What Does The Colour Yellow Mean? Origin, Properties and Use

What does the colour yellow mean? The fiery hue in between green and orange in the colour spectrum, it is the most vibrant pigment to ever grace our eyes. Being an earth tone, the yellow colour palette is naturally a part of our daily lives.

It evokes strong emotions that we associate with certain universal experiences like watching the sunrise and sunset by the beach. In the meaning of colours, the yellow colour palette is associated with light, knowledge (remember the famous light bulb?), and flourishing of life. We see it on a daily basis in our food, shelter, and nature – but have you ever asked yourself: what does the colour yellow mean? To further understand how to use it in our art and daily lives, read along.

What does the color yellow mean - Yellow color palette Hot air balloons Hot Air Balloons, Myanmar

What does the colour yellow mean? The fiery hue in between green and orange in the colour spectrum, it is the most vibrant pigment to ever grace our eyes. Being an earth tone, the yellow colour palette is naturally a part of our daily lives.

It evokes strong emotions that we associate with certain universal experiences like watching the sunrise and sunset by the beach. In the meaning of colours, the yellow colour palette is associated with light, knowledge (remember the famous light bulb?), and flourishing of life. We see it on a daily basis in our food, shelter, and nature – but have you ever asked yourself: what does the colour yellow mean? To further understand how to use it in our art and daily lives, read along.

Yellow Colour Palette: Origin

In yellow’s etymology, the origin of its name came from the Proto-Indo-European word ‘ghel’ that means ‘to shine’. The language is estimated to have been spoken from 4500 BC to 2500 BC, during the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age. From here, terms such as ‘gold’, ‘glitter’, and ‘gleam’ arose. Today, we all know that these words are all related to the yellow colour palette.

The oldest yellow on record came from a family of earth colours made out of clay, where the first red pigments came from. It was first used in art in the prehistoric era – through a painting of a horse in the cave of Lascaux, France. Today, that painting is estimated to be 17,300 years old.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Lascaux cave, France

Ancient cave paintings in Lascaux, France

The discovery of the yellow colour palette created a huge demand. People made use of saffron, turmeric, and Garcinia tree resin to extract similar-looking pigments to use for everyday trade.

Fun fact: The yellows we see in nature (saffron, turmeric, eggs, lemons, etc) all contain an organic pigment called ‘carotenoid’ – which gives them their yellow characteristic!

Yellow in Ancient Cultures

In Ancient Egypt, the yellow colour palette represented the might of the sun; thus anything coloured yellow in their art meant imperishable, eternal, and indestructible. A small paintbox with yellow pigment out of ‘orpiment’ – a deep-coloured, orange-yellow mineral was even found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun upon its excavation.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Gold, NefertitiThe sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun displayed in his burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt

What does the colour yellow mean in India? Possibly because of its association with gold, the yellow colour palette represented merchant in ancient times. It was a colour worn by the Hindus to celebrate the Festival of Spring as a symbol of sanctity. Turmeric, or yellow ginger, is an essential herb used in the kitchens and applied on the faces and bodies of subcontinental women, and used for their pre-wedding festivities and rituals. Up to this day, turmeric is considered a powerful repellent for its antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. This further explains the Indian custom of sprinkling turmeric water around the house before and after prayers, signalling a ‘cleansing’ of the home.

In China, only the Emperor and his household were allowed to wear yellow clothes. The royalty’s special guests were also welcomed on a yellow carpet upon arrival.

‘Huangdi’, also known as the ‘Yellow Emperor’, is thought to be the founder of Chinese civilization due to the tremendous amount of inventions that took place during his reign – giving a more symbolic meaning to the yellow colour palette.

Universal symbolism

Since time immemorial, yellow has been associated with rebirth and knowledge. It inspires original thought and inquisitiveness. Colour researchers also believe that yellow increases self-esteem and strengthens one’s overall health and well-being!

