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How many shades of brown are there?

How many shades of brown are there?

Brown is a versatile and popular color that comes in many different shades and hues. From pale tans to deep chocolates, the range of brown tones offers a multitude of options for decor, fashion, graphic design, and more. But exactly how many different shades of brown exist? Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating world of brown color variations.

The Color Brown

Brown sits between red and yellow on the color wheel. It is considered a tertiary color, meaning it is created by combining the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. By adjusting the amounts of each primary color, an endless variety of brown tones can be created.

The specific hue of a brown color is described by words like beige, tan, chocolate, chestnut, mahogany, amber, rust, and more. Brown gets its name from the word “brun” which means brown or dark in Old French. This versatile neutral color can create feelings of warmth, comfort, security, and simplicity.

Shades of Brown

Within the broad category of “brown” exist countless specific shades and hues. Each shade has its own unique hex code used in graphic design and web development. Here are some of the most common categories of brown colors:

  • Tans and beiges – These very light browns include colors like tan, khaki, beige, buff, nude, and more. They have a yellowish undertone.
  • Golden browns – Slightly darker than tans, these warm shades include golden, goldenrod, and harvest gold.
  • Amber browns – These medium browns have a slightly orangey undertone. Examples include amber, copper, russet, rust, and sienna.
  • Chestnut browns – These reddish-brown shades include chestnut and mahogany.
  • Chocolate browns – Richer brown tones including chocolate, cocoa, mocha, coffee, and espresso.
  • Taupe – Taupe is a grayish shade of brown that goes well with other neutrals.
  • Dark browns – Very dark browns that approach black include dark brown, espresso, and ebony.

While these categories encompass some of the most popular shades, brown colors can be mixed in infinite combinations. Adding a touch of red creates a warmer, brick-like hue while mixing in some gray produces a cooler, earthy tone. By playing with different saturation and brightness levels, each basic brown can produce dozens of distinctive shades.

How Many Shades of Brown Exist?

So exactly how many shades of brown are there? There is no definitive answer, as new brown shades can constantly be created by mixing paint colors or adjusting digital RGB values. However, as a rough estimate, some sources suggest there are likely upwards of 100 different common shades of brown. Others propose there may be 300 or more variations.

According to the online color encyclopedia ISCC-NBS, which categorizes color based on hue, chroma, and lightness, there are precisely 116 distinct shades of brown. These range from dark browns near black to very light tans closer to beige. Other color coding systems like Pantone, which is widely used in design and printing, currently have more than 75 unique shades of brown in their catalogs.

Beyond formally categorized colors, the possibilities are endless. Factor in differences in saturation, light and dark values, color temperature, and undertones, and the number of brown varieties easily reaches into the thousands. With brown paint colors, for example, different mixes of pigments and binding agents produce an infinite possibility of unique shades.

Most Common Shades of Brown

While the total number may be limitless, there are certainly many popular, commonly recognized shades of brown that show up frequently in fashion, design, packaging, graphic arts, and decor. Here is a table of some of the most prevalent brown color varieties:

Shade Name Hex Code
Beige #F5F5DC
Khaki #F0E68C
Tan #D2B48C
Golden brown #996515
Taupe #483C32
Copper #B87333
Bronze #CD7F32
Amber #FFBF00
Russet #80461B
Mocha #563C34
Cocoa #875F3B
Coffee #A6814C
Umber #635147
Chestnut #954535
Chocolate #7B3F00
Espresso #4F321C

This table contains 18 of the most prevalent shades of brown used in design and everyday life. The hex codes allow these colors to be recreated accurately in any digital format.

Psychology of Brown

Why is brown such a universally popular color? Brown has many psychological associations that make it a staple across cultures, environments, and uses. Here are some of the symbolic meanings behind the color brown:

  • Natural and earthy – Brown connects to nature, the earth, trees, soil. It creates a feeling of the great outdoors.
  • Reliable and dependable – Brown gives a sense of solidity, reassurance, and support.
  • Casual and approachable – Brown is an informal, friendly color, especially lighter tans.
  • Historical and traditional – Brown is linked to things that have stood the test of time.
  • Masculine and tough – Darker browns convey ruggedness and strength.
  • Sophisticated and mature – Rich browns like mahogany have an elegant, upscale vibe.

These positive qualities explain why brown is extremely versatile for all types of uses, from home decor to clothing to branding. Lighter shades create a laid-back feel, while darker browns are bold and striking.

Uses of Brown Color

Thanks to its versatility, the color brown is extremely common across many areas of design and daily life:

  • Fashion – Brown is a staple neutral in clothing, shoes, and accessories.
  • Interior design – Paints, furniture, flooring, textiles, and decor in brown tones are trendy.
  • Graphic design – Websites, logos, marketing materials often use brown for its natural feel.
  • Packaging -Brown boxes and containers project an earthy, organic vibe.
  • Food and beverage – Brown is ubiquitous in coffee, chocolate, noodles, sauces, and more.
  • Beauty – Foundations, powders, lipsticks come in brown skin-matching hues.
  • Nature – Brown dominates the natural landscape, from soil to stone to bark.

There are very few areas of design, commerce, or daily life where some shade of rich, robust brown is not used. It is a true workhorse color.


Brown is an incredibly nuanced color with a wide spectrum of shades and tones. By manipulating the undertones and values of brown, infinite color combinations can be generated. While an exact number is elusive, experts propose there are likely between 100-300 distinct common shades of brown.

From beiges and tans to amber and mahogany, each variation of brown has its own personality and design impact. And thanks to its associations with nature, dependability, tradition, and masculinity, brown has a universal appeal that makes it ideal for all types of applications.

So the next time you’re enjoying a cup of brown coffee, wearing brown shoes, or painting a wall brown, take a moment to appreciate the incredible range and versatility of this humble, widespread color.