There are a few different ways to make the color yellow appear more green. The most straightforward approach is to physically mix yellow paint or dye with a green paint or dye. However, there are also optical tricks that can make yellow look greener without changing its physical composition. Here are some tips for making yellow more greenish:
Add Blue to the Yellow
On the traditional RYB (red, yellow, blue) color wheel used by painters, yellow is located between red and green. Adding a small amount of the adjacent blue color to yellow paint mixes will shift the resulting color towards green. Start by mixing a lemon yellow and add a tiny bit of blue paint or dye. Adding too much blue will eventually turn the mix green entirely, so use a delicate hand and mix thoroughly to evenly distribute the blue tint.
Different yellow pigments vary in their warmth and coolness. Lemon or canary yellows are naturally warm and appear more orange, while goldenrod or banana yellows are slightly cooler. Choose the warmest yellow possible as your base if you want to end up with a vibrant greenish yellow. The blue will neutralize the warmth and make the yellow seem brighter and more greenish.
On a computer display using RGB (red, green, blue) color mixing, the same principle applies. Start with a saturated yellow tone, then add a small amount of blue to the mix. Increase the blue RGB value by 10-20 points while keeping the red and green values static. The higher the original R and G values, the more blue can be added before the mix turns green.
Add Green to the Yellow
Another obvious way to make yellow more green is by physically mixing in a green color. This increases the perception of greenness by adding actual green pigments or light. When using paints, mix a lemon or golden yellow with a green such as sap, forest, or lime. Start with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of yellow to green and adjust from there.
For digital mixing, simply raise the green RGB value of the original yellow color. Keep the red and blue values unchanged. Incrementally increase just the green value by 20-40 points to introduce more greenness into the yellow tone.
The benefit of adding green vs. blue is that it imparts pure green tones, whereas blue can desaturate or dull the original yellow somewhat. The disadvantage is that adding too much green will make the mix appear fluorescent or unnatural.
Remove Red from the Yellow
On the color wheel, yellow with higher amounts of red content will appear more orange and warm. Reducing the red tones pulls yellow closer towards the green hues instead. When working with paints or dyes, choose a warm golden or orange-leaning yellow as the starting point.
Add a small ratio of the complement color purple, violet, or blue-violet to reduce the redness in the original mix. An approximate starting point is a 10:1 ratio of yellow to violet. The violet neutralizes and desaturates the red tones present in the yellow pigment. Overtone purple tones will make the resulting color dull, so use a light hand when mixing.
For digital colors, reducing the red channel has the same effect. Take an intense golden yellow RGB color and lower the red value while keeping green and blue static. Reduce red by 30-50 points to remove redness from the yellow.
Add Complementary Blue to the Background
Surrounding colors can influence the perception of a focal color due to simultaneous contrast. Placing a yellow tone against a bluish background makes it appear more greenish than if viewed against a neutral backdrop. The complement blue color enhances the greenness of the yellow by a subtle optical effect.
To implement this, choose a blue, indigo, or violet backdrop color. Soft powder blues work especially well to make vibrant yellows pop. Keep the blue somewhat desaturated to avoid overwhelming the foreground yellow. Having a saturated blue risks making the yellow appear dull and brownish.
This works for paint finishes, colored backgrounds on graphic designs, web pages, etc. Adjust the exact hue and saturation of the blue to get the desired greenish effect on the yellow. Note that ambient lighting conditions will also affect the color contrast effect.
Use Greenish Yellow Pigments
When working with physical paints or dyes, you can also start with specific yellow pigments that inherently appear more greenish. Examples include chromium oxide greenish yellow, nickel titanate greenish yellow, and cadmium greenish yellow from the inorganic pigment families.
Alternatively, organic azo pigments like Hansa Yellow Light 3G have an obvious green tint. Greenish benzimidazolone yellows are also available, such as Pigment Yellow 154, 175, and 180. Use these as your base yellow instead of a warmer lemon or orange shade.