Yellow as the colour of spring

Yellow is also the colour of spring. It is the season for symbolic renewal, and nature grows in harmony with this! Fresh spring flowers grow and bloom during this season. The hours of daylight increase, and people all over the world engage in festivities to celebrate the new life. Spring is a very special season for various religions in history and modern times, so let’s take a look at the different religious practices and how they observe this season.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Sunset

Yellow sunrise over the mountains


In Christianity, the beginning of spring commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From childhood, some of us have grown accustomed to painting eggs, wearing brightly-coloured clothes, and playing games of Easter-egg hunting with family and friends. However, Easter is not just celebrated for personal beliefs and religious practices. It also welcomes a symbol of new life as it celebrates the end of chilly winter to herald the sprightly spring season. Hence, the captivating floral beauty, enchanting fragrance, vivid verdure, vibrant hues, clear skies and the birds chirping simply add to the charm of Easter day celebrations.

In its celebration, different colours also play important roles in the tradition of Easter. What does the colour yellow mean during this season?

RED: Red is associated with the blood that Jesus Christ had shed for mankind, making it a symbol of the love and sacrifice of God the Father for humanity. In this article, we tackle up the symbolism of the colour red more extensively.

WHITE: For the Easter season, white signifies purity and grace.

YELLOW: Being a colour that is universally related to the brightness of the sun, yellow symbolises the anointing of God, happiness, and unending faith.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Rabbit, Easter

A funny bunny, one of the symbols of the Easter celebrations

Spring equinox

The word ‘equinox’ hail from the Latin language that means ‘equality of night and day’. It is the time of the year when light and darkness balance out, and day and night are at equal length with one another. In the Northern hemisphere, the equinox takes place on or after the first moon of spring, which is why it is also connected to the rebirth of Jesus Christ.

However, it’s not just the Christians that acknowledge this occasion. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Mayans celebrate the resurrection of their own gods in this season as well. In ancient times, people performed rituals during the equinox to cleanse out old energy in themselves and in their homes.

Up until the 18th century, the equinox was considered the beginning of the new year in many parts across Europe. It was seen as a time of struggle between light and darkness, life and death. The sun’s journey signifies the journey of the universe as well. As Natalia Kuna said, The significance for spring is that daylight starts to increase, so the earth is about to tip over to more light, like an illuminating, sublime reminder that light is returning and always does, to earth. Therefore, the spring equinox represents new light and life, new beginnings, seeds, and path.”

Fun fact: Did you know that the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia aligns to the spring equinox? Click to Tweet

The tradition of Maslenitsa goes back to the time of the pagans, when Russians would bid farewell to the harsh winter and welcome spring with open arms. Since then, certain practices of celebration to commemorate Maslenitsa has been traditionally observed in Russia. The rituals of Maslenitsa are very unusual and interesting because they combine the end of the winter holiday rituals and the opening of new spring festivals and ceremonies, which were to promote a rich harvest. 

The religious celebration activities of Maslenitsa consist of three weeks of observance, but today let us narrow down the season’s most important symbolism.

During the Maslenitsa celebration, Russians eat as many pancakes as possible! They are freshly made and eaten every day, and in doing so – people hope to consume the sun’s warmth and energy. Since spring is coming, nature seems to wake up from a long hibernation during the winter. Bears were considered masters of the forest, and during Maslenitsa, people bring pancakes to the bears as an offering, and a way of welcoming spring together.

Масленица, Maslenitsa. What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Sunset

Pancakes on Maslenitsa Festival

The grand finale of the pancake week is burning the effigy of Maslenitsa, a straw-stuffed doll, dressed in female clothes, which marks the imminent end of winter. In the old days, people also threw pancakes into the fire as a form of funeral repast for the ‘dying’ winter.

Maslenitsa’s final day (which usually falls on a Sunday) is dedicated to forgiveness. It is a day when people ask for the forgiveness of others, and forgive those who have wronged them as well. They end it with a light heart before a final round of festivities – full of dancing bears, fireworks, and delicious food to top it all off!


Coming from the Persian word that means ‘new day‘, Nowruz falls on the first day of the first month of the Iranian calendar. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years by various religious groups worldwide, originating from Iranian and Zoroastrian roots. This occasion marks the beginning of spring and the vernal equinox; and the return of the spring was seen to have great spiritual significance, symbolising the triumph of good over evil and joy over sorrow.

The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals. Yet, above all these celebrations – Nowruz celebrates the possibility of a new life.

