tech @ Beacon Deacon

Yellow plus Red is not Orange

Jamie Johnson
Author of Velocity: The Basics: Scripting with a $ here and a # to do, Web Developer and former Computing Support Analyst and Licensed Professional Counselor

October 22, 2014

My childhood is ruined! Growing up, I thought the equation Yellow + Red = Orange was true! Well, I'm here to set the record straight. It's false. Consider the following boxes:


How do I combine yellow and red to get orange (and how can I say that adding yellow and red does not equal orange)?

The answer is in the hexadecimal values. In this case, yellow's hexadecimal value is #FDF100 (decimal equivalent 16642304) and red's hexadecimal value is #E3151A (decimal equivalent 14882074). If I add them together, I get the hexidecimal value of #1E1061A (decimal equivalent 31524378), which is this color:

Color from adding

Notice that it turns out white as truly it is not defined as a color. However, what if I divide the new hexadecimal value by 2, taking the average (mean) of yellow and red instead of the sum? In that case, I get the hexadecimal value #F0830D (decimal equivalent 15762189). The color from averaging is the following:


Orange! So, it is true that combining yellow and red indeed results in orange, but how the combination occurs needs to be understood. It is not a result of addition, but the result of obtaining the average (mean) of two colors. Yellow plus red is not orange. Rather, the average of yellow and red is orange. So with tools, one can easily obtain hexadecimal values for colors and create true combinations thereof simply by calculating the mean. And, if you want to do this with multiple colors, it is simple averaging of multiple hexidecimal values (just remember to add them all up and divide by the number of colors you are considering).