UI Design

How to Use Yellow in UI Design

Using the right color in UI design is crucial because it can significantly affect the user experience and, ultimately, the product or service’s success. But what happens when you need (or want) to use energetic but tricky colors in your designs, such as yellow?

How to pull it off without overwhelming users and reach business objectives? Keep reading because we’ll uncover the secret of how to use yellow in UI design. 

A person wearing a yellow dress with a sunflower in their hands

What are color harmonies?

Before we paint our world yellow for a while, let’s talk about color harmonies in UI design. Color harmony in UI design refers to combining colors that work well to create a visually pleasing and balanced design. 

With a harmonious color scheme, designers create a sense of unity, coherence, and balance that enhances the design’s overall aesthetics and user experience. Designers use several types of color harmonies in UI design, including monochromatic, analogous, complementary, triadic, and tetradic.

For example, monochromatic color harmony uses different shades and tints of a single color. It creates a subtle and sophisticated look and is easy to use for beginners. Before using yellow in UI design, you must familiarize yourself with these color harmonies and learn to consider color psychology, cultural context, and accessibility.

The difference in the cultural meaning of the yellow color

The cultural meanings of yellow can vary widely across different cultures and contexts. Here are some examples of how yellow is perceived in diverse cultures that might be good to remember the next time you want to include yellow in UI design.

In many Western cultures, we often associate yellow with sunshine, warmth, happiness, and joy. It can also represent caution, as in the yellow caution signs used in traffic safety.

In China, yellow is a highly respected color that symbolizes royalty, power, and prosperity. It is often associated with the emperor and the imperial family and is considered the most beautiful and prestigious color.

In India, yellow is considered a sacred and auspicious color representing knowledge and learning. It is often associated with the Hindu god Vishnu and Indians in religious ceremonies and festivals. 

Many African cultures associate yellow with wealth, fertility, and prosperity. It can also represent courage, as in the yellow feathers worn by Zulu warriors.

In Middle Eastern cultures, yellow conveys happiness, joy, and hospitality. It is often used in clothing and decoration and is considered a welcoming and friendly color. And finally, in Japan, yellow symbolizes courage, wisdom, and nobility. It is often used in traditional clothing and art and is considered a noble and elegant color.

These are just a few examples of how using yellow in UI design can be perceived differently across cultures. When designing for a global audience, you must always bear cultural meanings and associations of colors in your mind and use them appropriately and sensitively in your UI design.

A yellow vase contrasting with a background that is deep blue color

Using contrasting colors in interior design can add visual interest and depth to a space.

How to properly use yellow in UI design

Yellow is a vibrant and energetic color that can evoke feelings of happiness, warmth, and cheerfulness in UI design. But it’s not the easiest and always the best option for UI.

Let’s review some tips on effectively using yellow in UI design.

  • Use yellow to draw attention. Yellow is a bright color that can easily catch the users’ eye. Use it to highlight crucial elements like buttons, CTAs, or notifications.
  • Pair yellow with neutral colors. Yellow can be overwhelming if you use it too much, so it’s crucial to balance it with neutral colors like white, gray, or black. That will help to create a harmonious and balanced design.
  • Use yellow sparingly. Yellow is bold and powerful, but you must use it in moderation. Too much yellow can be overwhelming and distracting for your users.
  • Choose the right shade of yellow. There are many shades of yellow, from bright and bold to muted and soft. Choose a shade that fits the tone and style of your UI design (more about shading in the next paragraph.)
  • Always consider the context. As we already mentioned, the meaning of yellow can change depending on the context. In some cultures, yellow represents happiness and good luck; others might associate it with caution or warning.
  • Use yellow to create contrast. Yellow in UI design can be an excellent option for contrasting colors. Use it to make important elements stand out and grab the user’s attention.

Finally, remember that color in UI design is subjective and may vary depending on the context and audience. Before working on your UI designs, consider your design’s overall goals and message and use color to support those goals.

A toned-down pure yellow color looks muddy
A yellow color with a splash of orange

How to pick the right shade of yellow in UI design

The main challenge with choosing the right shade of yellow is that only a few hue degrees can be considered true yellow (around 55-65 degrees.) When you start shading yellow to meet your preference or the WCAG standards, it can quickly turn muddy or get a greenish tone. That can cause some difficulties in picking other shades of yellow. Designers call this situation “The Dark Yellow Problem.”

Lighter shades of yellow aren’t that problematic because you can create paler or pastel yellow shades, which will look good. But, the hurdle arises when you need to create darker shades of yellow in UI design to use them for hover states and other relevant UI elements. 

