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What color clashes with yellow?

Yellow is a bright, sunny color that can really make things pop. But mixing the wrong colors with yellow can make your design palette look disjointed and messy. Finding colors that go well with yellow can be tricky, as its vibrant hue means some shades will clash badly. In this article, we’ll look at what colors clash with yellow and why, so you can avoid bad color combinations. We’ll also suggest some foolproof options that always complement yellow nicely.

What Makes Colors Clash?

Before looking at specific color clashes, let’s examine why some color combinations jar so badly. There are a few key reasons colors can clash:

Too Much Contrast

Putting very dark colors alongside very light ones often looks jarring. For example, pairing light yellow with black can appear harsh and dirty looking. There’s too much contrast between the dark and light.

Discordant Undertones

Most colors have warm or cool undertones. Mixing colors with clashing undertones (like warm and cool) can make them appear mismatched. Yellow has a warm undertone, so cool-toned colors often clash with it.

Vibrating Hues

Some shade combinations seem to vibrate against each other. They’re so bright and vibrant that they dazzle the eyes when next to each other. Placing really intense versions of colors together can have this effect.


When colors are close in tone and intensity, they can start to look muddy and indistinct from one another. For example, pairing yellow and beige results in a indistinct, boring color palette.

So keeping these clashes in mind, let’s look at the worst color pairings for yellow specifically.

Colors That Clash Badly with Yellow

Here are the main colors that yellow famously clashes with:


In color theory, yellow sits opposite purple on the color wheel. This means they inherently clash, often vibrating against each other. Places purple alongside yellow and it can look jarring and messy. You’ll notice that natural plants rarely combine these two shades.


Blue is probably the color that clashes most strongly with yellow. Mixing these two primary colors results in a bold, playful look. But place cool-toned blues beside the warm yellow, and the palette can seem visually discordant. Dark blues work especially badly with bright yellows.


Despite being a warmer hue, pink can still clash with yellow sometimes. Bubblegum pinks and hot magentas often appear at odds with sunny yellow shades. But softer roses and pinkish nudes can work well with yellow.


Leafy greens are not an intuitive pairing for yellow. But darker bottle greens and earthy olives often look dated and clashing when mixed with vibrant yellows. However, paler mints and limes work excellently with yellow.


Like green, red isn’t inherently clashing with yellow. But the wrong shades of red, like fire engine and crimson, can vibrate noticeably against yellow. Red works better with yellow if you pick muted brick, coral or rust shades.


Browns and beiges are probably the dullest pairing for yellow. Those earthy neutrals will just make vibrant yellow look muted and dirty. Avoid combining the two if possible.


Again, the high contrast of black against light yellow can be jarring. Black backgrounds tend to diminish and dull down yellow accents. Gray works a little better than true black, but is still tricky.


This is another high contrast combo to avoid. White will make yellow look radioactive bright, and having the two together can be hard on the eyes. Soft creams can work as a milder alternative.

So in summary, the colors that yellow most notably clashes with are:

  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Green
  • Brown
  • Black
  • White

But not all shades of these colors are clashing. With the right tones, many can be combined beautifully with yellow.

Why These Colors Clash

Now let’s examine why the above colors so often jar against yellow:

Color Reason for Clashing
Purple Complementary hues on the color wheel, creating high vibrancy
Blue Discordant cool vs warm undertones
Pink Some shades are too bright/saturated
Red Certain shades too vibrant and saturated
Green Some greens are too cool-toned for yellow
Brown Too similar and muddying
Black Too high contrast
White Too high contrast

As shown in the table, the main reasons are:

– Complementary colors on the wheel vibrating strongly (purple)

– Cool vs warm clashes (blue)

– Overly bright/saturated shades looking mismatched (pink, red, green)

– Muddy, indistinct combinations (brown)

– High contrast combinations appearing jarring (black, white)

But you can see that adjusting the tone and saturation makes many of these workable pairings.

Foolproof Color Matches for Yellow

To avoid clashing colors, stick to these guaranteed safe pairings:


Soft grays, tans and greige always complement yellow nicely. They provide a soothing backdrop that lets the yellow shine.


Warm metallics like gold, bronze and brass make natural partners for yellow. They pick up on yellow’s sunny warmth.

Muted Reds

As mentioned earlier, muted reds play nicely with yellow. Think terra cotta, faded red, burnt orange, peach, salmon, melon, rust orange and apricot.

Dusky Pinks

While hot pink may clash, softer roses, nudes and barely pink shades pair attractively with yellow. Blush pink is also a great match.

Sage Greens

On the cooler side, sage green, mint, seafoam and pistachio complement yellow in a retro way. Olive green works too.


For a summery vibe, combine yellow with warm corals, oranges, salmon and tangerine shades. This colorful pairing really pops.


Amping up the yellow tones, mustard yellow, ocher and goldenrod always coordinate perfectly with lighter yellows.


As a lighter neutral, creamy off-whites are an ideal match for vibrant yellow. The soft tone lets the yellow gleam.


While stark white and black may be too severe, softer grays blend seamlessly with yellow. Charcoal, slate and heathered grays work well.

So stick to those harmonious options, and you can’t go wrong alongside sunny yellow. With the right pairing, this cheery tone will make your designs shine.

Example Color Palettes with Yellow

To see some attractive, non-clashing palettes using yellow, here are color scheme ideas:

Color Scheme Uses
Yellow, white, gray Clean, modern graphic designs
Yellow, sage green, cream Vintage inspired products
Yellow, terra cotta, bronze Warm, rustic items
Yellow, charcoal, blush pink Bold but elegant pieces
Yellow, sky blue, tan Retro colorblocking
Yellow, mint, melon Fresh, friendly items
Yellow, peach, rose gold Feminine or youthful products

With pairings like those, yellow can take on many different moods while remaining energetic and cheerful. You can create both retro and modern looks by choosing hues that complement yellow’s fun vibe.

Tips for Combining Colors with Yellow

Here are some handy tips for pairing colors successfully with yellow:

  • Use yellow as an accent against neutrals like gray and white
  • Introduce something metallic like gold to make yellow pop
  • Add a mint or sage green for a complementary color
  • Use creamy tones like peach to soften yellow’s brightness
  • Pair with muted reds like rust, apricot and melon
  • Mix in grays and taupes to create an elegant contrast
  • Choose pale blues like sky instead of darker blues
  • Combine yellow with tints rather than bold shades
  • Anchor it with neutrals so colors don’t start clashing
  • Use less intense yellows if using several bold colors

Those tips will help keep your color combinations both vibrant yet harmonious. With the right partners, yellow can be gorgeous, not jarring.


Yellow is a color with boundless positivity and cheer. But pairing yellow with the wrong shades can create an eyesore. Stay away from its color wheel complement purple, as well as discordant cool blues and oversaturated reds and pinks. Instead, rely on friendly neutrals like cream and gray, warm metallics like gold and brass, and naturally complementary colors like minty greens. With some pleasing partners, sunny yellow will make your designs shine.