Yellow’s Dominance in Religion

Now, what does the colour yellow mean spiritually? As the colour of light and divinity, the brilliance of the yellow colour palette is often used to represent holiness in Christian art – seen in the golden yellow halo that appears on top of the head of Jesus Christ, and the blinding light that emanates from the ‘chosen ones’. These are best represented in the religious paintings that gained much popularity during the Renaissance era. Yet, due to its off-white property, the early Christian church also associated yellow with Judas Iscariot and heretics, representing corruption and wickedness.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Giotto

The Peruzzi Altarpiece, Giotto di Bondone. Gold and tempera on panel, 1300 ca.

In Buddhism, yellow has the highest symbolic value through its link with the saffron robes of monks. This colour, previously worn by criminals, was chosen by Gautama Buddha as a symbol of his humility and separation from materialist society. Saffron yellow thus signifies renunciation, desirelessness, and humility. It is the colour of earth, thus a symbol of rootedness and the equanimity of the earth.

The Yellow Colour Palette in Nature

Being an earth colour, the yellow colour palette is very dominant in nature. It has an exceptional presence in the beautiful flowers that grow in our farms and gardens. But what does the colour yellow mean in nature? Let us see a rundown of some of the most beautiful and symbolic yellow flowers around.

I wandered lonely as a cloud 

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

— An excerpt from I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (by William Wordsworth’s)

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Daffodils field

A field of golden daffodils

Daffodils represent rebirth and new beginnings. In the poem, the author was feeling gloomy when he chanced upon thousands of golden daffodils. The sight immediately brought him joy; and from that point on, each time he was alone with his melancholic thoughts, he just remembers the dancing daffodils and feels happiness inside.

Marigolds – on the other hand, are called the ‘herbs of the sun’, and represent passion and creativity. The Marigold is said to have derived its name from “Mary’s Gold”, taken from the fact that early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mary’s altar as an offering.

Marigolds are often favoured to be love charms. Used in weddings and as decorative pieces in many occasions, they are an excellent choice to show beauty and freshness. However, they are also known to symbolize cruelty, grief, and jealousy.

With brilliant yellow petals also known as ‘rays’, sunflowers have an unmistakably sun-like appearance. They grow into the direction of the sun, and thus were named as such. Today, they are one of people’s favorites, admired for its charm and delightful disposition. Sunflowers are also sourced for their seeds and oils used in cooking and skincare!

Meaning of yellow roses

Now, the meaning of yellow roses is something that most people wonder about. Red and pink roses were among the first flowers to be cultivated due to their popularity (We further discuss the color red symbolism in this article), and it was not until the 18th century when yellow roses were discovered growing wild in the Middle East.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Roses, Yellow roses
Yellow flowers and roses bouquet

Since the yellow colour palette has been closely associated with the sun throughout history, yellow roses have gained their reputation as an excellent source in creating a cheerful and optimistic environment. But you may ask – What does the color yellow mean in rose symbolism? They give a message of appreciation and love without the romantic notion of red roses. These flowers are a good bunch to give to your friends and family when you want to wish them well for their health and speedy recovery, or just to simply show your appreciation. They make for beautiful artworks, too! If you want to learn how to paint roses with oil paint, check out this very detailed yet easy tutorial on our Youtube channel!

Altai Mountains

The Altai Mountains –  a mountain range in Central and East Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together – has been listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. “The region represents the most complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones in central Siberia, from the steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest, subalpine vegetation to alpine vegetation” – UNESCO.

The name, in Turkic Alytau or Altay, means ‘Al’ (gold), ‘tau’ (mount); the ‘Mountains of Gold’. This mountain range is the source of the Ob and Irtysh Rivers, two of the major rivers in Asia. The region is rich in many natural resources like iron, gold, mercury, manganese, and marble. In 2015, Geologists also discovered a large deposit of gold to the north of the range, giving its name a more literal notion.  

These sites are sacred site to the Altai people. The permafrost in these mountains has preserved burial mounds – frozen tombs or kurgans that hold metal objects, pieces of gold, mummified bodies, tattooed bodies, sacrificed horses, wood/leather objects, clothes, textiles, etc.

Yellow in Kingdom Animalia

The animal world has its own rules. There are preys and predators out in the wild, and colour is one of the many signals animals use to communicate with one another.  Since humans are also part of the same kingdom, we may find some commonalities with them. So what does the colour yellow mean in kingdom Animalia?

