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How the Color Yellow Can Create an Optimistic Space


If you're searching for a color that commands attention you should certainly consider yellow. Yellow is a luminous color that stands out from other shades and whose qualities are easily recognizable.

The Meaning of Yellow

Yellow is universally recognized as the color of happiness, optimism, creativity, enlightenment, and sunshine. It is a cheerful color that may remind someone of a bright spring day and rays of bountiful sunshine. It can also be identified as a cautionary color when used in street signs and caution tape.

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The History of Yellow

Yellow ochre pigment was one of the first colors used by prehistoric humans in their detailed cave art. Some of these drawings date back over 17,000 years and utilize several different prehistoric pigments, including yellow. The ancient Egyptians also used yellow pigments extensively in their artwork because of its close relation to gold. They believed that gold was considered indestructible and eternal and yellow pigments were a representation of gold. When archaeologists uncovered the ruins of Pompeii they discovered extravagant murals that filled homes and businesses. Yellow was a common color in these murals and the pigment's use was perfectly preserved in Pompeian murals after the volcanic eruption.

The turn of the 18th-century brought with it the ability to create synthetic pigments and dyes, expanding the available shades of yellow. Several artists of the 18th- and 19th-centuries, including Vincent Van Gogh, were famous for using different shades of yellow to evoke emotions and to connect with an audience.
Van Gogh's 1888 painting "Sunflowers" utilizes a variety of yellow shades to create a bright and sunny piece of artwork.

The Psychology of Yellow

Each color on the spectrum can have a definite impact on an individual's psychology and may elicit a specific
type of response. Yellow is universally accepted as a color of optimism and happiness yet it can have other effects as well. Yellow is the shade that is most fatiguing to the eye and can make an individual feel tired when working with it as a background color. Although yellow is most often associated with happiness and optimism some people may also feel frustrated or angry around the color yellow. These feelings are heightened depending on the specific shade of yellow.

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Yellow in Interior Design

Our favorite way to put color science to work is to find creative and unique ways to add color to interior
design. Most designers would agree that yellow can be a vibrant addition to many different rooms as long as you choose the right shade of yellow. You can use a muted yellow as a neutral shade and an all-over wall color while
a pale yellow will make a small room feel much larger. A room that gets plenty of natural light may benefit from a warm yellow on the walls and ceiling as it will play up the vibrancy of the streaming sunshine. We have gathered a variety of tips for decorating with yellow and utilizing an understanding of color science. Our favorites include:

  • You can bring an old world feel to a room by painting walls a golden yellow. Pair this shade with a subtle brown for a truly rustic feel.
  • Yellow can be used in combination with other colors, most often cream and beige, to create more subtle shades. These specific shades are known for being lively without becoming overwhelming.

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  • Orange pairs well with bright yellow shades for a citrus inspired space. This color combination works well with bright white walls and sleek furniture.
  • One of the hottest color trends the last several years is the combination of grey and yellow. These colors work well together in a variety of rooms including living spaces and bedrooms. Many successful designs use yellow as the color of a focal wall or painted behind a built-in shelving unit.
  • Straw colored shades of yellow will reflect the glow of candlelight making them ideal for dining room walls.
  • Don't believe the old wives tale that babies cry more in a yellow nursery. Yellow can be used throughout a nursery or playroom to create a cheerful and happy space perfect for celebrating childhood.

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Our team at Dunn-Edwards is committed to expanding our understanding of color science and using this knowledge to inform our paint and design offerings. Visit us online today to learn more about our products, view helpful painting tutorials, and discover new understandings about color science.