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Are Beige & Tan The SAME THING?

Posted on April 7, 2022 by KylieMawdsley

What’s the Difference Between Beige & Tan Paint Colours?

When it comes to the paint colour world, it’s the ole potato potahto; what you call greige, I call taupe, what you call beige, I call tan. But is there REALLY A DIFFERENCE between beige and tan paint colours?

Yes…and no. Does that answer your question? MY WORK HERE IS DONE!

Seriously though, beige and tan CAN be the same thing, absolutely, it just comes down to how YOU PERSONALLY categorize them. And how does one categorize them?

BY UNDERTONE. 

If you need a refresher on undertones and what they are/how to find them, I HIGHLY recommend you check this blog post out as it will make the following info make MUCH MORE SENSE!

Best tan beige paint colour, Benjamin Moore Grant Beige, neutral color in stairwell with wood railing, white railing and wainscoting. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour advice blog

What do YOU call the above colour – beige or tan?

But before we dive deep, let’s have a little chat…

NEVER JUDGE A PAINT COLOUR BY ITS NAME 

If I judged/chose paint colours by their name, I would have my walls painted Red Red Wine and Natcho Cheese with a bit of Disco Nap thrown in once I’ve indulged in the other two.

What I’m trying to say in my own special Ginger-infused way is that just because a colour SAYS it’s ‘beige or tan’ doesn’t mean it is, and this goes for ALL paint colours. For example…

  • BALLET WHITE – not white and, in fact, it’s many LRV points away from it
  • NATURAL CREAM – not cream
  • BENNINGTON GRAY – it’s a tan, not a gray
  • PURE WHITE – definitely NOT a pure white

And sure, sometimes a colour has a certain colour’s name in it, and it IS that colour – just don’t count on it.

Beige tile floor with dark wood accents and warm beige or tan neutral walls. Client before photo edesign

How about these walls- beige or tan? 

Why do I say this?

Because you’re going to come across colours like Grant Beige, Manchester Tan and Bleeker Beige and could ASSUME certain things based on their name. Just don’t. End of story.

Now let’s get back on track, starting with one of the previous photos where I asked you whether you thought the paint colour was beige or tan…

Best beige paint colour, Benjamin Moore Grant Beige. Staircase, wood and white. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color advice blog

Benjamin Moore Grant Beige

If you sit in one camp, you might call it beige OR tan with no difference between the two terms. HOWEVER, if you’re in the other camp, it’s definitely a TAN paint colour. As for the second photo with the tile floor, these walls are painted BEIGE.

What the above paragraph shows is that there are TWO DIFFERENT WAYS to classify these types of warm neutrals.

And the cool thing is that there’s NO WRONG WAY to do it, in other words – YOU DO YOU, BOO! It comes down to which classification is EASIER for you.

So, let’s take a closer look at the two camps and see which one YOU want to roast your marshmallows at…

Are beige and tan the same, what is the difference. Kylie m Interiors talks neutral paint colours

BEIGE & TAN PAINT COLOURS ARE ONE & THE SAME

If this sounds familiar, it means that you call any warm neutral with the following undertones and combinations beige or tan with no definition between the two colours name – like Rihanna, they ALLLL stand under the one umbrella (with ‘beige’ being the more popular term).

Sherwin Williams Natural Tan, living room wood beams, vaulted ceiling, fireplace, beige sectional, dark wood floors. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting

Sherwin Williams Natural Tan

Where things get a little punchy is where we dive into SECONDARY undertones. It’s rarely as simple as ‘that’s a beige with an orange undertone’ – you usually have to contend with secondary undertones which are the MAKE IT OR BREAK IT parts of coordinating colours and finishes. If you fail to notice these things when coordinating, things can get pretty fugly, pretty fast.

THE SEVEN POSSIBLE UNDERTONES OF BEIGE/TAN

The first colour name is the dominant one; the one you notice the most.

  • ORANGE
  • ORANGE-PINK
  • PINK-ORANGE
  • ORANGE-YELLOW (a bit of green shows up sometimes as well)
  • YELLOW
  • YELLOW-GREEN
  • YELLOW-ORANGE

Why does the paint colour in this next bathroom work so well?

Beige tile with warm beige paint colour on the walls, off-white by Sherwin Williams. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, diy decorating and update ideas

Sherwin Williams Moderate White

It has the same orange-pink undertones as the tile – these homeowners LISTENED to what their home (and a crazy little Ginger) were telling them.

So, with the above option, we’ve decided that beige OR tan encompasses all of the above combos – cool beans?

Now, let’s pull up a stump at the next camp…

BEIGE & TAN PAINT COLOURS ARE ‘SIMILAR’ BUT HAVE DIFFERENT UNDERTONES

Others (ahem) believe that BEIGE & TAN are different types of warm neutrals that are defined by their UNDERTONES (this is my club and if you join, we talk about paint colours, wine and Ryan Reynolds ALL DAY LONG and work in our underwear).

Why do I choose this method?

  • it’s easier to explain and clarify to my clients/readers
  • once we pinpoint the ONE main undertone (which qualifies it as ‘beige or tan’), there are fewer undertone combinations to choose from, keeping things more simple

SO, IN KYLIE’S WORLD, WHAT QUALIFIES AS ‘BEIGE’*?

