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Lemon yellow

color code: # DFFF00
Neutral yellow

color code: # FFFF00
Golden yellow
(gold, W3C)

color code: # FFD700
Indian yellow

color code: # F7B600
yellow rose 'Graham Thomas'

Yellow is the color that is perceived when light strikes the eye with a spectral distribution in which wavelengths between 565 and 575 nm dominate. Light with this property can also be remitted as body color .

Yellow is often identified as Y (en: yellow ), since G stands for green (see RGB). In electrical engineering, the color is abbreviated as ge .


The westgerm. Adjective mhd. Gel , ahd. Gelo ("yellow"), belongs (like the word bile ) to the idg. Root g̑hel [ə] - , g̑hlē "shiny, (yellowish, greenish, bluish) shimmering, shiny".

Color theory

Reflection spectra as a percentage of reference white for selected yellow pigments, according to Abney, 1891

With subtractive color mixing , yellow is one of the primary colors, with additive color mixing , yellow is created by mixing the colors red and green . For example the yellow in the yellow in the television picture.

In the color mixing (a) Purple the complementary color to yellow, although formed painter by the specific characteristics of yellow colorant intuitively also indigo , or blue-violet feel as complementary. In the opposite color theory , blue is defined as the opposite color.

Color systems

The color range 'yellow' is around the following values ​​of a pure hue

In the RAL color system , the designations RAL 1000 to RAL 1037 correspond to the yellow colors, in the PANTONE color system 100-139 and 380-389, as well as some standard colors .

Color mixing

sRGB - Gamut on the CIE diagram (1931), which approximates the actual colors of the pixels on a conventional monitor : some shades of yellow are outside the representable range

Mixing yellow with red results in orange tones , mixtures with green even with small amounts of fresh green tones ( spring green ). If you lower the saturation of yellow, you get a neutral (yellow) brown , even with small changes. Yellow coloring agents react sensitively to (colored) contamination. Mixtures in white are called light yellow or pastel yellow , from a proportion of half in white there are natural colors and off-white (beige).

On the screen is color-strong yellow with the phosphors poorly represented. Yellow pixels result in higher luminosity due to the additive color mixing , and therefore brightness , but due to the substance-related position of the green color points in the CIE diagram , a maximum of 60% color saturation is achieved. However, the chrominance reaches up to 80%, as a relative saturation compared to the spectral color of the same wavelength. Lemon yellow tones in particular appear “dirty” - as can be seen in the above color sample.

In color printing , yellow is used as the basic color of the CMYK color space ( Y from en: Yellow for yellow). The narrow color range is less unfavorable here, as the pigments that can be used for the process colors are coordinated with one another. However, the representation of the purest warm yellow tones is not possible in four-color printing. In the art print this calamity is solved with spot colors . The pigment selection, which is limited only by the printing properties, offers a richer color palette.

Yellow tones can be represented with optimal colorants up to a saturation of 95%. In the case of shades of blue, only 60% are possible with colorants. Subjectively, yellow appears as a light color.

Shades of color

Yellowish pigment powders: iron oxide yellow , sienna and cadmium sulfide pigments, from left to right

The three typical yellow colorants are cadmium yellow (PY35, toxic, early 19th century), Hansa yellow (PY1, PY3, a monoazo compound , arylide yellow , questionable, since 1909), and products of benzimidazolone yellow ( Hoechst , 1960). They can be used in almost all tones.

An overview can be found under List of yellow dyes and in List of yellow pigments

Neutral yellow

While the red, green and blue areas appear neutral in the continuous spectrum , the yellow tones in the spectrum only cover a very narrow area in which they appear color-neutral . The selection of the “right” neutral yellow has long been a controversial issue among color theorists.

  • Elemental yellow according to Helmholtz is 575 nm.
  • According to Hering's process theory, original yellow is at 570 nm, i.e. a little closer to green.

At the point where the stimulus response from the sensitive M and L cones is equally strong, the green and red impressions must be balanced in order to create the impression of yellow. The S-type (blue receptor) stimulus response is small, but not zero. It is noteworthy that the pure physiological visual apparatus is followed by a psychological and psychological adjustment up to perception. Depending on whether you take this aspect into account, a distinction is made between two basic neutral yellows.

  • Primary yellow
  • Process yellow

Such differences cannot be shown on the screen. The yellow FFFF00 ( electric yellow ) corresponds, however, to a neutral yellow, whereby the right choice of phosphors can be beneficial or even a hindrance.

Historical consideration

Most people find a slightly warm yellow to be “the typical yellow”, as can be observed for the Lab's counter-color, medium blue .

