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Is beige a shade of white?

Beige is a neutral color that can be described as a pale tan or light brown. It falls somewhere between white and brown on the color spectrum. While beige contains some white, it is generally considered a distinct color from pure white. In this article, we’ll explore whether beige should be classified as a type of white or viewed as its own unique shade.

The Color Theory Behind Beige

To understand if beige is a shade of white, we need to look at how colors are created. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors, giving us orange, green, and purple. Tertiary colors are made by combining a primary and secondary color. Beige is formed by mixing the tertiary color brown with white. Brown contains undertones of red, blue, and yellow.

White contains no pigment. It reflects all wavelengths of visible light equally. The addition of brown pigment to white removes some of the reflected wavelengths, creating a more muted color. Beige retains some of the brightness of white but has a slightly darker and warmer tone.

Color Type Description
Primary Red, blue, yellow
Secondary Orange, green, purple
Tertiary Brown, beige

While beige is created by adding color to white, it does not contain enough pigment to be considered a full tone. It sits between white and light brown on the color spectrum. This means it is more accurate to categorize beige as a tint rather than a pure shade of white.

Beige Tones and Variations

There are many different hues that fall under the beige umbrella. Some lean closer to white, while others appear more brown. Common beige color names include:

  • Cream
  • Eggshell
  • Champagne
  • Tan
  • Khaki
  • Taupe
  • Burlap

The depth of color in these beige tones depends on how much brown pigment they contain. For example:

Beige Tone Brown Pigment
Cream Very little
Eggshell Low amount
Tan Moderate amount
Taupe Significant amount

The more brown undertones present in a beige shade, the further away it shifts from white on the color spectrum. Very light beiges like cream and eggshell are the closest to being considered shades of white, while deeper beiges like taupe and burlap are more distinct colors.

Beige in Design and Decor

In interior design and decor, beige is considered a neutral background color. It provides a clean, simple backdrop that lets bolder pops of color stand out. Beige is popular in paints, furniture, carpeting, and accessories.

Lighter beige tones can give a room an open, airy feel. Soft creams and eggshells are common choices for walls. They make small spaces appear larger and brighter. Darker beiges like tan and khaki add a subtle warmth while still keeping things neutral. Richer beige accents can provide depth and contrast.

Beige is versatile enough to work in many design aesthetics. It pairs well with both warm and cool color palettes. Here are some popular beige color schemes:

Design Style Beige Color Pairings
Mid Century Modern Deep blue, chrome, black
Rustic Farmhouse Red, green, wood tones
Coastal Navy, white, sand
Traditional Rich wood, crimson, emerald

Beige works as a neutral in so many design styles because of its versatility. It can fade into the background or be layered with accent colors. While beige contains some white, it has enough subtle pigment to stand on its own as a distinct shade.

Beige vs. Off-White

Off-white is another light neutral color that sits next to beige on the spectrum. Off-whites are created by adding a small amount of cream, grey, or natural linen hue to pure white. This subdues the brightness slightly while still maintaining a light base tone.

Beige and off-white look similar at first glance, but upon closer inspection you can see some key differences:

Beige Off-White
Has brown undertones Cooler undertones
Warmer, tan appearance Hint of gray, blue, or linen
Goes well with reds Pairs nicely with blues

While beige and off-white can both act as neutral backdrop colors, off-white will create a cooler, crisper look. Beige provides more warmth and complements traditional color combinations better.

Psychology of Beige

Color psychology examines how different hues impact moods, feelings, and behaviors. Beige elicits a mostly positive psychological response. Its lightness creates openness and illuminates space. Beige also represents balance, simplicity, and calmness.

Some of the beneficial mental effects associated with beige include:

  • Neutrality
  • Relaxation
  • Comfort
  • Reliability
  • Approachability

Beige’s association with relaxation makes it a popular choice for spas, counseling offices, and other wellness spaces. Its subtle warmth and neutrality elicit feelings of approachability and comfort.

On the flip side, beige can come across as boring or bland if overused. Monochromatic beige spaces lack visual interest. That’s why it’s usually combined with other accent colors and textures for balance.


While beige contains some white pigment, it sits in between white and brown on the color wheel. The addition of brown undertones takes it out of the pure white family and gives beige a light tan appearance. When analyzing its makeup and use in design, beige is most accurately categorized as a distinct, neutral shade rather than a variation of white.

Beige’s soft warmth and flexibility make it a popular wall color and decor accent. It straddles the line between white and brown beautifully. Beige provides enough depth and personality to stand on its own as a unique, versatile neutral.