Yellow - by Jan Thomson

Acrylic Paint, Atelier, Educational, Paint, Yellow -

Yellow - by Jan Thomson

Yellow invokes summer, flowers , happiness - and on  the darker side  jealousy , cowardliness , caution…

I have four Atelier yellows on my palette and each one has different characteristics.

  • Transparent Yellow - a strong, permanent colour made from Arylamide Yellow , as the name implies this is very transparent so it’s good for glazing. It’s a cool, lemon hue.
  • Indian Yellow- another transparent yellow, this time with Transparent Iron Oxide added to the same pigment , giving a warmer golden glow.
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep – the Cadmium Zinc Sulfide in this one makes it very opaque.
  • Yellow Ochre- a strong golden earth tone made from natural Iron Oxide , it is semi opaque.

Yellow is naturally the lightest of the three primaries, so using it as your main colour will naturally give a light, warm feel to a painting.

When choosing your yellow consider whether you want to glaze with it (think cellophane) or whether you want a solid area of opaque colour.

Choose the best yellow for the job when you’re mixing colours- a cool lime green needs to be based on a cool yellow, a golden wheatfield  needs a warmer parent.

Sometimes I use a wash of very pale yellow ochre over my canvas as an underpainting, this can give the completed work a lovely glow, especially if you allow that colour show through here and there in the final painting.

Be aware too, if you paint landscape, that yellow is the first colour the human eye stops seeing with  distance – so if you want to use this to imply distance in your landscape keep the yellows for the foreground, and smaller amounts in the mid ground.


To darken a yellow try adding one of the darker earth pigments- raw or burnt umber, burnt sienna .This keeps your painting warm without losing the glow.

If you want to dull your yellows add a touch of purple(yellows complement) , or use a small amount of pure purple as an accent.

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