How to Make Yellow Darker

Yellow. The trickiest color to learn to make darker. But why is it so hard?

The answer to “How to make yellow darker?” is somewhat complex. It requires a deep dive into color theory, so here we go.

Value, Chroma & Hue

Every color is composed of three elements: value, chroma, and hue.

Value is how light or dark a color is.

Chroma is how intense the color is.

Hue is where it lands on the color wheel – red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple.

Obviously, in this article we are dealing with the hue yellow. We want to know how to make yellow darker.

Okay, so far we know we are dealing with the hue yellow. But what about the other two elements?

The intensity of the yellow, or the chroma of yellow, also matters. Most often when we think of yellow, it is a very bright, chromatic yellow – like the yellow of a lemon.

But there are also other kinds of yellows out there.

For example, mustard is considered yellow, but it is not nearly as intense as lemon yellow. It’s what we call a neutralized yellow.

Neutral is the opposite of chroma.

The problem with trying to make yellow darker is that we cannot do so without affecting the chroma – or intensity – of the yellow. We will circle back to this in a moment.

How to Make Yellow Darker

The final element of a color is its value. Is it a very light value or a very dark value?

We are trying to figure out how to make yellow darker. This means we need to take the hue, yellow, and somehow bring the value down.

The most obvious way to do this is to add black to yellow.

But if you do this, something strange will happen… the yellow will turn into green.

(Read this article on black and white to learn why black – which is often just a very dark blue – will turn yellow into green.)

And this is he entire trick to making yellow darker.

In order to make yellow darker, you have to add a darker color to it. This will do two things to the yellow.

It will neutralize the yellow (just like mustard is darker than lemon yellow but is darker in value).

It will also turn the yellow into a green.

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How can this be?

If you think about it, green is a combination of yellow PLUS blue. So in a way, green IS a kind of yellow.

A neutralized yellow-green IS a dark yellow.

This is why when you look at paintings by the Old Masters that have gold objects, you will notice that green is often used to represent a dark yellow.

Look to the Past to Learn How to Make Yellow Darker

One artist that is well-known for painting gold objects is Emil Carlson. Look at one of his paintings below.

Emil Carlsen – Still Life with Yellow Roses

Notice how dark the yellow/gold object reads to the viewer?

Try to look at each of the colors he uses to paint the gold objects in isolation by focusing on just one small part of the gold bowl. Do you see the neutral green?

In fact, the only truly “yellow” hue used in the gold bowl at all are the highlights he places on the rim.

If you truly want to master how to make yellow darker, the best thing you can do is study how the artists of the past managed such a feat.

There is so much to learn from them.

I hope you now feel confident about how to make yellow darker in your own paintings.

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