The Emotion of Color: Yellow

Yellow is perhaps the most difficult color to work with in design. It can go from perfect to obnoxious in a heart beat. It struggles to be seen against a white background and emulates the sun so much we instinctively squint when reading it.

At the same time yellow is bright, attractive and one of the most diverse colors when it comes to sending a message.

Yellow’s Emotional Effect

At full power yellow is daring, in your face and shouts a message. It can be used to dramatically highlight a point like a neon sign. When mixed with white to make a lighter yellow, it becomes soothing and friendly like sunshine on a cool day. Yellow appeals across genders, drawing the eye.

However, because of yellow’s overwhelming effect, too much of it can turn off a person. Bright neon yellow paper is obnoxious, and text that’s yellow against a light colored background seems to melt into indistinction. Don’t sacrifice legibility or attraction for the allure of yellow’s power.

Mixing Yellow with Other Colors

Yellow plays well with many colors. It compliments a green and players like the tip of a flame with red. With brown it can draw out the red color, causing an optical balance. Yellow really stands out against blue or purple. The cooling effect of these two colors can help level yellow’s excitement to tolerable levels.


Designer Challenge: Find three yellow designs that appeal to you and put them in a book to reference the next time you want to artfully excite your clients without blinding them.

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