I have a deep blue sky and a bright yellow sunset setting over a nature scene, but when painting in the yellow sunset and fading it to the blue sky I end up with a lot of bold greens that are noticeably out of place.

How do you fade colors without getting the combined color? I'd like to fade a yellow to a blue without getting green in the middle. I assume the concept would apply to any two colors, though.

This may not be the best example image, but here you see very bold blues, and very bold yellows without mixing into a bold forest green anywhere in the sky. enter image description here

  • I can't think of a transition like you describe it without the mixed colour. So, maybe there's a third colour involved? What if the yellow first fades to orange or red before you get to the blue sky? You best check the reference image to see what to do.
    – Ji Ugug
    Apr 27, 2016 at 18:07
  • 4
    A sunset sky usually transitions from yellow sun to blue sky by going the other way around the color wheel - from yellow to orange to muted red to very muted purple to muted indigo to blue. For example, fade from blue paint to orange or red paint, then fade to yellow paint.
    – Robin L.
    May 24, 2017 at 10:24
  • That's not the way it works in nature. The sunlight going through the atmosphere appears blue when the sun is at most elevations. When the sun is near the horizon, you get reds. At that point, the overhead sky is relatively dark. If you see yellow other than the sun, itself, it is reflections off clouds. So there isn't blending of yellow and blue.
    – fixer1234
    Feb 6, 2021 at 4:10
  • Actual sunlight can't be a mix of blue and yellow because eyes don't perceive that mix. It appears as white. A good explanation on YouTube: Why There Are No Bluish-Yellow Crayons: The Forbidden Color Experiment.
    – fixer1234
    Feb 19, 2021 at 23:52

4 Answers 4


There are green areas in the photo, although they are not bold.

Maybe your solution would be not to fade but to juxtapose bold colors.

  • Yet, if you want to fade, painting by layers will have a cleaner mix than painting in impasto (glaze a very thin blue over the yellow). Also you could use dots of each color next to each other for a vibrant optical blending (like impressionism or pointillism).

  • Otherwise, first fade the colors toward grey before fading.

    One of the ways to desaturate the colors is going into non complementary biases, like fade from a blue-green (cyan, phtalo, Prussian), into a blue-red (ultramarine, cobalt), fade that to a yellow-red (azo, cadmium) then a yellow-green (lemon yellow, Aureolin). The intermediary color will be greenish but muted.

  • Another way is to use ochres and earth tones (transitioning with a Venetian or yellow ochre, or muting the green color with green-earth or another greenish brown paint), and yet another way is to use opposite colors to mute the intermediary color (i.e. mute the green with a glaze of red).

However, I think the best way to achieve a clean contrast with high colors is to mix as little as possible.


In reality you cannot. Sunsets are perceived in Light (RGB) where one can fade complimentary colors. If done in paint or ink you wind up with a tertiary color which is typically muddy. This is the difference between subtractive color versus additive color. Is to answer your question, "No it can't be done properly" and it has plagued artists for centuries. One of the ways to cheat is to allow the one color to dry, paint the complimentary color and fade into it and add a white wash over it to create a sense of luminance and to soften the mud. First rule of color theory is 'don't fade complimentary colors". Good luck

  • You mean 'don't transition complimentary colours'? I've never heard of that being a first rule, where did you pick that up?
    – Joachim
    Apr 15, 2020 at 23:44
  • I assume this is bathed in sarcasm. I picked it up in 7th grade art class fading watercolors. I am a professional graphic designer, color tech now, and I see people, 'professionals', attempting it all the time. "Why does my purple to yellow fade look so weird?"....
    – matt-man
    Apr 17, 2020 at 15:23
  • and I would suggest for anyone, go to your best local museum and see how the greats did it.
    – matt-man
    Apr 17, 2020 at 15:24
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    I completely agree with your last comment: visiting museums is usually the best way to learn things! But no, I wasn't being sarcastic: the difficulty of fading one colour to another shouldn't depend on whether it's complimentary or not. True, fading darker to lighter similar hues is easier, but fading red to blue is as hard as fading red to green.
    – Joachim
    Apr 17, 2020 at 15:35

Really you're better off doing the main background, which is blue (top), then yellow (top), and black (middle bottom), and blue again on the bottom. Make the yellow bold when you put the first coat on, then let it dry. Once it’s dry, or at least partially, you can go back and add detail. That’s when you go over the blue again on some parts, and lightly add white to your blue and blend it into the yellow.


I used gouache yellows and orange and blues - thee seem to fade better - lots of water added at all stages [sunset looking south]

[![sunset looking south using gouache][1]][1]

  • 2
    PeterV, I am afraid your picture has not come through. Maybe you have it somewhere online and can you edit the link into your answer.
    – Willeke
    Feb 1, 2021 at 14:01

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