what colors make yellow

What Colors Make Yellow – How-To Guide for Mixing Yellow Tones

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One of the most cheerful and vivid colors that we use in design and painting, yellow is a favorite of many. Vibrant yellow hues are rich in life and energy and are considered to be some of the most highly visible parts of the light spectrum. When creating art, you will always use plenty of yellow in your pieces, so we will learn what colors make yellow. There are a huge variety of different yellow shades and though you can buy most of them in tubes, it can cost a lot to buy too many shades. We have worked out a serious guide to help you mix your shades of yellow with the colors in your selection, so here’s to learning what two colors make yellow.



The Symbolism of the Color Yellow

The shade of yellow has many different meanings in symbolism around the world. In some cultures, yellow means peace, while in some, like Egypt, yellow is the color of death. In a lot of Indian cultures, yellow is seen to be a part of the merchant trade and has become the way to show courage and bravery in Japan. Happiness and hope, warmth and cheerfulness, optimism and energy are some of the meanings of yellow that are recognized all over the world, as well as one of the colors that capture your attention. Jealousy, sickness, and deceit are often expressed by the wrong shade of yellow.


The Life, Hope, Happiness, and Energy of Yellow

It has been shown in scientific studies that people associate yellow with an increase in muscle energy and higher levels of mental energy. Yellow is also thought to stimulate the nervous system and trigger memory. For these reasons, yellow hues get associated with confidence, enlightenment, and intellect. A lot of people also feel that the yellow color helps to encourage communication.

It is possible that some of the associations that we have with the color of yellow and life could come from the yellow shades that we see in fields of flowers. It could be that we make these associations of yellow with vibrant life because of the freshness of Spring and the changes that happen in the season.

There could also be the fact that the sun is yellow and gives us life and bright yellow light which, when shining on the earth, gives us energy. Yellow, out of every color, is considered the most joyful. The color yellow, because it is the color of sunshine, happy memories, and summer days, warm yellows can create feelings of comfort and warmth.

yellow tones



The Practical Properties of Yellow

As well as the energy, happiness, and life that yellow can give, it is also very broadly used by many of the world’s systems. It is one of the greatest ways to capture people’s attention and getting us to look, so learn what colors make yellow. Next to black, yellow is one of the most visible colors and that makes it easy to read from a distance. That is why we use black and yellow for traffic signs, road lines, school buses, and taxis.


The Negatives Feelings of Yellow

Through yellow’s positive characteristics, an absence of yellow could create isolation, insecurity, low self-esteem, and feelings of fear. The lack of exposure to the color of yellow could make some of us possessive, defensive, shut down from our emotions, and inflexible in our beliefs and actions. There has to be a balance when it comes to the color yellow.

A lack of yellow in your life could affect your emotions negatively but on the other hand, too many positives could also cause distress. For instance, the fact that babies cry more in rooms that are painted yellow walls confirms this. Too much stimulation in the form of yellow can also make adults feel bad and break their concentration, causing tasks to take longer and be harder to finish. It can make people demanding, irritable, and overly critical.



Creating Yellow With Basic Color Theory

Though it’s not strictly possible to make yellow with traditional color theory, we can create a variety of shades of yellow. Before getting into ways to darken, lighten or change the color temperatures of yellow hues, we should learn to work with color bias and the basics of color theory. As an artist, you should know the color wheel with blue, red, and yellow as the three central colors. We can mix two of these shades to create a secondary hue. That said, if you mix all three of the primary colors, you’ll get a muddy brown shade. Color temperature and bias are why brown comes from mixing the three primary shades.

Color Wheel yellow

Color temperature is extremely important when changing the shades of a specific color. Temperature is associated with the fact that the color is warm or cool, with red being the warmest color and blue is the coolest. When a color like orange has red in it, it is thought to be a warmer shade. The opposite is also true when the color green has blue in it, it is a cooler shade. The way that a color leans is called the color bias.

Secondary shades aren’t the only colors affected by color temperature as primary shades can be both warm or cool. For instance, cadmium yellow light has a small amount of blue in it, making it a cool shade as it leans more towards green than it does to orange. Yellow ochre contains a small amount of red so it is considered a warm yellow shade. Being aware of the color bias is essential when we are adjusting yellow hues. If we want to create a warm shade of yellow with a cool base, we will mute the shade and create a shade of brown.