Yellow is one of the colours in nature’s ‘aposematism’, which refers to the appearance of an animal that warns predators it is toxic, distasteful or dangerous. This warning signal is associated with the unprofitability of a prey item to potential predators. These animals are often foul-smelling, poisonous or bad-tasting, and they want everyone to know and leave them alone! Golden poison frogs are a fine example of a highly toxic carnivore that shows off its colour as waning, much like the neon road signs we see on the streets that signal danger. Burmese pythons, a Southeast Asian native, is also very famous for having a bright yellow color, making them very easy to spot. Though they attack only when triggered, one still needs to be very cautious around them.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - Golden frog

The “golden frog”, Panama

Although yellow may strike a signal of danger in kingdom animalia, not all creatures in yellow mean toxic or dangerous. There are beautiful yellow butterflies, fishes and birds that cause no harm, and are an extremely beautiful sight to behold. One great example is the famous aquarium fish called the yellow tang fish. They are not poisonous nor territorial, and they can grow up to 20 cm long! Their bright yellow coloUr paette fades at night time to help them hide from predators. 

The Yellow Colour Palette in Art

Because of its positive, and sometimes overwhelming (when used too much!) qualities, the yellow colour palette was widely used in the history of art by many different artists, but most especially utilised by the Impressionists.

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, or ‘The Master of Light’ is an Impressionist artist who loved using the yellow colour palette in his works. His paintings are famous for depicting the magnificence of light; and showing an almost spiritual sight of the nature that surrounds us, and today, he is considered as one of the greatest artists who ever lived. However, this was not always the case. His contemporaries and critics took a cunning pleasure in regularly decrying his unfortunate tendency to put ocher tones everywhere on his canvases. Accused of overloading his works, critics said he had yellow fever and mocked his “yellow mustard”: “This gentleman used to paint with cream and chocolate, egg yolk and blackcurrant jelly… Here, he offers all its battery of cooking utensils. 

Sunset on the River 1805 Joseph Mallord William Turner . What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette -

“Sunset on the River”, Joseph Mallord William Turner. Oil on canvas, 1805

It is undeniable that Joseph Mallord William Turner was a great genius in his command of colour, yet he found a way to incorporate the yellow colour palette in almost all of his works – showing how important this noble colour was to him. At the end of his life – Turner’s paintings were all about the sun. It makes one wonder as to what does the colour yellow mean for Turner, that he dedicated a major part of his life in trying to depict this beautiful hue.

Gustav Klimt

Another artist who was obsessed in his usage of gold is Gustav Klimt. He once said “Whoever wants to know something about me … ought to look carefully at my pictures.”

Klimt began his career with a group called “Company of Artists”, who took frequent trips to Venice to work on mosaic and mural projects inspired by the Art Noveau movement. Their early years inspired his gold leaf technique and unique imagery. He began to incorporate these styles into his personal paintings; and out of all his body of works, the artworks done during his Golden Phase were the ones that made his mark in art history.

Gustav Klimt’s Golden Phase gained much attention with his most famous “The Kiss” – completed in 1908.  It portrays a man and a woman as they peacefully embrace in a patch of shimmering flowers. Clad in contrasting patterns and predominantly composed of gilded forms, they encompass the decorative focus of Klimt’s Golden Phase.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - The kiss, Klimt

The Kiss (Lovers), Gustav Klimt. Oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1907–1908

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, an avid student of colour theory, used combinations of yellow and purple in several of his paintings for the maximum contrast and harmony. It was said that Vincent ate yellow paint, because of how widely he used the colour.

In his works, the usage of the yellow colour palette evokes a certain feeling of nostalgia. The Yellow House, originally titled “The Street”, is an oil painting of a house where the artist rented four rooms together with his friend Paul Gaugin. Located in Arles, France, the two artists created a shared studio space out of these rooms. Vincent loved the yellow house so much that he created a graphite sketch and watercolour painting variations of this painting, which he sent to his brother Theo to show his new residing place.

What does the colour yellow mean for Vincent Van Gogh? It was suspected that Van Gogh had xanthopsia – a colour vision deficiency in which there is a predominance of yellow in vision due to a yellowing of the optical media of the eye.This also explains the juxtaposition of his colors that make his works more vibrant, a phenomenon the artist would explore more deeply, and set him apart from other Impressionists.

