What Colors Make Yellow? What Two Colors Make Yellow

In this post I’m going to share with you what colors you can mix to make yellow. My guess is you’re trying to figure out what two colors make yellow because you’re either mixing paint, mixing colors with makeup, or just simply curious for general knowledge.

Either way we got you covered.

Old school conventional wisdom taught us at an early age that you can’t mix colors to make yellow. Traditions are meant to be broken… and this is another case of that.

Say what?!

Keep reading…

If you think back when you were a little kid in elementary school… the teacher would spend some time teaching you about Arts and Crafts. Specifically, I remember when we would do those hand painting artwork. The one’s where you dip your hand in paint and make an imprint on a piece of paper.

Voila!! Masterpiece =)

handpaint mixing colors

During this lesson, I’m sure they incorporated fundamental principles of color. Your teacher probably taught you using the color wheel chart, and explained that there are three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue.

In school, they teach us that primary colors can’t be mixed by any other color to make them. So essentially they’re the starting blocks of color.

So you’re probably thinking…

Wait… if Yellow is a primary color… then we shouldn’t be able to mix colors to make yellow. Right?! What colors make yellow paint?

Actually, you CAN make yellow, and everything you have been taught up to this point is actually not completely true. We can mix two colors to make yellow and I’m going to prove it to you.

I’m going to explain what 2 colors make yellow, but in order for you to understand I need to give you a little background information.

Red, Yellow, Blue (RYB Color Model)

Primary Color Mix Chart

Here is a simple diagram that displays what happens when you mix the primary colors: red, yellow and blue.

As you can see from this chart, when you mix the two colors adjacent to each other you get a new color.

  • Mix the colors yellow + blue = green.
  • Mix the colors red + blue = violet
  • Mix the colors red + yellow = orange

(Side note: I’m not sure why they taught us the color purple versus violet. Everything I ‘ve found online references the word violet)

These newly mixed colors: Green, Violet and Orange are called Secondary Colors.

As you can see using the primary color palette you can create three new colors.

Mixing colors is fun!

What happens when you take it one step further you ask?

If you continue to mix the colors adjacent to each with the primary and secondary colors you will get a third set of hues known as “Tertiary Colors” (Aka Intermediate Colors.)

Here is a simple chart below that explains the color combo theory that we just talked about. Notice that we started with the three primary colors, and we mixed them to achieve additional hues “secondary colors” and then lastly we created the tertiary colors.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

Now you can see that by mixing you can get a wide range of colors for your palette. You can continue this process and achieve almost an infinite amount of color combos. But for simplicity of this explanation I’m going to leave it at is.

This process of color mixing is what you were probably taught in school.

But wait, this still doesn’t explain how you can make yellow by mixing colors.

What’s before Primary Colors you ask?

The next paragraph below answers that question.

Red, Green, Blue (RGB Color Model)

The best way to explain this, is to reference computer color charts. What does computer colors have to do with anything?

Well if you’re a graphic designer or web designer, chances are you probably had to reference the color RGB Color Codes Chart. This color chart helps your computer understand what colors  you’re trying to display to the naked eye.

Notice in the sections in the middle of this screenshot. You have the letters R, G, and B. This as you probably guess stands for Red, Green, and Blue.

By adding different amounts (or having higher or lower numbers) of each of these colors you can get a wide range of colors to choose from. This offers you the ability to accurately display the color of your choice within your computer design.

Another way to explain this is by the Additive Color Chart.

Additive and Subtractive Color Chart

If you look at this chart above you will see that if you mix yellow and magenta these two colors make red!

But wait, Red just like Yellow are primary colors!?

and we were all taught that you can’t mix any other colors to make a primary color.

As you can see were were misinformed.

But don’t get mad… I’m sure it was all for good reason.

So why do they teach us that red, blue, and yellow primary colors can’t be made by mixing other colors?

I think there are several reasons.

First…

The concept that red, yellow, and blue were primary colors started many years ago when scholars explained that there were three basic hues. People didn’t challenge these intellectuals until many years later. Just like no one challenged the idea that Earth was flat.

According to Wikipedia: Color theory was originally formulated in terms of three “primary” or “primitive” colors—red, yellow and blue (RYB)—because these colors were believed capable of mixing all other colors. This color mixing behavior had long been known to printers, dyers and painters, but these trades preferred pure pigments to primary color mixtures, because the mixtures were too dull (unsaturated).

Goethe’s color wheel from his 1810 Theory of Colours The RYB primary colors became the foundation of 18th century theories of color vision, as the fundamental sensory qualities that are blended in the perception of all physical colors and equally in the physical mixture of pigments or dyes. These theories were enhanced by 18th-century investigations of a variety of purely psychological color effects, in particular the contrast between “complementary” or opposing hues that are produced by color afterimages and in the contrasting shadows in colored light. These ideas and many personal color observations were summarized in two founding documents in color theory.

In my opinion, the other reason why we were not taught about the RGB color model, is that teachers wanted to keep things simple when teaching young children about colors and mixing paint.

I think teaching 5 year old kids about history and computer color charts would simply be too much information and confusing for them to comprehend.

Kids just want to hand paint =)

What Colors Make Yellow?

Now that we have explained that you can indeed mix two colors to make a primary color… you’re probably asking.

“How do you make yellow?”

If you reference the Additive Color Chart above you will see that if you mix the colors Red and Green you can make YELLOW!

Woohoo! Problem solved.

This challenges everything we have known since childhood.

Here is a short video that demonstrates that if you mix Red and Green colors you can make Yellow.

This color theory works on any palette to include printer ink, pen colors, makeup, clay, etc.

Whether you’re trying to learn to mix paint, crayons, chalk, or just simply want to educate yourself. Learning how to make yellow can come in handy for many reasons.

Hope you enjoyed learning how to mix 2 colors to make yellow. Next time someone asks you “what colours make yellow?” you’ll have the answer and can show them how!

4 Comments

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