What Is the Opposite of Yellow? (Complementary Color)

Illustration with color wheel and text saying what is the opposite of yellow

When working with colors, artists and designers can use color schemes to portray or evoke certain tensions, harmonies, perspectives, emotions, or attitudes. In order to put together appropriate color schemes, you must understand various elements of color theory, including opposite colors, also known as complementary colors. These colors directly oppose each other on the color wheel, and when placed together, produce an interesting contrast that has a pleasing effect. In particular, you may be curious about the opposite of the color yellow. Many would be quick to point out that it is purple, but it may be more complicated than this. Follow along with this guide to find out:

  • Why does the opposite color of yellow matter?
  • What is the opposite of yellow under various color wheels?
  • What are the specific color opposites to different yellow hues?
  • How do you find the right opposite to a specific yellow color?
  • How can you use yellows and their opposite colors?

Why Does the Opposite of Yellow Matter?

Bouquet of yellow tulips in vase on a blue wooden background.

Painters, designers, hair colorists, makeup artists, cinematographers, and anyone putting together an aesthetically pleasing room or outfit can benefit from knowing the opposite of the color yellow. You can certainly use yellow on its own, evoking feelings of happiness, optimism, hope, and warmth. However, if you want to make the yellow visually appealing and attention-grabbing, you must add an element that is both intriguing and harmonious. In this way, you won’t pull attention away from the yellow but rather attract the eye towards the yellow. You can do this easily by coupling yellow with colors that completely lack the hue. Accordingly, opposite colors accomplish just this. Depending on the specific yellow color and opposite you use, you can also produce different attitudes and emotions in the viewer.

Likewise, if you are attempting to create dynamism in painted artwork or digital art, you can mix the original yellow with its complementary. With this method, the hue around the original yellow creates a unique shadowing effect. Furthermore, if you mix yellow with its complement, you can subdue the yellow, making it less vibrant or darker. Mix enough of the complementary in with it, you will completely neutralize the yellow. This specific technique may be great for artists who are attempting to fix a color mistake, colorists who need to take a certain tone out of a hair color, or a makeup artist who needs to skin correct. For example, a makeup artist needing to correct a yellow-tinted bruise can cover it using a complementary foundation base.

What Is the Opposite of Yellow?

Often, people state the opposite of yellow is purple. Although this is true in some situations, it is not this simple. It truly depends on the context and the specific hue, shade, tint, and tone of yellow. Depending on whether you are working with digital art, ink or paint, or basic color palettes, the opposite of yellow is significantly different. Since each of these media use different color wheels, it is worth it to look at the most popular color wheels, understand how they work, and what the opposite of yellow is according to them.

What Is the Opposite of Yellow in RGB?

Close-up image of yellow paperclips connected to each other.

Anyone working with art, photography, or videos displayed on a screen can use the RGB color model. It deals with Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) as these are the colors of light portrayed through television, computer, or device screens. Depending on the intensities and mixtures, these three primaries can expand to create a wide array of colors. Particularly interesting, these colors work with codes, yet different devices read and produce the same color differently. So, artists and designers must use a color management system, ensuring proper conversions for each specific device.

The RGB model is an additive color model. To put it simply, a device screen that is not transmitting colored lights is black. Artists can add colors to this black base, and if they add all the colors at full intensity (255 value), the screen portrays white. Furthermore, when dealing with a specific color of yellow, you can determine how vivid you would like that to be by determining how much light it has within it. A bright, pure yellow has a maximum intensity of 255 red, 255 green, and 0 blue.

On an RGB color wheel, the opposite of the color yellow is blue. Blue has 0 red, 0 green, and 255 blue. With these values, you can easily see how yellow and blue are opposites, as blue contains none of the elements of yellow. Additionally, if you are working with these colors, you may notice yellow and blue are particularly bright, due to the light.

Furthermore, if you wish to have a different shade of yellow, you may look at the tertiary colors, directly beside yellow on either side, orange and chartreuse. Orange is the opposite of ocean blue, leaning towards cyan. On the other side, chartreuse or yellow-green has an opposite of violet or a blue-magenta.

Hex #FFFF00
RGB 255, 255, 0
CMYK 0, 0, 100, 0

Hex #0000FF
RGB 0, 0, 255
CMYK 100, 100, 0, 0

What Is the Opposite of Yellow in CMY?

Abstract art with blue and yellow splashes.

Anyone working with printed ink or paint can use the CMY or CMYK color model. In these models, the primaries are either:

  • Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow or
  • Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black

CMYK is the standard since black ink is cheaper and purer if produced separately.

Unlike the RGB color model, CMY is a subtractive color model. Rather than adding colored light, it subtracts light in order to achieve its colors, and the more ink or paint, the darker the color. For this reason, CMY colors are actually muted and darker than the vivid RGB colors. If all colors combine with full saturation (100%), the result is very dark muddy brown or black.

When looking at the CMY color wheel, yellow is a primary color; its composition is 100% yellow and 0% of the other primaries. Across from yellow on the CMY color wheel, you’ll find its opposite color, blue. Looking at the tertiaries, you’ll find yellow-green and orange. Respectively, their opposites are violet and ocean blue.

Hex #FFFF00
RGB 255, 255, 0
CMYK 0, 0, 100, 0

Hex #0000FF
RGB 0, 0, 255
CMYK 100, 100, 0, 0

What Is the Opposite of Yellow in RYB?

Purple flowers against yellow background.

The RYB color model is a historical color wheel. It is the perfect introduction to color wheels and theories, so it is a great choice if you are teaching or learning opposites. It is also an excellent tool if you are not carrying out a complicated project with colors. If you are doing basic color correction with makeup, hair, or paint, RYB can help.

