The Power of Yellow

Johannes Vermeer thewinedarkseacom – and yes, a shade very near to Pantone Lemon Zest

The Power of Yellow? Pantone Lemon Zest – Ok, but Vermeer?

This could only mean….Yes! Brace yourself for art history and science! Bare with me, today’s illuminating facts about the power of yellow can change your design – and design can changes the way you feel when you unlock your door, which in turn can change…I know – the point?

I am opening with Vermeer, because those of fortunate enough (or unfortunate dependant upon your perspective) to have a painting background and a reasonable background in color theory will look at the Pantone Color Report for Spring 2013 and say – “isn’t that lead-tin yellow?

Leaded Tin Yellow and Pantone Yellow Zest

Vermeer’s work is known for its petite scale, precious brushwork (within the petite scale) and for his pioneering attempts at 3-D depth achieved by virtue of leaded Tin Yellow. Since those artistic days of yore, OSHA has surreptitiously swooped down upon the palettes of artists who would emulate the sparkling colors of artists like Monet, Vermeer, Van Gogh et al, divesting would-be palettes of those eye candy paint staples rich in cadmiums, barium, lead, cobalt, titanium and – Tin Yellow.

The power of yellow is not in its saturation, but rather in its restrained use as an accent. This is why I elaborate on the color report –  its time-tested genius and pocket-color guru nature is always a bird in hand so to speak for people (who happen to be the majority of people) who feel color-challenged. Allow me to elaborate –

The Science behind Pantone’s Color Report is evident, even if not read by fashionistas eager to glom onto the latest looks.

Planckian Locus With Yellow Complements

When two colored lights can be mixed to match a specified white (achromatic, non-colored) light, the colors of those two lights are complementary. In painting terms, two colors of the same intensity mixed create a perfect gray – but it’s difficult to do with yellow, and yellow’s compliment can be ambiguous, making it somewhat unique. In the nineteenth century, the scientists Grassmann and Helmholtz did experiments in which they concluded that finding a good complement for spectral yellow was difficult, but that the result was indigo, that is, a wavelength that today’s color scientists would call violet. Helmholtz says “Yellow and indigo blue” are complements.[9] Grassman reconstructs Newton’s category boundaries in terms of wavelengths and says “This indigo therefore falls within the limits of color between which, according to Helmholtz, the complementary colors of yellow lie.” Newton’s color circle has yellow directly opposite the boundary between indigo and violet – and so goes the controversy…

But the colors in the color report embrace the complementary dichotomy of yellow by offering an indigo-family blue and a lavender that in hue could act as complimentary shades to Pantone lemon Zest…

Pantone African Violet, Lemon Zest, and Monaco Blue

So back to the power of yellow channeled via accents – let’s see how this all works.

Yellow against it’s compliments moves towards you, creating a great deal of depth, like our Vermeer up top. (Click to visit curated artworks on One Kings Lane)

Note the weightlessness of the shade and how it moves forward against its indigo/lavender complement. See how even the lighter blues recede in contrast to the yellow? Be aware of this effect when considering wall color – yellow looks amazing in a cavernous space, but it is not your best bet at saturated levels in smaller spaces. Decorators understand this trick of the eye, too, opting to paint ceilings lighter shades of blue to the visual effect of raising the ceiling height.

Yellow accents really pop in any space, creating drama and lightening even the heaviest of furnishings with the power of yellow accents…

Sundance Sofa in Yellow via One Kings Lane

and how they pop in context to an overall design…

Compliments – Yellow speaks clearly here – image via Marie Claire

Yellow focal chandelier via arcadiahome

You don’t need to know the science, or art history to harness the power of yellow. Pantone’s gurus have done the work for you – Pantone Lemon Zest, African Violet or Indigo may or may not work with your hair, height or figure but are a sure bet to create a design home-run!