dark yellow!
Now, we can really mix quite a few different colors with yellow to create various shades. As a general rule, warm colors (such as Cadmium Orange and Red) will create warm yellows, while cool colors (like Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Green) will create cool yellows. Then dark colors, like a dark green and red, are examples of what colors make yellow darker.
If you do not have the colors mentioned in the color charts included in this article, you can certainly substitute the colors used for something similar. Mixing yellow (as well as mixing colors in general) is not about a specific color recipe… Rather these charts will act as guides for you, so that you can adjust and experiment when mixing your own shades of yellow colors.
How to make dark shades of yellow
Yellow is generally light in value when compared with other colors that are on a painter’s palette. Though it is easy to darken yellow, it is not as easy to keep it as yellow as possible without turning green. Any dark bluish color will make yellow turn a little green because, of course, yellow mixed with blue makes green.
In the color chart below you can see the different colors used to create a dark yellow.
On the first line of the mixing chart above, you will see Cadmium Yellow mixed with Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. The reason we do not mix Cadmium Yellow with simply a straight blue color, as that would give you more of a green color, rather than a dark yellow. Instead, you first want to mix Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Umber to create a very dark blackish-brown color. Then, mix the blue/ brown mixture with Cadmium Yellow. You can do the same with yellow ochre as seen in the second line.
The other option presented with the color chart is to mix yellow with a Pthalo Green/ Alizarin Crimson mixture. Alizarin Crimson and Pthalo Green mixed together with yellow create a really wonderful dark yellow color. Since the Alizarin Crimson will mute the green it will not turn the yellow into a green!
How to mix light shades of yellow color
As already mentioned, yellow is already one of the lightest colors on the painter’s palette. However, there are situations in which you will need to mix yourself an even lighter yellow!
The simplest way of getting a lighter yellow is to mix white with yellow. However, this can result in losing the brightness of the yellow – though it will make it lighter. You can see the result of what white mixed with yellow looks like in the color chart below.
The other option for making yellow lighter is to mix cadmium lemon yellow with your cadmium yellow or yellow ochre. Cadmium lemon yellow is a bright but very light yellow color that will easily make your yellow lighter.
Mixing cool (temperature) yellow colors
Mixing a cool yellow can be a bit tricky because it can easily turn green. In the color chart below you will see blue mixed with yellow to mix a cool yellow color – which might seem a little bit confusing, as that is how green is also mixed…
However, you just need to mix a small amount of blue with yellow to make it a cool yellow shade of color. If you mix too much into the yellow it WILL turn green – so just be sure to mix a very small amount of blue into your yellow.
When mixing green into your yellow, be sure to mix in a very small amount of green as well – just enough to make it cool. If your yellow does turn green then simply mix more yellow into your mixture.
You can also mute green by mixing in red. However, since mixing red into the mixture would make it warmer you can then mix more yellow and add a very small amount of blue. The trick is just not to add too much blue again to make the color green.
How to make warm yellow colors
Warm yellows are much easier to mix than cool yellows as there isn’t any danger of making yellow turn green in the process of making it warmer. The quickest and easiest way to mix a warm yellow is to mix orange or red (or both) with yellow.
In the color chart above, you will see Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Red are what two colors make warm shades of yellow when mixed with different shades of yellow colors.
If you mix too much red with yellow the color will turn orange. However, if you mix in a moderate amount it will simply make the yellow warmer in color temperature. You can experiment with mixing different reds with yellow. There are warmer and cooler reds. Alizarin Crimson is a much cooler red than cadmium red. If you ever want a warmer yellow but not too warm alizarin crimson is a good option.
How to mix muted shades of yellow
The complementary color of yellow is purple. So, when you mix purple into yellow it will make the yellow less of a yellow color. The opposite is also true… If you mix yellow into purple, it will make the purple less purple.
If your yellow is ever too bright or saturated, then use purple to help mute your yellow color. Doing so will also take out some of the brightness of the yellow shade. In the color chart below, mixing purple makes the shade of yellow less bright and less of a yellow color.
Creating muted yellows will be incredibly useful when mixing colors for your painting. Especially if you are working on a subject you are painting from life. Nature is primarily made up of muted colors. We rarely see colors as bright as a pure cadmium yellow.
It is important to use muted colors because they will help your bright colors to stand out. If your painting was full of bright colors, only a few bright colors would stand out. However, if you have a lot of muted colors and only a few bright colors… Then the bright colors would definitely stand out.
How to make yellow (when in a bind)
Since yellow is a primary color we cannot mix our own yellow color. However, sometimes you may not have a tube of yellow paint available or maybe have run out…
So how can you make a shade of yellow that’s close to the primary color without yellow?
There isn’t a way for us to mix up a bright yellow color without yellow, however we can mix up a muted yellowish color. Remember that it is all about what the color looks like in relation to the other colors it is next to on the painting!
In this article you have begun to learn how yellow works and how to make different shades of yellow colors. The knowledge of which, will help you to mix any shade of yellow you may need for your painting.
Get started painting with (shades of yellow) color in application by learning how to paint sunflowers.
There is an incredible amount of different shades of yellow you can mix… So it is important to understand how color works. So that you can then mix up whatever color you need to!
Going beyond yellow and understanding how all colors work together will only help your painting even more. You can start by learning the basics of the color wheel and then expand to learning more about how each individual color operates.