How to Wear Yellow
29 August 2019
In color analysis, we equate yellow with warmth. We look for yellow to determine warm undertones. In specific colors, the more yellow a color has, the warmer it is.
So of course, yellow is considered a warm color and the warm seasons – Springs and Autumns - can surely wear its many shades.
Most people think of this shade (below) when we think of yellow:
Pure yellow is light (near the top Munsell’s color tree), clear and saturated (on the outer branch of the tree).
For Autumns, being lower on the Munsell tree and being less saturated (toward the tree trunk), shades are darker and richer.
The seasons who can truly harmonize with the light, clear shades of yellow are the Springs.
Even the Soft springs can handle most clear yellows shades, but buffering the saturation just a little is even better for a soft.
The richer, darker shades of yellow like golden yellow, honey, & mustard are best for Autumns.
Should Cool seasons wear Yellow?
That is the question. Traditionally, yellow has been included in Winter and Summer palettes. It is usually listed as “Lemon Yellow”. I, too, included it in my swatches but only reluctantly. Yellow is very warm. Period.
It was hard to find a “cool yellow” when I was choosing shades from my Pantone book for my swatches. But one of my clients said to me when I asked her opinion about yellow “I can’t imagine not being able to have a yellow in my palette” (She’s a cool winter). So I included it.
Yellow is uplifting. It is synonymous with sunshine. So how do Cool seasons wear Yellow?
For Winters, make sure the Yellow is ultra clear and has no hint of red to it. Think of adding a touch of white paint to yellow paint.
Below is a Clear Winter wearing an Autumn yellow. NOT good. Lighten it to a lemony yellow and it is much more tolerable.
The same goes for Summers. Try to find a pastel yellow. Not one that has been desaturated or muted. But simply lightened to a pretty pastel.
So in summary:
Springs look great in clear, bright, relatively light yellows. From warm ivory to bright warm yellow, Springs will look good in most clear yellows.
Autumns need the richer, deeper shades of yellow.
Tip: many lighter soft autumns find mustard too much for them. Lighter soft shades such as honey, amber, banana, butter, etc are some more suitable shades.
Summers’ yellows should be light, cool and fluffy.
Think of the lemon meringue cookie.
Winters need clear and bright with no hint of red/orange to it.
Lemon yellow is good. If you find your yellow is still too warm, use it in smaller doses.