The perennial color used to depict the sun and sunlight, yellow sits opposite purple on the color wheel, which is its complementary match. This combination appears in nature all the time in purple asters with yellow centers or yellow pansies with purple markings. But purple isn't the only color that goes with yellow. Gray with purple undertones creates a nice contrast for yellow, while red works in the same manner.
The color yellow is associated with feelings of happiness, joy, energy and intellect. The wrong shade of yellow -- cowardly or dingy yellow -- which results from the addition of black, signifies caution, jealousy, sickness and decay. So, before you choose colors to match with yellow, determine its undertones, whether it's a primary bright yellow, toned with gray for muted wheat-type effects, shaded with black for dull or dastardly yellow, or tinted with white for pale, pastel and pleasing yellows.
In the Kitchen
Yellow makes a good choice for a kitchen when it's combined with warm browns, muted reds, bunt umber or a pale lime green in cabinets or accents, based on your overall decor scheme. A pure bright yellow might be too much in the kitchen, so choose a soft, butter yellow to tone it down. Add decor accents in white or install a pale blue and yellow cafe curtain on the kitchen window in front of the sink for a light, airy feel.
Cover the walls with a pale creamy yellow, but then outfit the room with eggshell white upholstered furniture, a tawny woven grass, jute or sisal area rug and antique white wood furnishings in a credenza, coffee table and lamps. Decor elements in touches of Granny Smith green in a throw pillow or two on the couch flanked by silk or real yellow tulips create a light and airy spring feel to the room when you add floral yellow and white window treatments.
While too much bright yellow can overstimulate or make babies cry continuously, a light, almost white yellow has a soothing effect in the bedroom. Instead of using yellow on all the walls, paint the walls and furnishings white. Create a focal wall behind the bed with a mixture of white and pale yellow botanical print wallpaper. Match the bedspread to the botanical pattern on the wallpaper, with splashes of tinted reds, greens, yellow and white.
Other Yellow Schemes
Because you only use one color in various shades, tints, tones and values, a monochromatic color scheme always works. You can also opt for a yellow palette that includes the colors on either side of it on the color wheel, or three colors side-by-side wheel for an analogous palette. On the color wheel, two colors plus yellow includes yellow, yellow-green and yellow-orange. Other options are red, orange and yellow or yellow, yellow-green and green. A primary color scheme also works, when red, yellow and blue are all tinted with white or slightly toned with gray.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.