If we imagine a color picker, we can conclude that hues of other colors create nice and functional shades, except yellow.

One piece of advice on how to fix this is to move the hue of your yellow color to the orange and red end of the spectrum and get shades of yellow that, in fact, contain a little bit of orange in them, which will ultimately look much better than brownish hues you can get by only lowering the brightness of your main yellow shade.

Screenshots of Snapchat website using yellow color in UI
Screenshots of IMDb website using yellow color as an accent color in UI

Examples of good use of yellow in UI design

One good example of a yellow UI design is the website of the messaging app Snapchat. The design features a bright and cheerful shade of yellow as the primary color, reflecting the app’s fun and playful nature.

They use yellow in combination with other colors, such as white and black, to create a visually balanced and harmonious color scheme. 

On the first screen of their website, the background is yellow, and the crucial elements are black, which balances out and creates a strong contrast. In other subpages of their website and app, Snapchat uses yellow for notifications and pop-up messages, which stand out against the neutral background.

The use of yellow is also consistent across the app’s branding and marketing materials, which creates a solid and recognizable visual identity. The yellow in UI design of Snapchat effectively produces a fun and engaging user experience that aligns with the app’s brand and target audience.

Another good example is National Geographic. National Geographic’s website features a bold and vibrant yellow as the primary accent color. They use yellow for the navigation bar, icons, links, and CTAs, which stand out against the neutral background and create a sense of energy and excitement.

IMDb also uses yellow in UI design as an accent color throughout their website and mobile app. Their logo features the iconic yellow-colored text on a black background, which is a recognizable part of the brand identity, making the logo stand out and easy to identify. They use yellow stars to indicate the rating of movies and TV shows on their platform.

Furthermore, IMDb uses yellow buttons for actions such as “Watch Now” and “Add to Watchlist.” Using yellow for these buttons helps draw attention and make them stand out, making it easier for users to take the desired action.

Finally, IMDb also uses yellow in UI design as an accent color throughout their UI design, such as for highlighting text and graphics. The use of yellow adds a pop of color and visual interest to the design, making it more engaging and user-friendly.

How to use gold in UI design

Another color that is tricky to use in UI design is a deeper shade of yellow: gold color. Gold is a warm and luxurious color that adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to UI design. To properly use gold in UI design, use it as an accent color. Gold works best as an accent color rather than a dominant color.

Use gold to highlight essential elements, such as buttons, icons, or headings, to create an elegant and refined look. Similar to using yellow in UI design, combine gold with neutral colors.

Too much gold can be overwhelming and distracting. So, use gold sparingly to create a subtle and sophisticated look. And finally, if you wish to achieve the overall look and feel of luxury, using gold in your UI design can help to create a sense of exclusivity and premium quality.

Salt Bae "smooth salting"

Other tricky colors in UI design

While there are no absolute rules for which colors to use in UI design, some colors can be more challenging to use effectively than others.

For example, red is a high-contrast, attention-grabbing color people might associate with danger, passion, or anger. While red can be an excellent choice to draw attention to essential elements, such as error messages, too much red or the wrong shade can create a sense of urgency or anxiety. 

Yellow in UI design is one of many challenging colors. There’s also green.

Green is a versatile color people might connect with growth, nature, or wealth. However, the wrong shade of green can appear dull or unappealing, while bright greens can be overwhelming or distracting. Finally, some brands resort to green when they want to convey a message of being ecological, which is a good option, but make sure not to overdo it. 

And finally, blue can also seem tricky to use in UI. Blue is a calming, trustworthy color you can effectively utilize in many UI designs. However, it can also appear cold or impersonal if used excessively or without enough contrast. The wrong shade of blue can also be difficult to read, especially for visually impaired users, which is an accessibility nightmare.


Thank you for reading our tips on how to use yellow in UI design. 

Before our last words, it’s important to highlight that no color is inherently “bad” in UI design. Still, some colors can be more challenging to use effectively than others. To be a professional and successful product designer, you must always consider the context, audience, cultural significance, and accessibility when choosing and using colors in UI design.

To learn more about the most foundational UX/UI design skill, check out our Ultimate UI Colors Masterclass. This video course will elevate an essential design skill, build confidence, and ultimately bring your designs to a new level. 

Ultimate UI Colors Masterclass is not a theoretical course where you sit back and listen while scrolling on social media. With this UI colors video course, you must also roll up your sleeves! It will cover everything: from color basics to creating harmonious color schemes, tints, and shades for delightful user interfaces.

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Happy designing! 🥳


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