A tan color has a warm, earthy appearance that can be flattering, versatile, and easy to pair with other colors. Tan is a great choice for clothing, accessories, furniture, and home decor. The exact shade of tan and how it looks depends on factors like undertones, accompanying colors, lighting, and texture.
What is Tan?
Tan is a pale brown color, similar to the color of tanned leather or skin. It sits between brown and beige on the color wheel. Tan takes its name from the tannum tree, which has bark that produces a brownish pigment used for tanning animal hides into leather.
There are many shades of tan, from very light to darker brownish tans. Some common tan shades include:
- Camel – A light peachy, yellowish tan
- Khaki – A medium tan with brown undertones
- Taupe – A grayish tan
- Fawn – A soft, warm light tan
- Beige – A very pale, brownish tan
- Umber – A darker, yellowish-brown tan
The depth of color, whether cool or warm, and how much brown, gray, or red comes through affects the look of different tan shades.
Color Theory of Tan
In color theory, tan is considered a neutral, earth tone color. Earth tones come from natural elements like dirt, wood, rock, sand, and clay. They create a sense of comfort, stability, and familiarity.
Tan sits next to brown on the color wheel. It pairs well with other earthy neutrals like brown, beige, cream, and taupe. Tan also combines nicely with pastels and pops of brighter colors. The warm, mellow quality of tan connects it to cozy fall colors.
Here are some of the symbolic color meanings and impressions associated with tan:
Skin Tone and Tan
Tan flatters a wide range of skin tones. Those with warm golden, peach, or olive undertones can pull off deeper tan shades nicely. People with cooler pink or rosy undertones may look better in softer tans with a bit of gray mixed in.
Tans pair well with other earth tones found in hair, eyes, and skin. They act as a natural extension of someone’s coloring. Deeper tans suit darker complexions, while fair skin looks best with pale tans or tan accents.
Here are some tips for wearing tan based on skin tone:
|Skin Tone||Best Tan Shades|
|Fair/Cool||Camel, Beige, Taupe|
|Fair/Warm||Fawn, Light Khaki, Sand|
|Medium/Cool||Dusk, Heather, Mink|
|Medium/Warm||Khaki, Caramel, Honey|
|Olive||Hazelnut, Peanut, Almond|
|Dark||Cocoa, Sienna, Umber|
Tan clothing flatters most skin tones and fits seamlessly into casual, business casual, and smart casual wardrobes. It acts as a neutral canvas that other pieces layer nicely on top of.
For women, tan works well in dresses, skirts, trousers, jackets, coats, and footwear. Light tan dresses and skirts have a breezy, feminine look. Pair tan trousers or fitted tan pants with crisp white shirts for the office. Tan coats look stylish and tie an outfit together. Tan shoes pull a look together without being too distracting.
For men, key tan clothing items include trousers, shorts, jackets, sweaters, footwear, and accessories. Tan pants look sharp with a navy sport coat and tie. Tan shorts have a classic preppy look. Pair tan boat shoes or suede bucks with shorts in the warmer months. A tan fedora adds a stylish accent.
Some ways to wear tan for different vibes include:
- Business casual – Tan trousers, a tan skirt or sheath dress, tan loafers or flats
- Smart casual – A tan jacket over a white T-shirt and jeans, tan boat shoes or canvas sneakers
- Casual – A tan sweater with blue jeans, tan shorts and a graphic tee
- Formal – A tan or champagne evening gown or cocktail dress
Tan Shoes & Accessories
From handbags to scarves, tan accessories act as great neutrals. Tan shoes come in styles like loafers, sandals, boots, wedges, and flats. For men, tan works for oxfords, boat shoes, bucks, and other casual or formal shoes.