Medium yellow typically includes LAB shades H = 80 ° -90 °

Until the discovery, production and use of cadmium yellow from 1825, a neutral yellow could not be represented in full force. In the printing industry, benzimidazolone yellow (PY151 brilliant yellow , PY154) is used primarily, especially diaryl yellow pigments , especially Pigment Yellow 12 and Pigment Yellow 13 . Chrome yellow (PY34), which is less colorful, has existed since 1797 . Zinc yellow , which is also a pale yellow shade, has been available since the end of the 19th century . All of these historical pigments are poisonous and are only used for artistic purposes.

Primary yellow, pure yellow

Primary yellow lies exactly on the intersection of the L and M curves of a normal observer . According to the first Graßman's law, the hue results directly from the three primary valences R (700 nm), G (546.1 nm) and B (435.8 nm) defined by the CIE using the CIE tristimulus values. Ideally, because the (real) blue component is negligible, it is outside the human perception area at the Lab color angle H = 90 °

Primary yellow is by definition a visually neutral yellow, neither hot nor cold perceived is. Therefore, the term pure yellow is common for artists' colors .

Process yellow, Euro yellow

Process yellow (also Optimalgelb , Pigmentgelb , English pigment yellow , printer's yellow ) is based on a (theoretical only) colorant that reflects red and green light equally and should absorb all blue . The name follows from the application as the basic color of the CMY color system as a colorimetrically neutral basic color.

Its Lab color value is approximately H = 97 °
In the color system according to DIN 6164 it has the reference value T = 1
PANTONE Process Yellow is a theoretical process yellow that is visually clearly greenish .

In Europe it is referred to as Euro Yellow because a different standardization is used. It is a bit greener. The color is achieved (primarily) by RAL 1016 sulfur yellow, as it is often used in rescue service vehicles.

The four-color color printing is based on the CMYK color model , with additional process black as the basic color (for color depth ). The three bright colors can be printed much lighter than the colorimetrically correct process yellow, process magenta and process cyan. PANTONE 803 refers to this color shade (in the original, this color should be seen on the color control strips ).

A sprig full of lemons

Lemon yellow, sulfur yellow

Shades between 575 nm primary yellow , including process and euro yellow , and 560 nm yellow-green are named after the peel of the lemon fruit or the yellow sulfur .

While there are pigments for the shades H = 90 ° to = 100 °, which are close to neutral yellow, there is no gap in the palette up to about H  = 135 ° phthalocyanine yellow-green in which there is no strong pigment. Very cool yellow tones must be mixed with suitable combinations of yellow and green or blue colorants.

As pure colorants exist:

Typical color names are in this range of nuances:

  • Canary yellow , bright yellow RAL 1026, Lemon (Engl.), Lemon yellow RAL 1012 Cinnabar Green (translucent oil paint)
  • in English stands for cool yellow light yellow , not to be translated with “bright”, but rather with “luminous” or “light”.

According to UNECE Regulation No. 37 the front headlights of motor vehicles were limited to white and yellow; in France yellow headlights were mandatory until 1993. The advantage was seen in the better recognition in poor visibility conditions. The standardized color for this was selective yellow .

Golden yellow

Dandelion ( taraxacum officinale )

Red-tinged, warm yellows are called golden yellow or gold colors , intensely colored tones royal yellow , also sunflower yellow , yolk yellow and similar comparative trivial names are used. Just like solid gold (pigment), depending on the alloy component, is available in the variants yellow gold and red gold , this color group can be set with the spectral range from 575 nm to about 590 nm, in which the transition to yellow orange takes place.

A wide range of pigments and colorants are available for rendering golden yellow:

  • Tin lead yellow , massicot (lead (II) oxide), orpiment (arsenic (III) sulfide), Naples yellow , bulk yellow are traditional but sometimes poisonous pigments with centuries of tradition
  • Saffron ( Crocus sativus , dye: crocetin , Kaiser yellow China), turmeric ( Curcuma longa ), Gamboge ( Garcinia hanburyi ), Woof ( Reseda luteola , dye: Luteolin )
  • Indian yellow from the urine of the cattle, has not been traded since 1921. For a long time it was considered a unique golden yellow and its color depth cannot be replaced to this day.
  • The typical ocher covers a wide field between beautiful but not too colorful yellow and reddish yellow nuances to warm brown.