"The Street" aka The Yellow House, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

“The Street” aka The Yellow House, Vincent Van Gogh. Oil on canvas, 1888

Fun fact: did you know that the first impressionist in America was actually a woman? You may want to check out the intriguing story of Mary Cassatt here.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet, a very notable Impressionist was interested in subtle changes in the atmosphere. In the year 1917, he painted Water Lilies in Giverny – a vibrant image of waterlilies in a pond, characterized by the yellow colour palette.

Instead of focusing on minute details, Impressionists played with bright colours to show shadow, value, and imagery. The nineteenth century saw the development of synthetic pigments for artists’ paints, providing vibrant shades of blue, green, and yellow that painters had never used before.

WLA_metmuseum_Water_Lilies_by_Claude_MonetWater Lilies in Giverny, Claude Monet. Oil on canvas, 1917


What does the colour yellow mean in architecture? Quite surprisingly, the yellow colour palette plays a big role in the history and advancement of architecture. There is a concept called “Conscious Symbolism” that develops through human personal experiences. There are some universal associations that are surprisingly uniform from culture to culture. Blue, for example, is usually associated with sky and water, yellow with sun and light, and red with blood and fire.

Here are some of the natural yellow rocks used in ancient architecture:


The largest deposits of travertine in the world are found near Tivoli, Italy; formed in hot springs and limestone caves. The yellow rock has been used in many famous constructions in history, dating back to the first Dynasty of Egypt in 3200 BC! However, the largest known building made entirely of travertine is the Coliseum in Rome, completed in 80 AD by Imperator Vespasiano as a form of honouring the grandeur of the Roman empire. Up to this day, Tivoli remains to be the world’s largest suppliers of travertine.

What does the color yellow mean - Yellow color palette - Travertine

Lemon yellow travertine block stone

Bath stones

Originally obtained from the Combe Down in Somerset, England – bath stone is an oolitic limestone comprised of calcium carbonate granules. This precious stone is the secret to the famous golden-coloured walls of Bath, England. Bath stone is also referred to as a ‘freestone’, meaning it can be carved in any shape in direction without breaking structure. This characteristic makes it a very popular choice of material for the construction of churches, houses, and public buildings all over England.


The Great Pyramids of Giza remain to be one of the world’s largest mysteries – both for its real purpose and the manner of how it was built.

Most scientists believe that the limestones used for construction were transported from nearby quarries, as these stones are formed in clear, warm, and shallow waters. It is estimated that 5.5 million tonnes of limestones were used in the construction of the Great Pyramid’s core along with granite, mortar, and basalt.

At its completion, the Great Pyramid was topped by white “casing stones”—slant-faced blocks of highly polished white limestone, before it was removed by Muhammad Ali Pasha in the early 19th century to build the upper portion of his Alabaster Mosque in Cairo.

Popular Yellows

Modern chemistry has led to the creation of many other variations of yellow colour palette pigments, but some of them have gained more popularity over time.

Did you know that Indian yellow used to be a very controversial pigment? The colour was originally manufactured from rural India from the urine of cattle fed only on mango leaves and water! The urine would be collected and dried, producing foul-smelling hard dirty yellow balls of the raw pigment, called ‘puree’. The process was allegedly declared inhumane and outlawed in 1908 as the cows were extremely undernourished.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette -

Ball of raw Indian yellow 

Practical art knowledge

Natural, organic yellow dyes for fabric and fibres can be created from blossoms, leaves, roots, and barks of many different plants. The key is to gather these plants during the proper season and then create the dyes. Watercolour papers are naturally yellow because they are composed of water-absorbent fibres.

The yellow colour palette is of course, naturally warm in nature. They can be used as an additive for other colours, mixed with different pigments to add light and brightness when glazing landscape paintings or creating lighter tones. Since yellows are not as strong as whites, they make for very natural highlights in all types of paintings!

Yellow as a binder
Egg tempera

Classic tempera paintings were mostly done using egg tempera, known for its capacity to produce vibrant, jewel-like paintings. One advantage of tempera is that the colour does not change over time and no glaze needs to be added afterwards. With egg tempera, only the yellow yolk of the egg was used and everything else discarded. However, agents like small amounts of vinegar and water are added to the yolk before mixing it with powdered pigment, to prevent the paint from cracking.

When used to paint icons on church walls, liquid myrrh may sometimes be added to the mixture to give the paint a pleasing odour.