Two Ways to see Color

When we are young, we usually think of color in a certain way. Traditional color theory shows us that there are three primary colors and that the three shades could be mixed in a variety of ways to make any other color. According to the traditional color theory, the three primary shades could be made by combining any of the other colors. Yellow, next to blue and red, is one of the primary hues, and from the color theory we learned, it is not possible to create various shades of yellow.

Luckily there’s another way to see color. It’s the CMYK model that is used in printers, in which cyan, magenta, yellow and black can be used to create all of the other colors. Different shades of yellow can easily be created using the CMYK model. We will explore how to make yellow color shades using traditional color theory and then using the CMYK model to see which two colors make yellow.

rgb cmyk



Making Yellow Cooler

To make a yellow cooler, we need to do a couple of things. The first thing we need is a cool yellow shade, such as cadmium yellow light, to use a base. The next thing we need is a cool blue shade. If your yellow base is warm, it has some red in it. The small bit of red will mix with the blue and yellow, to create a slightly brown muted shade.

Yellow is a very light color, though even the lightest is exceptionally strong. This makes it especially important to add a very little bit of blue to the yellow at a time. By adding the blue slowly, the mix of blue and yellow makes a greener shade, and even though it should lean towards green, it should still be yellow.

how to make yellow paint

Cobalt Teal Blue is a very cool and light blue shade. It is similar to turquoise, though cobalt teal blue already has a very strong green bias making it great for mixing a cooler yellow. Mixing these two very cool shades creates a vivid and lively cool yellow. The more blue you mix in, the more green your color will be.

To make a slightly less bright and vivid cool yellow, you could add a bit of cobalt blue to the cadmium yellow light. Cobalt blue is a bit warmer than cobalt teal, so mixing it with your cadmium yellow light will mute it a bit and make a slightly cooler yellow. It will also be a slightly darker cool yellow as it will start to lean a bit more towards brown.


How to Make Yellow Warmer

To make yellow warmer, you would need to mix a warm color with a warm yellow. We would say to use cadmium yellow as a base because it is considered a very neutral yellow that has a very small amount of red included. You could add a lot of warm red shades to this yellow base, but we feel that the best two hues are burnt sienna and scarlet.

To create a fiery and warm hue of yellow, you can add a small bit of scarlet to your cadmium yellow for a perfect combination. A very warm and bright shade, adding scarlet to your yellow won’t mute the color at all. The yellow shade will be a more vivid and warm orangey shade. The amount of red you added will decide the result, so you can decide how warm or cool your yellow should be.

To create a more muted and warm yellow that is a bit closer to brown or yellow ochre, add a touch of burnt sienna to the cadmium yellow. A darker and cooler hue of red, burnt sienna contains small bits of blue. This will make the warmer yellow you can create with it a bit more muted. A wonderfully dark orange-brown type yellow can be mixed with burnt sienna and cadmium yellow.

how to make yellow


How to Make Yellow Paint Darker

There’s a variety of ways used in how to make yellow paint darker, that we will discuss here. Several colors that compliment yellow can be added or you can mix different shades of yellow to darken the hues and get the color you need. Red can be used to make yellow darker as well as making it warmer. Certain shades of orange can also be used to make yellow darker, and a bit less warm than adding red.

You could use a shade of purple to darken any shade of yellow. Yellow is the complementary color of purple, so as well as purple darkening the shade of yellow, the darker color will also mute it. Violet purple and cadmium yellow, when they are mixed, will result in a slightly brown and dark color.

how to make yellow paint darker


How to Make Yellow Paint Lighter

The brightness and temperature that you would like to have in a light-colored yellow paint will decide on which of the many options you should use to create the lighter color. Light green, white or grey can make your yellow lighter when combined with it. The easiest and most popular method of creating a lighter yellow is to mix some white with it, though it also has a cost to it. As well as making the yellow hue lighter, the white will also mute the yellow a bit, reducing the brightness of the yellow.

Regardless of the temperature of the yellow you have, white can be mixed with it to make it lighter. Lightening the yellow and muting it that much more than the white, light grey will also be effective. Grey will remove the brightness and make the yellow less vibrant without making it brown. All yellow hues will be lightened and muted by the use of grey, no matter what temperature they are.

