Color Spotlight: Yellow Ochre (PY42 or PY43)

Holbein – Yellow Ochre (PY42)

Yellow ochre is the most yellow of the earth tones, usually made from PY42 (synthetic yellow iron oxide) or PY43 (natural yellow iron oxide).

Experiment Results

Yellow ochres can have a wide variety of characteristics; some are granulating and some non-, some are more opaque than others. The color can also vary with some being much more brownish or orangey, and looking more similar to what I think of a Raw Sienna.

Holbein’s synthetic Yellow Ochre is one of the yellower ones; it has has a bright, cheerful color that’s more “goldenrod” than a yellow, but much yellower than most earth tones.

Gradient: A wider range than most yellows, this goes from a deep goldenrod to a pale yellow that is slightly muted and orangey compared to, say, Hansa Yellow, but still recognizably yellow. In the context of a sunrise I think this would very much read as yellow.

Opacity: I messed up the opacity test here by trying to cover the black line before the ink had dried and ended up mixing the colors… but an opacity test on a separate sheet made me concur with the Holbein rating of semi-transparent.

Glazing: Glazes over itself to a deep, muted, yellow-orange.


Lightfastness test for HO Yellow Ochre (PY42). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from July 22-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

Hmm… the protected strip has some darker paint at the top but I think this is largely because of the way I originally painted it. The connecting parts look the same. I don’t see a lot of fading in the bottom. I’m going to say this is an A.

Comparison to Other Brands

Da Vinci – Yellow Ochre (PY43)

Da Vinci – Yellow Ochre (PY43)

A fairly typical yellow ochre, this one made from the natural PY43 iron oxide pigment. I find this hue a bit dull compared to Holbein’s. Where Holbein is a goldenrod that gently deepens to an warm orangey toasted brown, this deepens to more of a cool, almost greenish brown. It is quite opaque.


Lightfastness test for DV Yellow Ochre (PY43). Left: window swatch, exposed to western light in Boston, MA, from July 23-December 9, 2023. Right: Protected strip.

I see no difference. Great!

Da Vinci – Raw Sienna Deep (PY42)

Da Vinci – Raw Sienna Deep (PY42)

Raw Sienna is typically made from PBr7, but Raw Sienna Deep isn’t a raw sienna – it’s a synthetic yellow oxide (PY42). Compared to DV’s natural Yellow Ochre, this is a similar color (perhaps a bit more brown and less yellow), but is much more transparent and granulating. I find it a bit on the weak/sticky side (a seemingly high proportion of binder to pigment). I prefer DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, which has a similar hue and properties but which I personally find more pleasant to swatch.

Winsor & Newton – Gold Ochre (PY42)

Winsor & Newton – Gold Ochre (PY42)

WN Gold Ochre, made from the synthetic yellow iron oxide PY42, leans in the other direction hue-wise, and goes way orange. It’s a butternut squash color that is more orange than DV Yellow Ochre, MANS, or even DV Raw Sienna (in the comparison at the bottom). A semi-opaque color that’s prone to blooms, I found this one a bit tricky to handle, but the hue really appeals to me. Gold Ochre, along with Winsor Orange (Red Shade), are the basis for my canyon colors in this Monument Valley sketch:

Monument Valley, November 10, 2022. Colors: Canyon colors are mostly WN Gold Ochre and WN Winsor Orange (Red Shade), dusted with a bit of DS Quinacridone Burnt Orange, with DV Burnt Umber and Holbein Indigo for shadows. Sky is DV Phthalo Blue (Red Shade) to DV Hansa Yellow Light.

Greenleaf & Blueberry – Yellow Ochre (PY43)

Greenleaf & Blueberry – Yellow Ochre (PY43)

I was prepared to love this pricey version, but I found it weak.

Comparison to Other Colors

Quinacridone Gold

A mix of Nickel Azo Yellow and Quin Burnt Orange, Quin Gold is a vivid and glowing alternative to a traditional yellow ochre. As an earth tone resister, I initially used Quin Gold for all my Ochre needs, and on a hue level, it works. But the properties of the paints are very different:

  • Quin Gold is transparent, YO is opaque or semi-opaque
  • Quin Gold is staining, YO is liftable
  • Quin Gold is extremely dispersive and explodes into any nearby water or wet colors, YO is much more polite
  • Quin Gold mixes green very readily, where Yellow Ochre resists mixing green

Neither is inherently better, but one may be better for your specific use case.

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

Monte Amiata Natural Sienna vs Yellow Ochre
DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7), left, vs. Holbein Yellow Ochre (PY42), right

Daniel Smith’s Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (MANS) is the yellowest version I’ve seen of the traditional sienna/brown pigment PBr7. In terms of hue, it’s remarkably similar to Yellow Ochre, especially Holbein’s warmer version.