These types of pigments tend to be somewhat transparent due to weaker tinting strength. Mix them with opaque white paints or pair them with cream-colored backgrounds to make the greenish tones more visible.
|Pigment||Color Index Name||Hue Family|
|Chrome Oxide Green||PG17||Inorganic|
|Hansa Yellow Light 3G||PY3||Organic|
|Pigment Yellow 180||PY180||Organic|
This table shows some example greenish yellow pigments from different pigment families.
Use Optical Brighteners
Optical brighteners are a class of chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light and emit it back as enhanced visible blue light. This causes materials treated with brighteners to appear whiter, brighter, and more blueish.
When added to yellow paints, dyes, or fabrics, optical brighteners make the yellows look sharper and more fluorescent. Since the yellow takes on a bluer tint, this also causes a greenish effect by removing warmth and orange tones.
Optical brighteners are commonly found in laundry detergents, paper, cosmetics, and industrial textile dyeing. Look for specialty paint or dye products containing added brighteners to make homemade yellows appear more greenish and luminous.
Change the Light Source
The perceived color of objects also depends on the spectrum of the ambient light source. Yellows will look more green under light sources with greater blue spectral power relative to the red/orange wavelengths.
Compare how a yellow sample looks under incandescent vs. LED light bulbs. The heightened blue emission from LED lighting plays the same role as adding blue to the yellow object. Things like neon or electric discharge lighting can make yellows seem unnaturally greenish.
To make a yellow color appear greener:
- Use lighting with strongly spiked blue/violet emissions
- Avoid heavily red/orange weighted light sources
- Increase the CCT (correlated color temperature) of white light sources
With the right lighting bias, almost any yellow will take on a cooler, greenish caste. Be aware this effect is purely optical and temporary.
Bleach the Yellow
Bleaches work by oxidizing and degrading pigment molecules, gradually shifting their absorption spectra. In the case of yellow dyes and pigments, bleaches tend to preferentially destroy the longer red and orange wavelengths first.
This ultimately shifts yellows toward the remaining shorter green and blue wavelengths. The effect is similar to removing red tones from the yellow using purple paints or dyes as described earlier.
On fabric yellows, use an oxidative bleach like hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite to slowly strip out the redness. Be careful not to over-bleach, which will eventually destroy all color. Test bleaches first on yellow paint swatches to hit the right level of greenness.
Tint the Yellow with White
Mixing colors with white pigment is called tinting. When added to any hue, white not only lightens the shade but also desaturates and cools the color temperature. A yellow tinted heavily with white takes on a pale greenish-yellow appearance.
Start by mixing white paint or dye at a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio with a warm yellow base. Titrate with higher amounts of white until the desired pale pastel greenish yellow is reached. You can further tweak the mix by adding a drop of blue or green paint for a more saturated effect.
For digital colors, simulate tinting by raising the white RGB value. Take a saturated yellow and increase just the white channel by 50-100 points. Optionally reduce the red channel slightly to increase the greenish look.
Use Black Backgrounds
Black backgrounds create strong contrast that can intensify the appearance of overlaying yellows. Since black contains no hue, it results in a subtractive color mixing effect.
Having a highly saturated yellow over a black background seems to remove dullness and reveal only the most intense green and blue components. The resulting net effect is that the yellow reflects much greener.
To implement, paint a black surface or background and top it with bright yellow accents. This works for any graphic design, textile color combinations, or general interior decorating.
Be aware that the black color will also make the yellow appear darker and lower in value. Use very vibrant, light yellows to compensate for this effect.
With the right color theory knowledge and techniques, it is possible to effectively modify yellow colors to take on more greenish qualities. The key options include adding blue/green hues, reducing redness, optical tricks with complements and backgrounds, using greenish pigments, bleaching, and tinting.
A greenish yellow strikes a nice balance between warm, cheerful yellows and earthy greens. Mastering control of this color range greatly expands the possibilities for artists, designers, photographers and anyone wanting to fine-tune colors.