2024 Insights: What Colors Make Yellow?

Yellow is a vibrant, bright color that can make a real impact. So, you can use yellow in your artwork to great effect. But that means you need to know how to mix it – so, what colors make yellow?

The short answer is that yellow is a primary color, meaning you can’t make it by mixing other colors. 

But it’s a bit more complicated than that. So, let’s dive into color theory and learn about how to make the color yellow.

And I’ll guide you through how to make different shades of yellow.

Read on to find out all the details about what colors make yellow! 

The Color Yellow: Bright, Joyful & Fun

The color yellow brings a smile to most people. It’s such a fun and bright color, full of energy and vivacity. 

Yellow has many meanings, including hope and joy. It’s not a surprise, as yellow is the color of the sun, which literally lights up the world. It’s a warm, rich color on the color wheel. 

Studies have found that the color yellow can be stimulating and even affect our moods

And it’s also the color of many beautiful flowers and other things found in nature, like butterflies. So, this color is one of the happiest around. 

Depending on the shade, yellow can be very intense and saturated. So, it’s sure to grab your attention. But in some cases, it can be too bright and overwhelming. (Think neon yellow).

And sometimes, yellow is a warning sign of danger. For example, bees use it to warn people away, and it’s also a common color for road signs. 

But for the most part, yellow has positive connotations. 

Can You Make the Color Yellow?

You probably know that the color yellow is a primary color, alongside red and blue. And you can’t make a primary color by mixing other colors together. It’s simply not possible. 

We learn this rule in grade school, and it gets buried deep in our brains. So, it can inform our understanding of colors throughout our lives. 

But color theory is more detailed than it might seem at first. And that’s because there’s more than one color model or system. 

So, only the subtractive color system has the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. 

In contrast, the additive color system applies when you mix different colored lights. And it works differently from the traditional or subtractive color system. 

The primary colors in the additive color system are red, green, and blue. Did you notice there’s no mention of yellow?

And in that case, it’s possible to make the color yellow according to the additive system. All you need is two colors. 

What Two Colors Combined Make Yellow

So, now you know it’s possible to make the color yellow (at least in certain conditions). 

But what two colors can you mix to get yellow? The answer is that you’ll need to mix two primary colors from the additive system – red and green.

When you mix red and green light, you’ll make yellow light. That’s because green and red have different wavelengths. Combined, they create the same wavelength as yellow.

You can see how this works in this short video:

And so, our brain perceives this color combination as the color yellow. That’s also how computer screens and TVs produce yellow. 

While this trick won’t help you when mixing paints, it’s still pretty cool to know! 

How to Mix Different Shades of Yellow

It’s true that you can’t make yellow from scratch (if we’re talking about paints, pigments, and dyes). 

But with a little knowledge, you can mix different shades of yellow. So, here are my tips for making yellow paint for your artwork. 

How to Make Yellow

Although we’ve established that you can’t make the color yellow, stay with me. 

There’s a trick you can use if you’re really stuck and don’t have yellow in your color palette. 

If you’re desperate for the color yellow, you can mix three colors to create a yellowish shade. 

It won’t be as bright, accurate, or vivid as you may like. But it’s the best you can do if you don’t have any yellow paint. 

You’ll need green, orange, and white paint. Mix them together, adjusting the ratio until you get the right shade. As a result, you’ll create a muted off-yellow color that can do if you’re in a bind. 

How to Make the Color Gold

Gold is a rich and luxurious color very close to yellow. And you can create it if you have yellow paint as a foundation. 

First, you need to start with an ample amount of yellow paint. Then, all you need to do is add a tiny drop of red and black paint. 

You’ll need to make sure you get the ratios right. Too much red or black, and your paint will change color or become too dark. Too little yellow and the same thing will happen. 

So, you might need to experiment a few times. But with this helpful trick, you can make gold paint with just three colors. 

How to Make Mustard Yellow

You can make an authentic mustard yellow shade in a few steps. First, mix equal amounts of yellow and red paint to make orange. (You can skip this step and use orange if you have it to hand). 

Then, mix your freshly-mixed orange paint with equal amounts of yellow. 

You may need to add a bit more yellow to get the perfect color. Keep mixing until it looks right to you. 

And you’ll create a rich, warm shade of mustard yellow. It’s as simple as that. 

How to Make Yellow Lighter

There are several ways you can lighten the color yellow. 

The first option is to mix in some white paint. It’s pretty easy to do, but adding white will also make your yellow less saturated. So, you’ll end up with a more muted effect. 

Gray works in the same way. You can use a light gray as an alternative to white, but it will also make your yellow appear muted. 

If you want to keep the vibrancy, you could add some cadmium lemon yellow to your paint. That’s one of the lightest, brightest, and freshest shades of yellow paint. So, it will lighten your yellow while keeping the brightness and yellow hue. 

A light green will work in the same way while making your mixture slightly cooler on the color spectrum. 

How to Make Yellow Darker 

You have some options if you want to make your yellow paint darker. 

Adding some black paint might be the first thing that springs to mind. But I would advise you to be careful! Black is such a dark color compared with yellow that it’s tricky not to add too much. 

When adding black to yellow, you risk overwhelming the yellow color altogether.

Instead, you could try adding a little red to your paint. That will make your yellow color darker and warmer. 

Or you could mix a little orange into your yellow paint. With either orange or red, you need to use just a tiny amount. Otherwise, your yellow paint could become more orange than yellow. 

Finally, purple is another alternative for making your yellow paint darker. It’s not as dark as black, but it will change your yellow hue slightly. You’ll end up with a darker color closer to a yellowish-brown. 

You might need to experiment with these different suggestions in a color palette. Then, you can pick the one that will work best in your circumstances. 

The Wrap Up

Now, you understand the color science and theory behind the color yellow. 

In the subtractive color system, it’s a primary color – so you can’t mix it from scratch. 

But you’ve learned that it’s possible to make yellow light by combining red and green wavelengths. 

And you have some handy tips for mixing different shades of yellow paint. 

Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about the color yellow. 

And follow 123 Inspiration for more tips, tricks, and resources! 


  • 123Inspiration

    My name is Outmane, and I'm the artist behind 123Inspiration. I'm working to turn my passion for colors and art into a source of inspiration. I hope you enjoy my content as much as I enjoy offering them to you. Sincerely,

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