The Color Yellow — History, Meaning and Facts

Yellow is a bright, cheerful color that elicits feelings of happiness and positivity. The color was used predominantly in ancient art and is sacred in many religions. Let’s take a look at the history and meaning of the color yellow.

Facts About the Color Yellow

Here are some facts about the color yellow:

  • Taxis and school buses are yellow because the color is highly visible.
  • Yellow is considered a lucky color in China.
  • The word “yellow” comes from the Old English term for yellow, “geolu.”
  • Yellowtail is a specific fish species that has a yellow tail or body.

The History of the Color Yellow

Yellow is one of the oldest colors in history, seen in cave paintings over 17,000 years old. The yellow pigment from ochre was readily available in prehistoric times and one of the first pigments used in cave art. Yellow is also a common color in paintings from Ancient Rome and Egypt, where it was used to depict skin color.

Renaissance and Medieval artists used “Indian yellow” — a pigment obtained when a cow eats only mango leaves. This color was used to show a person as an outsider, especially Judas Iscariot from the Bible.

What Is the Meaning of the Color Yellow?

In ancient religions, yellow was a sacred color. Yellow, like gold, was seen as eternal, imperishable and indestructible. Many religions worshipped the sun, and the sun gods were depicted wearing yellow. The Ancient Egyptians believed the gods had gold skin and bones and used yellow for their skin tone in art. Yellow is also an important color in Buddhism, signifying humility.

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There are also negative meanings of the color yellow. The expression “yellow-bellied” in English refers to someone who shows cowardice. Yellow is also sometimes associated with deceit — for example, “yellow journalism” is journalism that is exaggerated, sensationalist and not legitimate.

A Look at the Psychology of the Color Yellow

Yellow is seen as a happy, optimistic color because it’s associated with sunlight and summertime. Yellow is also associated with spontaneity and celebration, so stage performers often wear yellow costumes. When yellow is paired with black, it looks like wasps’ coloring, bringing about feelings of alertness and cautiousness. Yellow can increase metabolism. Too much of the color can be overwhelming and cause eye fatigue.

How Is Yellow Dye Made?

Yellow dye can come from the roots, leaves, blossoms and bark of many plants:

  • Celery
  • Peach tree leaves
  • Dandelion
  • Alfalfa seeds
  • Crocus
  • Bay leaves
  • Hickory leaves

One common yellow dye in food is Yellow 5, found in pickles, pasta and marshmallows.

Measuring the Color Yellow

Yellow is between orange and green on the visible spectrum of light and has a wavelength of 570 to 590 nanometers. Yellow is seen as a bright color because it reflects a lot of light. When yellow samples are measured with a spectrophotometer, the brightness won’t impact the data as these tools have applications made for this purpose.

Learn More About Measuring Yellow at HunterLab

HunterLab has spectrophotometer equipment to measure your yellow colors. For more information, contact us online today.