The three primaries are red, yellow, and blue. Unlike the aforementioned color models, RYB can only produce a small set of colors. However, it is great for people who do not need to work with a large range. Additionally, the RYB color model is subtractive, similar to CMY, making it useful when working with inks or paints.

On the RYB color wheel, yellow’s direct opposite is purple. Beside yellow is a yellow-orange, the opposite of which is blue-purple, and chartreuse, which has red-purple as its opposite.

Hex #FFF200
RGB 255, 242, 0
CMYK 0, 5, 100, 0

Hex #5C2D91
RGB 92, 45, 145
CMYK 37, 69, 0, 43

What Are the Opposites to Different Yellow Hues?

Sunrise with blue and yellow hues.

When you look at different yellow things, you can see that there are different hues, shades, tints, and tones of yellow. A sunflower may have a very rich, dark yellow color, whereas a lemon may have a vibrant yellow hue. However, if you are looking at a basic color wheel, you may not find the shade of yellow you are looking for. Picking the opposite of a true yellow, when you have a butter yellow, can produce a less than desirable effect. As such, it is important to know the opposites to a variety of common yellow shades and how to find the opposite to a specific yellow.

What Is the Opposite of Amber?

Amber is a famous yellow-orange color, with golden undertones. It has a strong vibrancy to it. The complementary color is a bright, neon blue called Luminous Vivid Sapphire Blue. These two hues together are bold and warm.

Hex #FFBF00
RGB 255, 191, 0
CMYK 0, 25, 100, 0

Luminous Vivid Sapphire Blue
Hex #0040FF
RGB 0, 64, 255
CMYK 100, 75, 0, 0

What Is the Opposite of Golden Yellow?

Gold, or golden yellow, is a yellow color with a slight burnt-orange woven in. Its opposite is a deep blue named Luminous Vivid Phthalo Blue. When paired together, you can create an elevated, rich, or regal mood. Have you ever admired the painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh? It is an excellent example of golden yellow and deep blue colors.

Golden Yellow
Hex #FFDF00
RGB 255, 223, 0
CMYK 0, 13, 100, 0

Luminous Vivid Phthalo Blue
Hex #0020FF
RGB 0, 32, 255
CMYK 100, 87, 0, 0

What Is the Opposite of Sunshine Yellow?

Sunshine yellow is a vibrant yellow. The opposite is a darker blue named Medium Blue. In RYB, the color is darker purplish. When you pair sunshine yellow with blue or purple, you get a color that’s bright but not overwhelming.

Sunshine Yellow
Hex #FFFD37
RGB 255, 253, 55
CMYK 0, 1, 78, 0

Medium Blue
Hex #0002C8
RGB 0, 2, 200
CMYK 100, 99, 0, 22

What Is the Opposite of Butter Yellow?

Butter yellow is a very light, creamy yellow. Since it is so light, the opposite of this color is a dark blue called Blueberry Plum Danish. These colors work well together, especially if you are aiming to create a bold contrast.

Butter Yellow
Hex #FFFD74
RGB 255, 253, 116
CMYK 0, 1, 55, 0

Blueberry Plum Danish
Hex #00028B
RGB 0, 2, 139
CMYK 100, 99, 0, 45

What Is the Opposite of Chartreuse?

Chartreuse is yellow-green, and its opposite is Violet. When used together, they can portray creativity and imagination.

Hex #7FFF00
RGB 127, 255, 0
CMYK 50, 0, 100, 0

Hex #8000FF
RGB 128, 0, 255
CMYK 50, 100, 0, 0

How to Find the Correct Opposite to Yellow

Blue and yellow creative abstract hand painted background.

No matter which color model you are using, you can find hundreds, if not thousands, of different colors. Accordingly, there are many different types of yellow and you may be looking for one in particular. After all, the hue does matter a great deal whether you are creating a harmonious aesthetic or neutralizing tones. As such, you need to know how to find the correct yellow hue and the correct opposite.

If you are working with digital art, only viewed on screen, you need to find a HEX code for your particular color. Typically, art and design programs have a color detector, selector, and inverter so that you can easily find the yellow you need and an accurate color opposite. If not, consider using Color InverterColor Code Inverter, or Pine Tools.

You may have more difficulty with physical paints, inks, dyes, and makeup as you need special programs and hardware to analyze colors and tell you the composition. That said, if you are using paint, a painting store has programs to color match. They can use their expertise and experience, or you can use your newfound knowledge on color wheels, to determine the opposite. If you are working with inks or dyes, you may need to send them to special companies for analysis.

How to Use Yellows and Their Opposite Colors

Yellow accents in a blue and white living room.

Once you have an understanding of yellows and their opposites, you can take your art and design to the next level. Yellow is a bold color, and adding an opposite color is the best way to keep things light. While a full yellow room may create a certain amount of tension, a blue room with yellow accents may be easier to handle and evoke the intended emotions in the viewer. Likewise, adding blue accents to a yellow outfit may create intrigue and contrast, helping you stand out.

Are you painting special artwork, like a sunset? A slight hint of blue or purple can help bring out those radiant hues and draw the eye to a horizon line. Perhaps you don’t have your hue of yellow quite right? Darken and neutralize the color by mixing in its exact complement. Wish to cover up a yellow tone? Choose a complementary and watch the magic happen.

Moving Forward with Yellow

Understanding color theory may be a large task, but learning simple pieces can make it digestible. Now that you know the opposite of the color yellow, you are that much more knowledgeable about how colors work together and how you can use them for your particular project. Give yellow and blue or yellow and purple a try and see the beauty for yourself!