Other color names are:

  • For warm yellow: golden yellow RAL 1004, W3C, daffodil yellow RAL 1007, cadmium yellow (formerly RAL 1021), rapeseed yellow RAL 1021, saffron yellow RAL 1017, mustard yellow , signal yellow RAL 1003, sun yellow RAL 1037, traffic yellow RAL 1023
  • For orange-tinged yellow: Dahlia yellow RAL 1033, Indian yellow , broom yellow RAL 1032, melon yellow RAL 1028
Ducklings (pale yellow)

Broken yellow

  • Yellow and black (i.e. desaturated and dark yellow) produce brown in all possible variants, ocher (neutral to reddish) and umber (greenish-yellow). Mixing neutral yellows with black results in the olive group.
  • Yellow and white (desaturated and light yellow) result in pastel tones , such as pastel yellow (RAL 1034), or even lighter various natural colors (such as beige , ivory ).
  • Yellow, white and black ( i.e. gray-tinged yellows only reduced in saturation) are of a color that is difficult to describe. RAL has gray beige RAL 1019.

Special color names for yellow hues

  • Blond is a name for yellowish-brownish hair color
  • Falb is a name for pale yellow coat colors
  • Xanthochrome is the name derived from the Greek for yellow

Signal color

Sign for a priority road

Yellow has a strong signaling effect and attracts attention. The yellow diamond of the right of way sign is one of the few German traffic signs with yellow components.

Markings according to EN and DIN :

Yellow black

Yellow in combination with black (in the sense of no-yellow) is a warning color in nature , which is probably based on the contrast between “light” and “not light”. This coloration is typical for poisonous animals - it signals potential predators: "No useful prey". Examples are bees , bumblebees , wasps or the fire salamander . Hoverflies or hornet swarms use the warning color for mimicry without being toxic themselves.

This signal effect also applies to humans: In combination with black, the greatest possible signal effect of two colors is generally achieved, with the strong yellow being particularly suitable. The “light color” of yellow is in contrast to the “dark” black. This color combination is used, for example, for hazard warning signs (such as high voltage) or the sign for the blind .


As a single color, red has the higher signal value, yellow is a preliminary stage. The three traffic light colors are used as follows: The middle phase shows the imminent change from green to red in a standardized way in European countries, and vice versa in some countries.

In sport (especially soccer ), yellow is a warning given to a player that does not yet lead to an immediate expulsion: yellow card .

Post yellow

Yellow is the color of many postal services, here a Swiss mailbox

Swiss Post logo

The German Empire under Emperor Maximilian was dominated by the colors of yellow and black. The Thurn and Taxis adopted these colors to equip the uniforms of their post office holders: yellow jacket with black lapels. The Thurn und Taxis post office was thus equipped with the insignia of the empire and was recognizable as imperial courier mail. However, over time there have been different colors for the post. A wide variety of uniforms were made out for the post, depending on the country's color and the client. In Prussia they were dark blue with orange. It is interesting that the wagons of the post office - and later the railroad mail cars and motor vehicles - were mostly yellow. The reason was the signal effect of this color. The Allied Control Council decided in 1946 to introduce the color yellow for Germany as uniformly for the whole "institution Post". In Austria, yellow has been registered as a trademark for the delivery of various objects since 2003. The Swiss Post also uses yellow, as in its logo . The liberalization of the postal market necessarily brought other colors into play in order to distinguish oneself from the yellow postal system that had been inherited by the state: Green Post , Blue Post

Post yellow is:

Identification colors

  • Yellow Pages (telephone directories sorted by industry)
  • Yellow bin (collection container for plastic waste)
  • Yellow Cross (gas warfare agent in World War I, according to the color of the marker)

Symbolic meaning

Yellow often takes the place of the color of the metal gold . In this form it applies to coats of arms and flags, compare the state flag black-red- gold , which is represented with a strip of black, red and yellow fabric.

  • Golden yellow generally symbolizes eternity .
  • In traditional occidental culture, yellow usually has a negative connotation, but - in association with gold - it can also have positive aspects:
Judas takes his traitor's reward. ( Giotto )
Anton Raphael Mengs: St. Petrus, around 1775