Color comparison of Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna Deep, MANS, and Raw Sienna

MANS is more transparent than most Yellow Ochres and generally more textured/granulating.

For more info, see What’s the difference between MANS and Yellow Ochre?

Daniel Smith earth yellows

Daniel Smith earth yellows: Raw Sienna, MANS, Goethite, and Yellow Ochre

As you can see in this quick comparison I did from Daniel Smith dot cards, the DS yellow ochre (bottom right) is quite granulating, fairly weak, and more transparent than most Yellow Ochres. It is quite similar to MANS above; however, it is more orangey, a color I typically associate more with Raw Sienna, while their Raw Sienna looks to me more like a weak Burnt Sienna!

Goethite is also made from PY43 (natural iron oxide), so it’s also a yellow ochre variant, but it has some different qualities than a typical yellow ochre, being quite weak, transparent, and extremely granulating.

More Brands/Resources

Some other resources for comparing options:

  • Scratchmade Journal has a comparison of Daniel Smith, M. Graham, and Winsor & Newton.
  • Dr Oto Kano has a Collossal Color Comparison video of yellow ochre (part 1, part 2) which was influential in my decision to try Holbein!

Commercial Mixes from This Pigment

Da Vinci – Gold Ochre (PY83, PY42)

Da Vinci – Gold Ochre (PY42, PY83)

Da Vinci’s Gold Ochre is a mix of a granulating synthetic yellow oxide (most likely their Raw Sienna Deep) plus a warm yellow. PY83, sometimes sold under the name Diarylide Yellow or Indian Yellow, is an orange-yellow of middling lightfastness that DV doesn’t sell on its own. I like the mix, which reminds me of a warmer (more orange-toned) Quin Gold, particularly in the way it looks more brownish and granulating in masstone and more like a pale and smooth yellow in dilute. A hue is easily mixed by adding a traditional or synthetic yellow ochre to any orange-toned yellow.

Mission Gold – Yellow Ochre No. 1

Mission Gold – Yellow Ochre No. 1 (PY42, PY150)

Mission Gold’s Yellow Ochre No. 1 is actually a mix with a basic PY42 ochre and PY150 (Nickel Azo Yellow). The ochre makes the masstone deeper than a typical NAY, while the NAY is responsible for the pale smooth yellow in the dilute. Not too shiny in masstone, so an improvement over many Mission Gold colors!

Mission Gold – Raw Sienna

Mission Gold – Raw Sienna (PY42/PY65/PBr25)

Mission Gold’s Raw Sienna is also a mix, instead of the typical Raw Sienna made from PBr7. It’s a mix of PY42 ochre, PY65 (Hansa Yellow Deep), and PBr25 (Red Brown). Brighter and orangier than a typical Raw Sienna. Not too shiny in masstone!

Color Mixes

These color mixes are made with Holbein Yellow Ochre.

Transparent Brown Oxide

DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101) + HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) on Wonder Forest paper

Cinnamon-dusted golden browns.

Transparent Red Oxide

Yellow Ochre + Transparent Red Oxide
HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) + DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) on Arches CP

Transparent Pyrrol Orange

HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) + DS Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71) on Arches CP

My perception of the overall gradient is that the Yellow Ochre brightens and adds fire to the TPO, yet the mixes I made were all pretty dull opaque earth oranges.

Quinacridone Coral

DV Quin Red (PR209) + DV Yellow Ochre (PY43) on Canson XL

Range of bold siennas, earth oranges, and gold ochres.

Deep Scarlet

Yellow Ochre + Deep Scarlet
HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) + DS Deep Scarlet (PR175) on Arches CP

Venetian Red

WN Venetian Red (PR101) + DV Yellow Ochre (PY43) on Canson XL

Purple Magenta

Yellow Ochre + Purple Magenta
HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) + SH Purple Magenta (PR122) on Arches CP


HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) + DV Cerulean Genuine (PB36) on Wonder Forest paper

One of my less favorite mixes with Cerulean; I find these dull and chalky.

Cobalt Turquoise

Yellow Ochre + Cobalt Turquoise
HO Yellow Ochre (PY42) + SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) on Arches CP

My Review

I was slow to get on board with earth tones in general, especially Yellow Ochre. Compared to bright yellows, like Imidazolone and Lemon, Yellow Ochre seemed dull and muddy. I’ve come around, though, to Yellow Ochre having its place. I don’t use it in a clear sky, or another scenario where a light yellow is appropriate; it’s better used in landscapes, for mixing subtle and naturalistic golds, browns, or greens.

That said, I typically use MANS where one would use a yellow ochre, generally preferring the transparency, granulation, and cheerful hue.

Favorite version: Holbein is my favorite traditional yellow ochre; I like its warm, friendly hue.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.