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The Joys of Painting with Yellow!

Posted by Neadeen Masters, CDA on 16th Apr 2016

Painting with Yellow - When your painting is inspired by the season or wanting to create a mood

When painting warm color objects, or you want to inject warmth into the mood, we often turn to the yellow family of hues. Yellow is one of those necessary fall colors that can be challenging to work with...

It's a light value color, and can lose its hue integrity (yellow color) quickly.

Anything added to it (yellow) in a mix can quickly take over the yellow or shift it to a neighboring color like orange or green. Refer to the color wheel below...yellow can shift into adjacent hues very easily.

                                   Shifting color when working with yellow hues at Art Apprentice Online

That said, yellow is still one of those amazing colors that can do a multitude of things in a painting. Let’s think about some of them...

  • Yellow is used to describe light.
  • Yellow adds a luminous quality to paintings.
  • Yellow is a color that is often used to move the eye through a painting.
  • Yellow is used to inject warmth and create mood.
  • Yellow is a color that can be used to add an aged or older quality to objects. Think in terms of aged wood, antiques, old books and papers. For example when painting fall leaves, yellow hues come in quite handy…for obvious reasons.
  • Yellow hues make excellent undertones. Especially when used over a white grounds. To brighten reds and oranges, first under-paint with yellow hues, then glaze with transparent or semi-transparent yellow hues.

For Example:

Above: In the Basket of Apples painting above by Levi Wells Prentice, the artist used toned yellow hues to describe the aged wood of the basket, the golden tone of the fall light, and the yellow of the streaked apples. Most likely, the yellows used in this painting were probably earth colors mixed with a true warm yellow or in acrylic, one could use Yellow Oxide.

Below: Apples by Levi Wells Prentice shares the same theme, yet the color palette is quite different. The yellow hues used in this painting are lighter, clearer and cleaner. Observe the yellow used in the table reflections and the color of the wooden basket. The green background is also a yellow green hue, most likely mixed with the same lighter cleaner yellow.

So Many Hues of Yellow

Different yellows can be found in this one painting below. From the palest warm yellow, to the brightest to the cool yellow to the deeper warm yellows. These are all used to mix the warm yellow greens that add the the harmonic mood of this painting.

Transparent Indian Yellow has been used by artists for generations, its warm transparent brilliance can be adjusted to make terrific greens, and add luster to any yellow that needs brightening or hue shifting to yellow orange. It will also add a beautiful warm glow to reds and orange hues.

Titanium White added to any of the yellow pigments, such as Hansa Yellow Light or for a warmer light yellow use Hansa Yellow Medium. All of these can create some lovely pastel yellows used for highlights and luminous effects.

Having more than one yellow pigment in your paint box is a must. Each pigment serves a different use, and can add excitement and punch, warmth and character to any painting!

Learn all you can about color, it really help you succeed when it comes to injecting a particular mood into your paintings. Learn more about color and check out our color classes at the Art Apprentice Online...

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