How to Wear Yellow

How to wear yellow roller brush

A guide for all seasons

Pouring yellow paint from can

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 (left) when we think of yellow.

Pure Yellow is light (near the top of Munsell's color tree), clear, and saturated (on the outer branch of the tree).

For Autumns, shades are darker and richer, being lower on the Munsell tree and less saturated (toward the tree trunk).

The color Yellow on Munsells Color Tree

The seasons which can truly harmonize with the light, clear shades of yellow are the Springs.

Soft Spring wearing yellow

The seasons which can truly harmonize with the light, clear shades of yellow are the Springs.

Warm Autumn model wearing mustard yellow

The richer, darker shades of yellow, like golden Yellow, honey, & mustard, are best for Autumns.

Can Cool Seasons Wear Yellow?

Lemon yellow picture

That is the question.

Traditionally, yellow has been included in Winter and Summer palettes. It is usually listed as "Lemon Yellow." I, too, added 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 - the closest I could find to a lemon yellow. 

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.

Cool Winter wearing pastel yellow

Try to find a 'Cool' Yellow

warm vs cool yellow clothes

When you visualize cooler yellows vs. warmer yellows, you can see the cooler shade must not have a hint of red to it. Ideally you will want a pure yellow that is lighter that seems to have been 'tinted' lightly with white. 

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. Springs will look good in most clear yellows from warm ivory to bright warm Yellow.

Autumns need 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 yellows 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.

A Yellow Rose