Christinas World Andrew Wyeth

Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth. Watercolour painting in egg tempera, 1948

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is a painting medium made of yellowish oil obtained from the dried, ripened seeds of the flax plant. In painting, it may be used by itself or mixed with thinning solvents, making the paint more transparent and glossy. It is available in varieties such as cold-pressed, alkali-refined, sun-bleached, sun-thickened, and polymerised (stand oil). The introduction of linseed oil was a significant advance in the technology of oil painting.

It is also an edible oil used as a nutritional supplement, being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids! In parts of Europe, it is traditionally eaten with potatoes and quark, enhancing their otherwise bland flavours.

Gum arabic

Known as acacia gum or gomma arabica, gum arabic is made of the hardened sap of the acacia tree, resulting in a natural yellow gum. The sap is harvested commercially from wild trees, though it was historically cultivated in Arabia and West Asia.

Since it dissolves easily in water, gum arabic is used as a binder for watercolour paintings. It is also used to create watercolour paints, with pigments suspended in the gum arabic in varying amounts. In watercolour paintings, gum arabic results in a paint film, increasing luminosity and preventing the colours from lightning. However, it helps slows the evaporation of water, resulting in longer working time for the artist.


In their colour palettes, ZenART adds the most essential yellows you can use to create any type of artwork that you please. Most yellow colour palettes are opaque, but some were manufactured with translucence to be used especially for glazing purposes. Always remember: high-quality oil paints don’t yellow with the passage of time.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette

ZenART’s co-founder @ardak_zenart painting with ZenART Supplies oil paints from the Essential Palette.

Cadmium Yellow

Cadmium yellows are a vibrant bunch of yellow colour palette that’s leaning more towards the orange-y side, so it can easily be used to render flowers and sunsets. They are very striking, vibrant, and bold to the eyes. The main ingredient of cadmium is Greenockite, a rare natural mineral known in nature. It has cadmium sulfide, prepared with an acid solution and heated with hydrogen gas until a powder was formed. Hues ranging from a lemon yellow to a deep orange were made in this way.

Lemon yellow

As the name suggests, lemon yellow is a pale yellow colour palette derived from the colour of the lemon fruit. It has low hiding power (more translucent) and as compared to the cadmium yellow, this colour is brighter and more striking to the eyes. You can use this to render lemons, vibrant flowers, do glazes, and create contrasts in your compositions.

What does the color yellow mean - Yellow color palette - Lemon yellow, Indian yellowZenART Supplies Oil Paints Impressionist Palette

Fun fact: Did you know that Lemon yellow was a Crayola colour from 1949 to 1990? Click to Tweet
Yellow ochre

Ah, the mother of all yellows – yellow ochre! It is a natural mineral clay colour, found throughout the world. From this pigment, other yellow colour palette hues were made from. Yellow ochre is an essential colour to have when creating skin tones.

What does the color yellow mean - Yellow color palette - Ochre yellowZenART Supplies Oil Paints Portrait Palette

Zesty lime

A beautiful yellow-green pigment, lime was considered to be a life-saving colour during the 18th century, when voyages were deadly until sailors were given citrus fruit! They cured scurvy for British sailors then, and is now a great source of many important vitamins, especially Vitamin C.

Yellow in the modern era

Today, the yellow colour palette has retained most of its associations throughout history. It still carries a specific brilliance and magnificence in society, being a symbol of sunshine, hope, and happiness. Yet, the conflicting symbolism of the colour still remains.

What does the colour yellow mean in the modern era? Bright yellow is an attention-getting colour, and when used in combination with black, creates one of the most striking colour combinations that can be seen from long distances. This is why school buses, taxi cabs, and traffic signs (very evident in New York!) are all painted yellow and black.

What does the color yellow mean - yellow color palette - NY taxis

Yellow taxi cabs in New York.

Yellow gemstones are believed to aid in clarity for decision-making, boost concentration, increase energy, and offer relief from burnout, panic, nervousness, or exhaustion.

Tropical countries have a lot of yellows in their food too, for the colour represents heat, life, and happiness. In Southern Italy, yellows are abundantly used in their ceramic art practices. Mexico and Cuba have yellow cars and walls in their buildings – to represent light and abundance in nature. Russia’s mental asylums are called ‘yellow houses’, associated with its encouragement of hope and optimism in people.


“Yellow is the colour nearest approaching to light” – Color in Dress (by George Audsley).

