Yellow ochre is the most yellow of the earth tones, usually made from PY42 (synthetic yellow iron oxide) or PY43 (natural yellow iron oxide).
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.
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)
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.
I see no difference. Great!
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)
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:
Greenleaf & Blueberry – Yellow Ochre (PY43)
I was prepared to love this pricey version, but I found it weak.
Comparison to Other Colors
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
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.
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
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.
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’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’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’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!
These color mixes are made with Holbein Yellow Ochre.
Transparent Brown Oxide
Cinnamon-dusted golden browns.
Transparent Red Oxide
Transparent Pyrrol Orange
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.
Range of bold siennas, earth oranges, and gold ochres.
One of my less favorite mixes with Cerulean; I find these dull and chalky.
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.