Lemon Yellow

AKA “Cool Yellow”. Bright, crisp, green-toned yellows that mix very bright greens (and maybe more lackluster oranges).

Lemon comparison: DV Cadmium Lemon (PY35) vs DV Hansa Yellow Light (PY3) vs HO Imidazolone Lemon (PY175)

Color List

Single pigment colors, roughly in opaque-to-transparent order:

My Thoughts

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.

Necessary slot? I think it’s useful to have either Lemon or Middle Yellow. Many artists have both, and many have only one. Considerations:

  • I find Lemon more difficult to mix – it’s more of a primary – while middle yellow can be mixed from Lemon + a bit of a redder color (e.g. warm yellow, orange).
  • Lemon mixes brighter greens, while middle yellow or warm yellows mix slightly more muted greens. The brighter greens may be more useful for spring or rainforest settings, while the more muted greens read as more “natural” to many people.
  • I classify Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) as a gold, but some people see it as a lemon yellow because it is cool and light in dilute.

Favorites: Azo Yellow (PY151) is nice because it looks like a middle yellow but mixes like a lemon. Of the classic lemons, I enjoy Imidazolone Lemon (PY175) because it is very lightfast and mixes bright greens without sacrificing the niceness of oranges as much as something like Hansa Yellow Light (PY3).

What’s on my palette? Schmincke Aureolin Modern (PY151) [a form of Azo Yellow]