As a child, I thought that our favorite characters, the population of Springfield, were chosen to be yellow to imitate the skin color for some reason. But seeing how quite many cartoon characters such as Sponge Bob, Pikatchu, Vinnie the Pooh, Tweety and even the screen Minions are chosen to be yellow as well, it got me thinking what is this really all about.
Why are they all yellow?
Vinnie the Pooh, for example, was created after a real bear, in combination with an actual yellow teddy, so he as a character had a color chosen for himself. Minions are yellow because they reminded the creators of the kinder egg toy keeper.
But, what about the others? The color theory says that yellow is instantly recognizable color, the one which draws most attention. The creators of animated films have been using this color throughout cartoon history, either for the main characters, or for something in their direct surroundings.
Yellow is one of the primary colors, in company of blue and red. But the model important for our animations is RGB model - red, green, blue. Yellow is now complementary to blue, which means that when we combine blue to yellow on screen, we get pleasant visuals. Sponge Bob's background, having him be in the sea, matches his own color perfectly.
Getting back to the Simpsons, these yellow characters are put in a very colorful surroundings, the palette of the whole show is in fact very rich. Color pink is used a lot, even their house is pink, since in the original primary colors palette it matches yellow, but the color blue is also used for outdoor scenes and this goes great with yellow in the RGB model. The contrast of colors is an important tool in animation.
Originally, when The Simpsons were created, the designer chose to color them yellow, to make them instantly recognizable and different from other TV content on the screen. Why is yellow so instantly recognizable? Science says that yellow is the most visible color on the spectrum, it is used to drag attention efficiently, like the color of pollen or a taxi :)
Color psychology considers yellow a happy, goofy, warm, optimistic color. Taking a look at the Inside Out characters, Joy combines the most pleasant colors, but also in combination with blue hair.
Yellow is a good color, but keep in mind that it works best when you combine it right.
About the author
Nina Petrov is an activist, poet, performer and mathematician. She communicates with the world mostly through words, movement and equations, but sometimes also by speaking very loudly. The only truth she could say about herself is that she keeps changing every day, never stops learning and interacting with her surroundings.