Some tan accessory options include:
- Tote bags
- Briefcases and satchels
- Fedoras and panama hats
- Watch straps
Tan footwear choices include:
- Ballet flats
- Chelsea boots
- Boat shoes
Tan in Home Decor
Tan works beautifully in home decor to create a relaxed, welcoming look. It has rustic charm but also suits contemporary spaces. Use tan paint, furniture, rugs, pillows, throws, linens, and accessories throughout the home.
Some ways to incorporate tan decor include:
- Paint walls, ceilings, doors, or accent walls tan colors like fawn or khaki
- Choose tan suede or leather sofas or sectionals
- Use tan tablecloths, runners, napkins, and placemats
- Display tan vases, trays, baskets, and bowls
- Add tan pillows, throws, or blankets to sofas or beds
- Select tan colored lamp shades or lamp bases
- Choose tan upholstered headboards and tan wood nightstands and dressers
- Add tan rugs in natural fibers like sisal, jute, or wool
Tan is versatile enough to work in nearly any room. Use it in moderation in small spaces, as too much tan can feel monotonous. Accent with varying textures and complementary accent colors for interest.
Tan in Living Rooms
Tan is an excellent neutral in living rooms. It provides a cozy, welcoming backdrop for bolder accent colors and keeps the space feeling grounded. Use tan on larger pieces like sofas, sectionals, chairs, and ottomans. Accent with throw pillows, area rugs, wall art, flowers, and greenery in shades like blue, green, yellow, red, and purple.
Some tan living room color schemes include:
- Tan walls, medium brown sofa, navy and sky blue pillows
- Tan sectional, rust orange curtains, green plants
- Tan chair, purple rug, red table lamp, assorted pillows
Tan floors like hardwood or natural fiber rugs also help make the living room feel relaxed and casual. Add some wooden accents and textured throws to play up the organic vibe.
Tan in Bedrooms
Use restful tan as a key color in master and guest bedrooms. Tan evokes warmth but also calm. Play up the cozy feel with bedding and textiles. Use tan in:
- Upholstered headboards
- Bed frames
- Bedding and duvet covers
- Throw blankets and pillow shams
- Window treatments like roman shades
- Chests, nightstands, and dressers
- Benches, stools, or ottomans
- Area rugs
Then accent with art, pillows, flowers, and greenery in contrasting jewel tones or brights. Use light tan walls as a soothing backdrop.
Tan in Kitchens
Incorporate tan in kitchens in ways that lend warmth without feeling too busy. Use it for larger surfaces and accent with bolder complementary colors.
Some ideas for using tan in kitchen design include:
- Tan walls, backsplash, or accent wall behind cooktop
- Tan cabinets paired with white countertops and backsplash tiles
- Tan kitchen island
- Tan bar stools
- Table with tan top and wood or metal legs
- Tan ceramic cookware
- Textured tan rugs
- Tan curtains or cafe curtains
Then punch up the tan with bright green plants, patterned dishware, colorful utensils, and vibrant artwork for a cheerful look.
Tan in Bathrooms
Use spa-like tan colors in bathrooms to create a feeling of zen. Tan works for:
- Wall paint or accent walls
- Tile backsplashes
- Bath rugs and towels
- Shower curtains
- Candles and decor
Pair soft tan shades with white subway tiles, marble countertops, white fixtures, and chrome hardware for a clean and natural look. Introduce colors like sage green, sky blue, or coral for a fun pop.
Tan in Offices
Incorporate tan in home offices in soothing, subtle ways. Use it for:
- Wall paint
- Desktop backgrounds
- Desk chairs
- Filing cabinets
- Lamp shades
- Desk accessories like trays, frames, and stationery
The mild tan palette helps promote focus. Liven it up with plants, bright office supplies, and inspirational wall art.
With its flexible, neutral versatility, tan is a wise color choice for clothing, shoes, accessories, and home decor. Both timeless and on-trend, tan adapts well to personal style and design aesthetics. It provides a gorgeous complement to an array of colors from bold brights to soothing neutrals. Tan creates laidback warmth when used thoughtfully.