Colors that complement yellow

Updated February 21, 2017

Yellow in its pure form can be bitingly intense. It can also be warm and soothing when tempered. If you see colours that complement yellow, your decision will depend on the type of yellow. Some colours are complementary to yellow, meaning that they are colours opposite yellow on a colour wheel; other colours complement yellow in the sense that they work harmoniously.

True Complements

The true complement, in the sense of colour theory, to an ideal yellow is purple. Purple lies across the colour wheel, and, when the two colours are blended, brown results. Move the yellow a bit towards green, and the complement moves accordingly to a red-purple. If a yellow is greenish, the complement is blue-purple. These complements create dynamic colour impact.

Contrasts for Bright Yellows

In addition to the colour theory complements, other contrasts that harmonise with yellow are options. For instance, ultramarine blue is a classic match for yellow seen on fine ceramic dishes and platters. A lighter, Mediterranean blue pairs with bright yellow for a typical Provencal kitchen colour theme. Deep, moss green and similar green hues make a less contrasting but lovely harmony.

Matching Pastel Yellows

Pastels contain white. Thus, a pastel yellow, like a lemon ice hue or similar paler yellow, is quite bright but will not have the intensity of pure yellow. Pastels go well with other pastels. A pale, pastel purple is a bold match but also keeps a colour scheme light and not overbearing. A bronze hue is a darker match that provides more light or dark contrast. It also picks up the warmth of the yellow hue.

Neutral Yellow Matching

More neutral yellows, like ochre or marigold, provide a wealth of options. The neutral hues naturally pair with a wide palette. For warm ochres choose chocolate for a rich, dark option, and select a dark magenta for more power. For a more saturated marigold colour, adobe, pumpkin and butterscotch offer soft support that complements the yellow tones in the marigold.

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About the Author

Bill Brown has been a freelance writer for more than 14 years. Focusing on trade journals covering construction and home topics, his work appears in online and print publications. Brown holds a Master of Arts in liberal arts from St. John's University and is currently based in Houston.