Color Spotlight: Lemon Yellow (PY175)

Holbein – Imidazolone Lemon (PY175)

PY175, typically known as Lemon Yellow or Imidazolone Lemon, is a bold, transparent, green-toned bright yellow.

Holbein also has a color called Imidazolone Yellow which is PY154, so pay close attention to the color name.

Experiment Results

Hue: Cool, green-toned, very bright yellow.

Gradient: Makes a nice smooth gradient that lightens to a pale pastel yellow.

Transparency: Absolutely transparent.

Color Mixes: Slightly subdued oranges, and extremely bright, neon-ish greens.

Comparison to Other Yellows

Hansa Yellow Light (PY3)

Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Light

Light yellows made from PY3, such as Daniel Smith Hansa Yellow Light, are extremely similar-looking to PY175 Lemon Yellows. They are both extremely cool (green-toned), light yellows. I would say the difference is that Hansa Yellow Light is a bit more opaque, which can make it look bolder.

Color mixes are similar in hue, but I think they behave a little different. While Lemon Yellow makes the entire color more yellowy (a traditional mix), Hansa Yellow Light (at least DS’s) seems to like to stay aloof from the other color, typically settling in a gradient instead of a regular mix. This may be what you want if you’re painting a sunset or another situation with a gradient, but not what you want if you’re trying to use it as a regular ol’ mixer.

Schmincke Horadam – Lemon Yellow (PY3)

Bear in mind that some brands, such as Schmincke, use the term “Lemon Yellow” for their PY3 (Hansa Yellow Light pigment) offering.

Azo Yellow (PY150)

Azo Yellow is a transparent yellow that looks more middle-toned (less green-toned) unmixed, but mixes very similarly PY175 lemon.

Holbein Imidazolone Lemon (PY175) vs DS Azo Yellow (PY151)

Comparison to Other Brands’ PY175

Winsor Lemon (PY175)

Winsor & Newton – Winsor Lemon (PY175)

My second favorite PY1754, Winsor’s version is very bold as well, though it tends to dry harder than Holbein.

Daniel Smith – Lemon Yellow

Daniel Smith – Lemon Yellow

Daniel Smith calls this a “brilliant primary yellow” though I find it to be more green-biased and not that brilliant. More transparent, and less tinted than Winsor & Newton’s version. I find it hard to get good juicy color from this one, and it’s easily overwhelmed in mixes. However, its transparency makes it great for subtle glazes and undercoats, and for making delicate, luminous sunrises.

MaimeriBlu – Permanent Yellow Lemon

PY175 lemon comparison: Winsor & Newton Winsor Lemon on the left, MaimeriBlu Permanent Yellow Lemon on the right

Like many MaimeriBlu colors, I found this one a bit low in tinting strength and streaky. It’s a nice bright cheery color, similar to WN, but I find WN more bold and usable.

Lightfastness Tests

I tested Holbein Imidazolone Yellow (PY175).

Lightfastness test for Holbein Imidazolone Lemon (PY175). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from May 30-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

I don’t see any difference between these swatches. Grade: A!

Color Mixes

Transparent Orange

Winsor Lemon + Daniel Smith Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71) – in a Wonder Forest sketchbook

A gorgeous range of very bold, vibrant, vivid oranges! The mixes remind me of more middle oranges including Yellow Orange and Perinone Orange. These are the opposite of muted.

Quinacridone Rose

Winsor Lemon + Da Vinci Red Rose Deep (PV19)

Slightly more subtle golds and coral-y oranges. These, to me, are fantastic sunset/sunrise colors.

Carbazole Violet

Dioxazine Violet + Lemon Yellow
Daniel Smith Carbazole Violet (PV23) + Winsor Lemon (PY175) on Arches Cold Press paper

Purple is yellow’s complement, so the mix should make gray. I guess this is gray, but I find it more of an ugly, muddy, dark khaki.

Indanthrone Blue

Lemon Yellow + Indanthrone Blue
Winsor Lemon (PY175) + DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) on Wonder Forest paper

The Lemon brings brightness and the Indanthrone brings muted darkness. The more pigmented, Indanthrone-y mixes border on Perylene Green in their dark green-ness!

Ultramarine Blue

Lemon Yellow + Ultramarine Blue
Winsor Lemon (PY175) + Holbein Ultramarine Deep (PB29) in a Wonder Forest sketchbook

If you’re expecting this to make green you’ll probably be disappointed, but there’s something wonderful to me about the way it doesn’t mix. Wonderful for sunrise/sunset skies fading zenith blue into horizon yellow.

Cobalt Blue

Lemon Yellow + Cobalt Blue
Winsor Lemon + Da Vinci Cobalt Blue (PB28) – in a Wonder Forest sketchbook

These greens are far more bold and green than the Ultramarine Deep mixes above, though far less so than the Phthalo Blue mixes below. In dilute, blue granules float above washed-out greens.

Phthalo Blue

Lemon Yellow + Phthalo Blue
Winsor Lemon (PY175) + Holbein Phthalo Blue Yellow Shade (PB15:30 on Arches

Extremely bright neon greens and turquoises! Because both colors are strong, I found it easy to get a mostly-blue or mostly-yellow mix (turquoise or lime), but difficult to get a “true green” balance.

Cerulean Blue

Cerulean + Lemon Yellow
Da Vinci Cerulean (PG36) + Winsor Lemon

I really like the granulating light-value blue-greens, but I found it difficult to keep the Lemon Yellow from overwhelming them and turning them all yellow-green.

Cobalt Turquoise

Lemon Yellow + Cobalt Turquoise
Winsor Lemon (PY175) + Schmincke Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) on Wonder Forest paper

I thought the Phthalo Green mixes were bright, but these make them look positively muted! Super-neon mint and lime shades. The most neon greens I know how to make!

My Review

I just love a cool yellow! Lemon just looks so fun and bold in masstone, crisp and delicate in dilute. Lemon is the yellow you want when mixing up a glowing green Northern Lights color.

Northern lights at Gates of the Arctic National Park. May 4, 2023.

Early in my learning, I favored it as a sunrise color. However, I’ve since come to feel that warmer yellows look nicer in the sky.

April 2021. Painted during a Night Sky class with Shelby Thayne. Winsor & Newton Cotman student watercolors; Prussian Blue, Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow.

While this is my favorite cool yellow, I increasingly feel that cool yellow is a bit of a specialist color, useful mostly for springtime and neon use cases, while middle to warm yellows are more useful for skies, landscapes, and most general uses.

On my palette? Not on main, but on Spring.

Favorite version: Holbein Imidazolone Lemon – it’s bold and has a nice texture. WN also has a great color but dries very hard. I found DS and MMB too weak. My third choice is probably switching to a similar mixer like Hansa Yellow Light (PY3) or Azo Yellow (PY151).

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