*can refer to paint colours, tiles, countertops, carpet and furnishings

Beige has an ORANGE undertone, either as the MAIN UNDERTONE or the SECONDARY undertone.

If you don’t have an orange undertone, you don’t have a beige.

Sherwin Williams China Doll, best beige tan neutral paint color. Beige carpet, navy blue and orange accents. Kylie M Interiors online paint consulting. client photo

Because this carpet has an orange-pink undertone, it loves orange-pink walls! Sherwin Williams China Doll

And I totally understand that it can be COMPLETELY MIND-BLOWING that undertones have undertones (insert wine here). HOWEVER, once you understand the options, it’s easier to wrap the ole noggin’ around.

BEIGE UNDERTONES

  • ORANGE-YELLOW – orange is the dominant undertone and yellow is more subtle (green shows up once in a while)
  • ORANGE-PINK – orange is the dominant undertone and pink is more subtle (DEFINITELY the most common as it relates to interior finishes, ie. tile, carpet)
  • PINK-ORANGE – pink is the dominant undertone, orange takes a step back (second most common)

Kylie M Interiors Edesign, Bathroom, navy blue vanity similar Benjamin Hale Navy, beige, white blue hexagon tile backsplash. white quartz countertop, Egret White Sherwin Williams paint on walls

In the above photo, it’s the BEIGE tiles that I want you to notice.

1. How do we know these tiles are beige and not tan? They have an orange undertone.

2. Is the orange undertone an orange-pink or orange-yellow? Orange-pink.

3. How would we know the undertone is orange-pink? You’ll find out shortly.

And I’m sure you’re wondering which wall colour we chose for the above bathroom. Because we also had a TRICKY floor tile accommodate as well (not shown), we couldn’t hop on the beige train. Instead, we went with the flexibility of Sherwin Williams Egret White.

IN KYLIE’S WORLD, WHAT QUALIFIES AS ‘TAN’*?

*can also refer to tiles, countertops, carpet and furnishings

Tan paint colours have a YELLOW undertone as the MAIN undertone only.

If you don’t have a yellow undertone, you don’t have a tan.

Entryway, hooks and bench, Sherwin Williams Wool Skein, best beige paint colour. Kylie M Interiors Edesign online paint colour consulting

Again, just as with beige paint colours, that yellow undertone has a few different personalities…

TAN UNDERTONES

  • YELLOW-GREEN – yellow is more dominant than green (definitely the most common)
  • YELLOW-ORANGE – yellow is more dominant than orange (if it were the other way around, it would be a BEIGE)

If you get to the point that the GREEN is more dominant than the yellow, you don’t have tan anymore, you likely have green or greige. JUST REMEMBER, if you have a ‘warm neutral’ surface in your home, whether it be a countertop, tile or carpet, CHANCES ARE, it has an orange (orange-pink) undertone – yellow is not as common.

I know that all went a little deeper than normal (that’s what she said), but once you UNDERSTAND what you’re dealing with, it’s easier to decorate accordingly!

Dining room, beige tan carpet, Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan paint colour on walls. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan (which really IS a tan)

Using this train of thought, if your paint colour (or surface) has a yellow undertone, it’s a tan. If your paint colour (or surface) has a dominant orange or pink undertone, it’s a beige. From there, you figure out which secondary undertone it swings into and Bob’s your uncle.

JUST REMEMBER, YOU DO YOU. I’m not here to tell you how to classify things, I’m here to teach you about the UNDERTONES of these particular neutrals and what you call them is up to you.

BUT HOW DO I FIGURE OUT MY PAINT COLOUR’S UNDERTONES?

Great question…

COMPARE COMPARE COMPARE

Even if you think you know what you’re looking at, COMPARISON is the key to choosing any paint colour or defining the main colours of any surface. It would be impossible for me to stress this enough. Even if you have picked a paint colour you love, take the time to compare it to other SIMILAR colours to see if it will settle the way you THINK it will (read more HERE).

READ MORE

Is Beige BACK? Is Beige TRENDY?

The 8 Best Beige & Tan Paint Colours for Today’s MODERN Home

The 8 Best WHOLE HOME Warm Neutral Paint Colours

NEED HELP?

CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOUR CONSULTING & DIY PAINT COLOUR COURSES

Online paint colour consulting using Benjamin Moore & Sherwin Williams colours. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, DIY update ideas. Market

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors Edesign, signature, online paint colour consultant using Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams paint colours. DIY update advice ideas



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Comments

    1. Post
      Author

      I would DEFINITELY put Steamed Milk closer to the CREAM end of things as it has less of a neutral base and more cream/yellow to it :). It’s a STUNNER, I agree!

      1. I was wondering where CREAM fit into all this… I think of cream as having yellow undertones, would that make it “light tan?”

        Your blog led me to painting my open floor plan BM Swiss Coffee and I LOVE it!

        1. Post
          Author

          Hi Grace, I’m SO glad you love Swiss Coffee! And yes, cream is kiiiiiiind of like a light tan, but it’s like taking some of the BROWN out of the tan and leaving more YELLOW on the walls!

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