In fashion during the Victorian Era, brilliant yellow was used sparingly. Ladies were advised to wear modified hues of yellow like butter-yellow and primrose to avoid the colour from overpowering the wearer. However, what does the colour yellow mean in fashion?

Dolce & Gabbana - Runway RTW - Spring 2016 - Milan Fashion Week

Dolce & Gabbana Fashion Show (Runway RTW, Spring 2016 – Milan Fashion Week).

Yellow was considered to be particularly becoming to brunettes and ladies with black hair as it neutralized the yellow and orange undertones in their skin, thereby whitening and brightening the complexion. The yellow colour palette was also used in shoes, gloves, hats, and jewellery laid with gold.

Since then, yellow has been a popular choice in fashion for both men and women, as they bring a joyful disposition to the eyes. This 2019, yellow is the biggest colour trend for spring.  

Feng Shui

In feng shui, yellow belongs to the fire element.

Like the sun, the yellow colour palette wakes up any dull room. This is especially true in cold countries where the sun tends to shine a little less. Yellow painted walls give off a cheerful and uplifting vibe, creating a cosy feeling for your home and office.

What does the color yellow mean - Yellow color palette - Sunset

Golden sunset at the sea

In many ways, the use of yellow colour is identical to the feng shui use of orange colour, as both are a gentle expression of the fire feng shui element.

A strong, vibrant yellow colour palette should be used in moderation in some very important areas in your home. The centre or the heart of your home will thrive in yellow; southwest areas to be filled for love and marriage; and northeast for spiritual growth and cultivation. Since yellow (just like orange) is a very appetizing colour, it is also used sparingly in the kitchen! A colour that naturally brings happiness, seeing yellow will make people more talkative and outgoing.



There is still so much history in the yellow colour palette to be discovered, but we hope we were able to answer your query on what does the colour yellow mean. What we have provided you with is a brief summary of the colour’s practical knowledge and uses that you can easily incorporate into your daily life! Did you find it useful? What colour would you like to read up on next? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂



Ardak Kassenova is mother, artist and ZenART Supplies co-founder. “My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums”. 

After 20 years of a successful corporate career and with becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, she decided that it’s time to make drastic changes and link her life with Art. She started to paint again and decided to create her own art supplies brand that would help artists to fulfil their creative dreams and achieve their best results since the beginning using high-quality art materials without wasting their precious time and money. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!

Regina R. is the head content writer for ZenART Supplies. She is a full-time artist, art and literature advocate, and a mother of three cats. On her free days – she likes to cook, knit, and tinkle around with her typewriter while drinking a glass or two of good red wine. Oh, and she loves 60’s music too!

Comments 6

    1. Post

      Hi Elmer! Glad you liked it! And much thanks for always coming back to read our articles. :)) We appreciate it so much! <3

  1. This was a very interesting article! I would love to read about all of the colors, especially purple 💜 I thought it was interesting that chinese royalty wore yellow, as opposed to the english wearing purple. I think its the english that wear purple. Enlighten me!

    Also, one association of the color yellow that I can add is from certain native american traditions; the element of air, cardinal direction of east or south. Some tribes associate the east with air and the color yellow, or conversly south, color white. Or some different mix. The element of air is also associated with the color yellow in some modern tarot decks, and air represents communication, ideas, the mind, and all things nebulous and intangible. It can represent a body of information that is attached to a person, a business, or a place, and we see this in the example of phrases like, “The old building had a special air about it,” and “She was putting on airs.”

    I think this association comes from the notion that the mind is like air, floating above the body, or from out of body experiences. We also use the word “inspiration” which means both the new idea and the intake of breath.

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      Why hello there! Thank you so, so much for your positive and extensive feedback! <3

      Yes I agree it is so interesting; different cultures had different colors associated for their royalties. It might have come from what was abundant in their countries/region. Your information about yellow's connection with the native American tradition is so interesting! Thank you for sharing. I wish we could include all information and trivia about yellow in one article. :)) Regarding the color purple - we would love to work on that, so stay tuned! Have you read our color article on Reds, yet? 🙂 If not, here you go! https://www.zenartsupplies.co/2019/01/28/what-does-the-color-red-mean/

      Enjoy! <3

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      Hey there, Barbie! Thanks for reading our article. We’re really glad you enjoyed it! <3 Do you have any colour request for our next one? 🙂

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