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What do you call a mix of yellow and orange?

What do you call a mix of yellow and orange?

The combination of yellow and orange produces a range of colors that do not have definitive names but fall along the spectrum between yellow and orange. When yellow and orange light are mixed together, the result is a bright golden yellow color halfway between the two. However, mixing yellow and orange pigments results in darker, more muted shades. There are a few common ways to describe these in-between colors, but no universal names that everyone agrees on.

The Color Spectrum

To understand the colors that lie between yellow and orange, it helps to visualize the color spectrum. The visible spectrum of light contains all the colors of the rainbow in wavelength order – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Yellow has a wavelength of about 580 nanometers, while orange is around 610 nm. The wavelengths in between contain shades that are mixtures of the two colors.

When it comes to pigments, paints, and inks, the colors are not emitted as wavelengths but absorb and reflect different parts of the spectrum. Mixing yellow and orange pigments will produce browner, olive-type shades rather than bright golden hues. This difference between light mixing and pigment mixing is important to understand when trying to name yellow-orange colors.

Color Mixing and Perception

The perception of color is complex. Two people may not agree on what to call a certain shade of yellow-orange. Color names are not formally defined but are based on language, culture, individual experiences, and more. The same orange-yellow hue might be called “mustard” by one person but “gold” by another.

Visual examples can help illustrate the range of colors between yellow and orange. Here is a table showing variations created by mixing yellow and orange light versus pigments:

Light Mix Pigment Mix
Golden yellow Olive brown
Sunshine yellow Mustard
Yellow-orange Khaki
50/50 mix Goldenrod
Orange-yellow Dijon

As you can see, the light mixes create bright, vivid hues while the pigment mixes are more subdued and earthy-looking. The dividing line between “yellow” and “orange” is also not sharply defined.

General Color Terms

While there are no definitive names for all shades between yellow and orange, there are some broad terms that are commonly used:

– Yellow-orange or orange-yellow: A general descriptor for the area between yellow and orange, rather than one or the other.

– Golden: Shades with a rich, warm, golden tone. More vibrant golden hues are created by mixing yellow and orange light. Golden yellows from pigment mixes may have a brownish tint.

– Amber: Used for more muted, darker yellow-orange shades with a brownish-orange tone. Amber is associated with the fossilized resin of the same name.

– Mustard: Varies from dark yellow to yellow-brown. Many “mustard yellow” pigments have an olive undertone. The name comes from the condiment made from mustard seeds.

– Gold: While “gold” can refer to a metallic shade, it is also used for vivid yellow-oranges reminiscent of the color of gold metal. More saturated shades are described as gold rather than the duller yellow-browns.

So in summary, while there are no fixed names that cover every possibility between yellow and orange, words like “golden”, “amber”, and “mustard” are commonly used descriptors. Context also matters – a color named “gold” in crayons may be called “mustard yellow” in interior decorating.

Cultural Color Associations

The language used for shades of yellow-orange can also vary between cultures and languages. Here are some examples of how culture influences color names:

– Xanthic: From the Greek word for yellow. Used in English for yellowish, pale yellow, or golden shades.

– Urobilin: A Japanese term for the yellowish color of urine, covering golden-browns. Not used in polite conversation.

– Geel: The Dutch word for yellow, covering the range from yellow to orange.

– Zoloto: Russian for the color gold or golden shades.

– Orpiment: An English name for the vivid yellow mineral pigment made from arsenic trisulfide.

So a color that an English speaker calls “golden” might be described as “zoloto” in Russian or “orpiment” by a painter mixing pigments. The variety of names underscores the subjective, imprecise nature of color vocabulary across languages.

Defining Yellow-Orange Colors

While there are no universal names accepted by all for yellow-orange shades, several color systems exist to precisely define colors, including yellow-oranges:

– The RYB or red-yellow-blue color model is a traditional standard for artists defining pigment mixes. Yellow and orange are primary colors in RYB.

– The RGB or red-green-blue model defines colors in mixing light for digital and screen displays. Ranges from yellow to orange can be specified numerically.

– The CMYK model for four-color printing uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. Varying the yellow and magenta defines different yellow-oranges.

– The Pantone Matching System is a standardized color reproduction system used in design and printing. It has specific yellow-orange shades with names and numbers, like Pantone 137.

– Natural color systems classify yellow-orange hues by visual comparisons to common natural items. “Lion” or “marigold” types, for example.

So while general terms like “golden” and “amber” are commonly used, more precise definitions of yellow-orange shades are possible using color order systems for science, design, and industry. But not everyone utilizes these technical specifications in daily color descriptions.


In summary, there are no fixed universal names for the range of colors between yellow and orange. The terms used depend on factors like language, culture, and individual perception. But some broad descriptors like “yellow-orange”, “golden”, “amber”, and “mustard” are commonly used in English for shades mixing yellow and orange. More technical color order systems can precisely define yellow-oranges. So a color that appears halfway between yellow and orange may be called “golden yellow” by one person but “amber” by another – there is no definitive right answer. The vocabulary used depends greatly on the context and audience. But with color mixing principles and visual examples, the general color meaning can be communicated.