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Is beige considered tan?

Is beige considered tan?

Beige and tan are two similar neutral colors that are often used interchangeably. However, there are some key differences between them that set them apart. This article will examine if beige should be considered a type of tan, looking at the definitions, origins, uses, and comparisons between the two colors. Quick answer: While beige and tan are very close in hue, beige is generally considered to be lighter and cooler than tan. Most color experts do not classify beige as a subtype of tan, but rather as its own distinct neutral shade.

Defining Beige

Beige is a pale, light brown color that has undertones of gray, yellow, cream, and tan. It falls somewhere between white and brown on the color spectrum. The name “beige” comes from the French word for the wool of young lambs, which has a creamy pale brown shade.

Some common synonyms for beige include ivory, cream, khaki, chalk, oatmeal, and sand. It is often described as a neutral, calming, and versatile color. Beige can range from a very pale tan to a darker brownish beige.

Defining Tan

Tan is a light brown color, similar to beige but usually slightly darker and warmer. The name comes from the tan shade of suntanned skin. It falls between brown and yellow on the color wheel.

Common shades of tan include camel, fawn, buff, bronze, golden, pecan, khaki, and sand. Tan evokes images of earthiness, autumn, and the outdoors. It is often seen as an energetic and vibrant neutral.

Comparing Beige and Tan

While beige and tan are extremely similar colors, there are some subtle differences:


Beige tends to be lighter than tan overall. Very pale beige can appear almost white or cream, while deeper tan stays in the light to medium brown color range.


Tan usually has more yellow, orange, or red undertones, making it appear warmer than beige. Beige often has more grey or blue undertones, giving it a cooler, more muted look.


Beige is most often used for things like wall paint, furniture, bedding, and carpets as a calming neutral background color. Tan is popular for items like leather goods, earth-toned clothing, hardwood floors, and wood furniture with a warm, natural look.

Beige Tan
Lighter Darker
Cooler Warmer
Muted Vibrant
Grey/blue undertones Yellow/orange/red undertones
Background color Accent color

Origins of Beige and Tan

Let’s look at the origins and history behind these two neutral shades:

History of Beige

– Emerged as a color name in France in the late 1800s, referring to undyed wool
– Gained popularity in the 1920s and 30s as a modern, elegant neutral
– Widely used in interior design and fashion by the 1950s and 60s
– Represented understated simplicity and refinement, in contrast to bright colors
– Remains a staple neutral color today for fashion, home décor, automobiles and more

History of Tan

– Used since the Middle Ages to describe light brown leather tanned with oak bark
– Originally associated with humble peasants and manual outdoor workers
– Became trendy in the 1920s and 30s, seen as healthy and sporty
– Often paired with navy blue as a preppy color combination
– Has a natural, earthy, and rustic appeal that remains stylish today

So while both colors have been popular neutrals for over a century, beige has kept a more elegant, formal reputation, while tan is associated more with casual, outdoorsy lifestyle.

Is Beige Considered a Type of Tan?

Given the similarities but differences between these two hues, is beige actually classified as a subtype of tan?

Among color experts, beige and tan are generally considered distinct shades, not with one being a variant of the other. However, some specific points of view include:

Among Color Theorists

– Beige and tan are adjacent on the color wheel but distinct hues
– Beige sits between white/cream and light brown
– Tan sits between light brown and peach

Among Fashion Designers

– Beige has cool undertones, tan has warm
– Beige pairs well with black, tan pairs better with navy
– Beige is considered more formal than the casual tan

Among Interior Designers

– Beige described as ethereal, tan as earthy
– Beige preferred for airy spaces, tan for woodsy ones
– Beige makes a room feel larger, tan feels grounded

Among Car Companies

– “Beige” and “tan” often used interchangeably
– Specific shades have names like “Champagne,” “Fawn,” or “Khaki”
– Neutrals remain popular car colors year after year

So in summary, while beige and tan share similarities, most experts differentiate between the two slightly different shades rather than classifying beige as a “type of tan.” The lighter, cooler beige stands distinctly apart from the slightly darker, warmer tan.

Uses and Examples

To see the subtle beige versus tan differences, let’s look at some real-world examples of how these colors are used:


Beige is a popular neutral in fashion for clothing, shoes, hats, and accessories. Some examples include:

– A beige trench coat or blazer looks elegant paired with black pants or a dress.

– Nude or light beige shoes seamlessly elongate the leg.

– Natural beige straw hats complement summery linen clothing.

– Creamy beige scarves and handbags add understated style to any outfit.

In contrast, tan in fashion adds an earthy, casual feeling. Examples include:

– Khaki tan pants or shorts have a safari or hiking style.

– Tan leather boots have a rugged, outdoorsy vibe.

– A tan suede jacket gives off 1970s retro flair.

– Golden tan accessories like belts or watches feel bold and rustic.

Beige Fashion Tan Fashion
Elegant Casual
Formal Rugged
Understated Earthy

Interior Design

In home decor, beige is frequently used to create a clean, open feel:

– Light beige walls don’t distract and make small rooms feel larger.

– Beige sofas, chairs, and pillows add softness to modern spaces.

– Creamy beige carpets and window treatments light up darker rooms.

– Kitchens with beige cabinetry and tiles have an airy, uncluttered look.

Tan’s cozy, welcoming vibe is ideal for certain rooms and styles:

– Rich tan leather sofas with dark wood frames bring countryside charm.

– Warm tan granite countertops and wood cabinetry create rustic kitchens.

– Tan paint and textiles make a great color palette for Tuscan or Mediterranean rooms.

– Tan carpeting looks great with dark wood floors for an earthy style.

Beige Interiors Tan Interiors
Ethereal Earthy
Open Cozy
Simple Rustic


For automobiles, neutral beiges and tans remain perennially popular colors. Some examples are:

– Lexus “Nebula Gray Pearl” and Audi “Moonlight Blue Metallic” have beige-like hues.

– The Toyota Camry and Honda CR-V come in shades like “Ash” and “Parchment” beige.

– Many luxury SUVs feature tan leathers for a rich feel, like the Lincoln Navigator’s “ Russet” upholstery.

– Trucks like the Ford F-150 and Jeep Wrangler offer tan exterior colors that conceal dirt well.

– Names like “Champagne,” “Latte,” and “Khaki” are used interchangeably for beige and tan car colors.

Beige Cars Tan Cars
Sophisticated Outdoorsy
Understated Elegance Earthy Rustic
Conceals Dirt Conceals Dirt

So whether it’s fashion, interior design, or automobiles, we can see the subtle distinction between the lighter, cooler beige and slightly darker, warmer tan shades.


In summary, while beige and tan are extremely close neutrals and are sometimes used interchangeably, beige is not considered a “type” or subcategory of tan by most color experts.

Beige is distinguished by its lighter tone and cooler undertones compared to the slightly darker, warmer tan. They originate from different sources – beige from undyed wool, tan from tanned skin. While both remain popular across industries, beige maintains an elegant, formal reputation, while tan feels more casual and outdoorsy.

So next time you’re deciding between beige and tan, consider the undertones, context, and mood you want to convey. Keep in mind that beige has a lighter, cooler personality all its own, standing apart from the earthy warmth of tan. Use these subtle differences to make meaningful color choices.