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Does yellow and purple make grey?

Welcome readers! In today’s post we will dive into the fascinating world of color theory. Specifically, we will explore what happens when you mix the colors yellow and purple. Do they combine to make the color grey? Read on to find out!

Introducing the Color Wheel

To understand what colors make grey, we first need to understand the basics of the color wheel. The color wheel shows the relationship between different colors. There are 3 main colors – red, yellow, and blue. These are known as primary colors. When you mix two primary colors together, you get a secondary color. For example:

Red + Blue = Purple
Red + Yellow = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green

So secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors. Now, when you mix a primary color with a secondary color that’s next to it on the color wheel, you get what’s called a tertiary color. For example:

Red + Purple = Red-Purple
Yellow + Green = Yellow-Green
Blue + Green = Blue-Green

So tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. This is important to understand as we look at mixing yellow and purple.

Exploring Yellow and Purple

Now that we understand the basics of the color wheel, let’s look closer at the two colors yellow and purple.

Yellow is a primary color, meaning it cannot be created by mixing other colors. In painting, the primary yellow used is lemon yellow, which is a pure, intense yellow.

Purple, on the other hand, is a secondary color. It is made by mixing the primary colors red and blue. Purple sits between red and blue on the opposite side of the color wheel from yellow.

When looking at the color wheel, we can see that yellow and purple are complementary colors. Complementary colors are color pairs that sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Other examples of complements include red & green and blue & orange.

Complementary color pairs contrast strongly with each other. Yellow and purple exhibit this strong contrast – yellow is lively and energetic, while purple is more meditative and mystical. Combining these strikingly different hues can create some interesting effects!

Mixing Yellow and Purple Paint

Now let’s explore what happens when we physically mix yellow and purple paint together.

For the yellow paint, we’ll use a primary lemon yellow. For the purple, we’ll use a reddish purple rather than a blueish purple, to provide greater contrast.

When blending these two colors, the first thing you’ll notice is how quickly the bright yellow and rich purple neutralize each other. Even mixing a small amount of purple into the yellow starts dulling it down immediately. The more purple that is added, the more grey and muted the color becomes.

The same thing happens in reverse – adding yellow to the purple quickly greys it out. This quick neutralization occurs because yellow and purple are strongly complementary.

Small amount of purple added to yellow = Greyed-out, muted yellow
Small amount of yellow added to purple = Greyed-out, muted purple
Equal parts yellow and purple mixed = Medium grey

As equal amounts of yellow and purple are blended, a medium grey color eventually emerges. This demonstrates that mixing equal parts of complementary colors will result in a grey.

However, this grey color is not completely neutral. It retains a very subtle hint of either yellow or purple, depending on which color dominates. The complementary color mix never blends perfectly to a neutral grey.

Mixing Yellow and Purple Light

We’ve seen how combining yellow and purple paint results in a muted, greyish color. But is the same thing true when mixing yellow and purple light?

Light operates differently than pigmented paints. With light, combining different colors produces an additive effect, while paints mix through subtraction.

When we look at the color wheel, yellow and purple are on opposite sides. Mixing opposite colors of light together produces white light.

So theoretically, shining a yellow light beam and purple light beam together should blend to create white light.

But in reality, it’s more complicated than that. Most sources of colored light are not pure primary yellow and purple hues.

Let’s look at what happens when we mix common yellow and purple light sources:

Yellow sodium vapor lamps + Purple neon lights = White light with extra yellow/purple tint
Yellow halogens + Purple LEDs = Neutral white light
Yellow fluorescents + Purple fluorescents = Bright white light

As shown above, combining yellow and purple light can produce white or near-white light. But the exact shade depends a lot on the specific light sources used and their wavelengths.

While theoretically purple and yellow light should blend to perfect white light, impurities in real light sources prevent this. But with the right pair of light sources, their combination can produce a soft, neutral white illumination.

Mixing Yellow and Purple Dye

Paints and lights operate by different color mixing principles. What about combining yellow and purple dyes?

Dyes fall somewhere in the middle. Like paint, dyes work by subtractive mixing – they absorb certain colors and reflect others. But unlike thick paint, dyes are transparent and layer well.

When combining yellow and purple dyes, the results are more muted than mixing paint. Let’s look at an example with clothing:

Yellow shirt + Purple pants = Muted contrast
Yellow socks + Purple shoes = Greyish overlapping areas
Equal yellow & purple tie-dye = Dark grey color results

As shown above, mixing yellow and purple dyes generally produces low-contrast, greyish tones. The colors noticeably subdue each other, unlike mixing paints which quickly greys.

The muting effect comes from the transparent nature of dyes. When dye molecules are suspended next to each other, they absorb more wavelengths and reflect less vivid hues.

So in summary, combining yellow and purple dyes results in greyish, desaturated tones. The colors are not as boldly complementary as mixing paint or light.

Mixing Yellow and Purple Digitally

Modern color mixing often occurs digitally on screens and devices instead of physically. What happens when we blend yellow and purple digitally?

On a digital display, colors are made up of light. So theoretically, combining complementary yellow and purple should produce white.

Let’s look at some examples of mixing yellow and purple colors digitally:

Yellow digital art on purple website background = Greyed out, low contrast
Yellow subtitles on purple video = Text hard to read
Blending yellow and purple gradients in design software = Greyish white results

As shown above, the complementarity of purple and yellow causes digital mixes to appear washed out and greyish. Yellow text on purple quickly becomes illegible.

While light mixing should cause the colors to blend to white, the opacity of digital interfaces ruins this effect. The muted grey result ends up resembling paint or dye mixing.

So for bold contrast, avoid blending large fields of purple and yellow digitally. Use sparingly together with other colors.

Psychology of Yellow, Purple, and Grey

We’ve explored the visual effects of mixing yellow, purple, and grey across different mediums. But how do these color combinations impact us psychologically?

Yellow = Cheerful, playful, youthful
Purple = Luxurious, mystical, contemplative
Grey =Neutral, practical, sophisticated

As shown above, yellow, purple, and grey represent very different moods and associations.

When using color psychology:

– Use yellow to create upbeat, friendly branding

– Use purple to seem extravagant and thoughtful

– Use grey to give a modern, neutral impression

Blending these colors can create unique effects:

– Yellow + Purple = Playful contradiction

– Yellow + Grey = Positive yet practical

– Purple + Grey = Contemplative sophistication

So the mood of a color scheme combining yellow, purple, and grey really depends on the proportions used.

In summary, manipulate these color ratios to perfectly express the desired tone for your design or branding.


We’ve thoroughly explored whether mixing yellow and purple makes grey across different artistic mediums. Here are the key takeaways:

– Mixing purple and yellow paint produces a medium grey with subtle tint

– Yellow and purple light can combine to make neutral white, depending on purity

– Blending yellow and purple dyes results in muted, greyish tones

– On digital screens, large fields of yellow and purple turn greyish and washed out

– Psychologically, yellow, purple and grey represent very different moods

So in conclusion, yes, combining complementary yellow and purple does result in various shades of grey depending on the medium. While not a perfect neutral grey, the mix significantly desaturates both hues.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this deep dive into color theory and the interaction between the vibrant colors yellow and purple. Let me know if you have any other color mixing topics you’d like explored in the future!