If you would like to make your yellow paint lighter while maintaining its lively and bright character, you can mix it with a cool green shade, such as lime green. The light yellow shade that you create with this method will be very lively and bright, though the green will cool down your yellow a bit.


How to Make Yellow Muted

Vivid yellow colors are lively and great for adding accents to any artwork, grabbing the viewer’s attention. That said, we have already discussed that you shouldn’t use too much bright yellow as it can make the work too harsh and overstimulating. Any good painting will need to have many muted hues of yellow to create a sense of dimension and get shadows right. Almost all of the ways to tone down and mute cadmium yellow have been presented here, namely:

  • Violet purple
  • Grey
  • Burnt sienna
  • Cobalt blue

dark yellow



What two Colors Make Yellow?

The theory we have discussed so far on how to mix colors is the method we learn at school. Using the traditional color theory to adjust shades of yellow, though possible, doesn’t explain to us how to make yellow properly from two colors. The CMYK model makes this easier to understand by showing us how to create yellow from two separate colors.

Now, which two colors can be mixed to create yellow in this theory model? As shown below in our table, the two are green and red. The magical reason that this happens is that the red shade is used to cancel out the blue in the green, leaving the yellow color to shine through. You can practice with many of the different green and red hues to see which two will make the best yellows for your painting when mixed.


what two colors make yellow


What Colors Make Yellow: The Technical Table

We have broadly shown the methods to create various hues of yellow, but here are the technical details and percentage numbers to create the many popular shades of yellow. The list in this table also includes the hex numbers and proper proportions to mix to get these exact shades of yellow.

Yellow Shade


RBG Code


Saffron Yellow#f4c430(244,196,48)0%, 19.7%, 80.3%, 4.3%
Yellow Ochre#cc7722(204,119,34)20%, 45%, 100%, 0%
Canary Yellow#ffef00(255,239,0)0%, 6%, 100%, 0%
Lemon Yellow#fff44f(255,244,79)0%, 4.3%, 69%, 0%
Apricot Yellow#fbceb1(251,206,177) 0%, 17.9%, 29.5%, 1.6%
School Bus Yellow#ffd800(255,216,0)0%, 15.3%, 100%, 0%


yellow palette


Descriptions of the Yellow Colors

Yellow is a vivid and lively shade that can add life, energy, and joy to your artwork that will grab people’s attention. Using the CMYK model, you can make your unique yellow by mixing red and green, as well as being able to adjust the temperature, brightness, and tones of your yellow hues by adding a variety of other shades.

Yellow Shade


Saffron YellowThe very dear and costly spice, Saffron, gives this warm and wonderful hue of yellow its name. Saffron yellow reminds us of the color of butternut soup on chilly winter evenings.
Yellow OchreConsidered one of the darkest shades of yellow that exist, yellow ochre has some earthy, dark brown tones. It is perfect to use as a shade in painting different landscapes.
Canary YellowA lively and vivid shade of yellow, canary yellow is considered one of the perfect shades. Though this color is quite cool in temperature, it isn’t a cold color. This yellow shade is often used in the sun, so it shows warmth and brightness in your work.
Lemon YellowA much lighter shade than canary, a wonderfully soft and vibrant yellow to use is lemon yellow. It’s great to create a meadow of wildflowers in bloom with its light energy.
Apricot YellowAlthough many don’t consider apricot as part of the yellow hues, technically it does belong to yellow. It’s a light and very warm yellow hue that seems almost good enough to eat.
School Bus YellowSchool bus yellow is very easy to remember if you ever chased the bus during your school days. It is a vibrant and slightly warm shade of yellow, perfect for bees, sunflowers, and spring colors.


We have also created a small web story to wrap up this article.


View our How To Make Yellow web story here.


Frequently Asked Questions


How to Make Yellow Paint Darker?

A variety of colors can be mixed with your yellow paint to darken the tone and these are orange, red, brown, and purple. By mixing various shades of yellow, for instance, you could take a dark yellow like yellow ochre and add it to a bright shade of yellow to make it darker.


In Paint, What two Colors Make Yellow?

You can make yellow from two colors, even though our traditional method of color theory doesn’t explain how to do it. What colors make yellow, adding equal parts of red and green will create a vibrant and bright yellow as the red cancels out the blue and leaves only the yellow.


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