Lemon Yellow Paint

I ran out of my cheapo (student quality?) lemon yellow paint. I want to buy good watercolor. The cheapo lemon yellow was fine, but I’m not sure what the pigments & binder were that were in it. I would buy it again, but that brand only comes in a set. Not all the colors in that set were okay. The warm red was terrible. So I am trying to make an informed choice.

Watercolors are so complicated!


All Brands
Avoid Aureolin PY40 (Cobalt Yellow) in ALL brands. Despite the ASTM ‘s good recommendation (rated ASTM II), my tests show, and manufacturers agree, that the pigment Aureolin PY40 turns BROWN and FADES even in a dry state.
The best substitute for Aureolin is PY175, as in Winsor Lemon PY175 (Winsor & Newton), or in Permanent Yellow Lemon PY175 (MaimeriBlu), (Schmincke’s) Chrome Yellow Lemon (no lead) PY175, (Cotman’s) Lemon Yellow Hue PY175 or Daniel Smith’s Lemon Yellow PY175
Note: a few brands list an “Aureolin Hue”. Usually it is made with a warmer, more orange-biased yellow, PY97 or PY151. These are not the best substitutes. They do not match Aureolin PY40 so closely and so do not work nearly so well for color mixing as does PY175 as in Winsor Lemon. The actual color of both Aureolin and PY175 is a warm lemon that will mix with reds to produce bright orange colors, and will mix with blues to produce fresh, vibrant greens.

Brand: MaimeriBlu
avoid 082 Cadmium Lemon PY35 (MaimeriBlu). This paint turned dull and greenish when applied in mass tone (http://www.hilarypage.com)
112 Permanent Yellow Lemon PY175 (the same pigment as Winsor Lemon) is another favorite since it is the perfect substitute for Aureolin which is impermanent (http://www.hilarypage.com).

Winsor & Newton’s 2nd range.



PY3 – a good choice for a “primary” yellow paint if you want the palette to lean toward green
PY3 – greenest synthetic organic yellow available in watercolors
PY3 – lemon yellow by Sennelier
PY3 – Daniel Smith hansa yellow light is slightly less green than the other lemon yellow paints and is more heavily staining, but has noticeably higher tinting strength in mixtures and in a tinting test, and is more transparent and saturated than the other paints listed here


PY35 – Cadmium yellow – greenish PY35, compounded with zinc sulfide
PY37 – also Cadmium yellow
PY35:1 & PY37:1 have barium
PY35 – Cadmium is toxic, potential hazardous waste


PY53 – nickel titanium oxide
PY53 – Winsor & Newton (only?) pale lemon yellow; Winsor & Newton lemon yellow is the darkest valued of the “lemon” hued paints but still has a pastel olive hue; as with all nickel titanate lemons, it appears slightly gray when viewed obliquely under strong light.


PY97 – hansa yellow, a neutral yellow
PY97 – PY97 is a good choice for a “transparent bright yellow”
PY97 – Hansa yellow is a good general purpose yellow paint, bright enough for botanical or floral palettes, and an intense but less expensive alternative to cadmium paints for those concerned about cadmium’s cost or toxicity


PY138 – Quinophthalone yellow
PY138 – a hue resembling cadmium yellow (PY35) or hansa yellow (PY97).

PY154 – benzimidazolone yellow, a neutral yellow
PY154 – Winsor & Newton winsor yellow is a clear, bright yellow color. With a hue angle of 87, it is very close to the psychological unique yellow, as defined in the section on color vision.
PY154 – The Sennelier is warmer, darker, and slightly chalky
PY154 – Well worth trying out as a basic yellow paint

PY175 – benzimidazolone yellow H6G (1960)
PY175 – Winsor & Newton winsor lemon gives the more intense, clearer tone; the MaimeriBlu (permanent lemon yellow) is slightly chalky and noticeably less saturated.
PY175 – PY175 has an unpleasant tendency to gum up and thicken mixtures (holding brushstrokes visibly on the paper). It is also weak in cool mixtures

PY184 – bismuth yellow / vanadium yellow / permanent lemon yellow
PY184 – Windsor & Newton very bright and crisp, with a negligible hue shift toward green in undertone
PY184 – The Schmincke paint is slightly more opaque. The Rembrandt paint (right) unexpectedly darkened in masstone and grayed in tint after just two weeks of daily sunlight exposure.
PY184 – PY184 is one of the greenest inorganic yellows available and has very good tinting strength, even when pitted against the cool, dark phthalo greens and blues. These greens can seem unnaturally bright, but if that is your aim then this yellow will serve well. Its main drawbacks are opacity and its tendency to rinse reluctantly out of the brush, but this just means the pigment mimics the powdery texture and lightfastness of a good cadmium lemon.