Yellow bow
  • The Yellow Ribbon ( yellow ribbon ) applies in the culture of the United States (and more recently in other countries) as a sign of solidarity with the away from home fighting soldiers. The custom probably goes back to the Puritans , whose troops wore yellow ribbons during the English Civil War .
  • In China (see also Chinese symbols )
    • the color symbolizes the emperor: only he was allowed to wear yellow (gold) as clothing
    • and the land itself, the earth: in association with the fertile loess plains of central China, see Yellow River , the middle.
    • Yellow also stands for fame and progress.
  • More recently, negative connotations of the color yellow for decadence have become established:
  • In Thailand , yellow is the color of the royal family. On the occasion of King Bhumibol's 60th jubilee in 2006, most Thais wore a yellow garment or ribbon to show their sympathy for the king.
  • The yellow church , yellow hats are a direction of Lamaism, after the color of the hats of the monks in contrast to the red hats.
  • "Yellow" was also a description of the skin color of the ethnic groups that were formerly known as the " Mongolid race".
  • Yellow danger : In the Cold War period after the Korean War , the yellow danger was a slogan propagated in the West against the threat from Asia, especially from the People's Republic of China .
  • Yellow tiger is used as a tiger state for these emerging markets .
colour Associations and feelings
yellow Lemon - freshness - happiness - joy of life - vitality - liberalism - envy - hate - jealousy
  • as signal color: limited, partial, intermediate state, warning (see warning color )
  • in China : earth, center, balance

Internationally, yellow as a political color is mostly associated with liberalism and libertarianism. In Germany it is traditionally the color of the Free Democratic Party (Free Democrats, FDP). Yellow is also the official color of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), as well as the liberal parties in Romania, Estonia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ( Liberal Democrats ).

Yellow or gold, often along with blue or purple , is commonly used to represent liberalism . Yellow or gold was established as the color of liberalism as early as the 19th century.


Budo belt (Japanese Obi ) in the colors of the five student grades (Japanese Gokyū)


In heraldry (heraldry) the heraldic tincture gold , which is referred to as metal, can be replaced by yellow when painting coats of arms . See gold (color)

See also

Describing the hue of objects


  • Bruce MacEvoy: yellow. In: Handprint. Watercolors., accessed on January 15, 2009 (English, extensive compendium on color, color theory and painting: sitemap ).
  • Catholic Institute for Media Information and Catholic Film Commission for Germany (Ed.): Film-dienst 18/02 theme yellow . No. 18 . KIM Catholic Institute for Media Information , 2002, ISSN  0720-0781 .
  • Kurt Wehlte : Materials and techniques of painting . Otto Maier, Ravensburg 1967. ISBN 3-473-48359-1 (formerly: ISBN 3-473-61157-3 ) - Chapter 1.482 Yellow Colorants , pp. 92-110
  • Thomas Seilnacht: The color yellow . Online document at:

Web links

Wiktionary: yellow  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Yellow  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The dictionary of origin (=  Der Duden in twelve volumes . Volume 7 ). Reprint of the 2nd edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 1997 ( p. 227 f. ). See also DWDS ( "yellow" )
  2. - Bruce MacEvoy: Color Vision. In: CIE a * b * plane
  3. ^ The geometry of color perception. Hering's opponent processes - MacEvoy: Color Vision.
  4. works by Leo Hurvich, Dorothea Jameson: 1955, 1957, and complexities of Perceived brightness. In: Science 133/3447 01/1961, pp. 174-179
  5. Color sample according to [1] , H. Schmincke & Co. GmbH & Co. KG (August 11, 2012)
  6. Specification CSS-3 / SVG 1.0 of the W3C, see web color # CSS 3
  7. Veit Didczuneit, historians from the Museum for Communication Berlin (formerly Postal Museum). In: Hamburger Abendblatt
  8. Österreichische Post AG: Press release of October 13, 2003 : "For Österreichische Post AG, the protection of the color yellow as a brand ensures that the company is optically unmistakable in a liberalized postal market."
  9. The Blue Post also takes private, cheaper routes . In: Die Welt , October 19, 1999
  10. ^ Hui-Chih Yu: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Symbolic Meanings of Color . In: Chang Gung Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences . tape 7 , no. 1 , April 2014, p. 49-74 (English, pdf ).
  11. Kirsi Kommonen: Narratives on Chinese color culture in business contexts - The Yin Yang Wu Xing of Chinese values . In: Department of Languages ​​and Communication, (Ed.): Helsingin Kauppakorkeakoulu / Faculty of Economics, University of Helsinki . 2008, ISBN 978-952-488-279-8 , ISSN  1235-5674 (English, PDF ).
  12. Sean Adams, Terry Lee Stones: Color Design Workbook: A Real World Guide to Using Color in Graphic Design . Quayside Publishing Group, Laguna Hills 2017, ISBN 978-1-63159-410-6 , pp. 86 .
  13. ^ Rohit Vishal Kumar, Radhika Joshi: Color, Color Everywhere: In Marketing Too . In: SCMS Journal of Indian Management . tape 3 , no. 4 , 2006, ISSN  0973-3167 , p. 40-46 ( [accessed June 20, 2019]).