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?
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!
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.
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…
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…
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
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-YELLOW (a bit of green shows up sometimes as well)
Why does the paint colour in this next bathroom work so well?
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 simple
Latte is a beige paint colour, Urban Putty is a tan
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.
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.
- 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)
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.
Again, just as with beige paint colours, that yellow undertone has a few different personalities…
- 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!
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?
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).