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Is sage green like olive green?

Is sage green like olive green?

Sage green and olive green are similar shades of green that can often be confused with one another. However, there are some key differences between the two colors that help distinguish them.

Definitions of Sage Green and Olive Green

Sage green is a grayish green color, with hints of blue, yellow, and sometimes brown mixed in. It gets its name from the herb sage, which has greenish-gray leaves. Sage green is muted and earthy, yet refreshing. It evokes thoughts of the natural world and plants.

Olive green is another natural, earthy shade of green. As its name suggests, it resembles the color of green olives. Olive green contains more yellow undertones than sage green, giving it a brighter, greener appearance. It also lacks the subtle blue tones that characterize sage green.

Comparing Color Values

In the RGB color model, which is used for website and computer displays, sage green has the following values:

  • Red: 112-143
  • Green: 128-161
  • Blue: 120-140

Olive green, on the other hand, has these RGB values:

  • Red: 107-128
  • Green: 142-179
  • Blue: 35-107

As you can see, sage green has a higher blue value, while olive green has more emphasis on green and red undertones.

In print design and paint, which use the CMYK color model, sage green is defined as:

  • Cyan: 40-70%
  • Magenta: 0-50%
  • Yellow: 20-70%
  • Black: 0-70%

Olive green in CMYK is:

  • Cyan: 40-80%
  • Magenta: 0-40%
  • Yellow: 40-100%
  • Black: 0-40%

Again, olive green leans more towards yellow, while sage green has more cyan and black.

Comparing Hex Codes

Hex codes provide another way to precisely define colors. Here are some common hex codes for sage green and olive green:

Sage Green Olive Green
#88B378 #808000
#92A77D #6B8E23
#B4CFB0 #3D9970

This shows that sage greens tend to have more blue and brightness (higher B and G values), while olive greens contain more yellow and red (higher R values).

Use in Design and Fashion

In interior design, sage green is commonly used to create a relaxing, natural look and feel. It works well in bathrooms, bedrooms, and studies. Olive green also fits with natural design schemes, but provides a bit more vibrancy. It adds a Mediterranean feel to kitchens, dining rooms, and outdoor living spaces.

In fashion, sage green flatters fair, rosy skin tones. It brings out the pinkness in cheeks and lips. Olive green is bolder and suits golden undertones well. Together, the two colors work nicely in earthy tone ensembles.

Psychology of the Colors

Psychologically, sage green promotes healing, balance, and clarity. It has long been considered a restorative color. Olive green also represents renewal, growth, and the natural environment. However, it has more energetic qualities than the serene sage green.

Studies have shown that sage green can improve concentration and memory retention. It creates an invigorating yet calming environment. Olive green is also said to enhance focus when used in learning spaces. Both colors are linked to stability and endurance emotionally.

Examples in Nature

Sage green can be seen in subtle greens of forests, ferns, tree bark, and other flora. Olive green occurs vibrantly in vegetation, trees like pine and evergreen, and some plant stems. Olives themselves manifest this color, as do species of frogs, insects, and other wildlife.

These natural hues come from chlorophyll pigments interacting with other chemicals in plants. The variations help foliage absorb certain wavelengths that support photosynthesis and growth.

Dyeing and Pigments

Historically, sage green dyes came from inorganic mineral compounds of copper, iron, and chromium. Olive dyes derived from organic charcoal pigments, indigo, and olive waste. Modern synthetic versions use phthalocyanine and bromine derivatives to achieve both shades.

Textile artisans would mix dyes to produce different green tones. Adding grey or mineral compounds yielded sage greens. Heightening yellows in the mixture created olive greens. The palette of available greens expanded greatly as dyers mastered their craft.

Use Over Time

Sage green played a prominent role in 18th century Neoclassical fashion. Olive green military uniforms emerged in the 19th century and grew in popularity. Khaki, another greenish-tan color, also became common for military wear around this time.

Sage green later made a resurgence in Victorian wallpapers and fabrics. The early 20th century saw olive become the standard color for military combat uniforms, equipment, and vehicles.

Today, both shades remain staple colors that designers constantly revisit and reinvent. They strike a balance between neutral and vibrant that suits many purposes.

Distinguishing the Colors

So how can you tell sage green and olive green apart? Here are some key distinguishing factors:

  • Sage greens look muted, soft, and cool-toned. Olive greens appear bright, vivid, and warm.
  • Sage has a bluer, grayer cast while olive has a strong yellow undertone.
  • Sage greens seem lighter and airier. Olive greens feel deeper and more intense.
  • Sage is associated with calmness and wisdom. Olive implies energy and growth.

There are no fixed boundaries between the shades – sage green and olive green span a range on the color spectrum. But the subtle differences help enhance the symbolism and effects designers want to achieve.


Sage green and olive green are rich, natural greens that share similarities but have unique characteristics. Sage leans towards the cool blue side, linked to tranquility and intuition. Olive is warm and yellow-toned, evoking vibrancy and renewal. Their nuances let designers fine-tune the emotions and experiences they wish to evoke.

While the two colors are often confused, side by side their differences become clear. Sage green is ethereal and refreshing, perfect for a relaxing spa. Olive green feels robust and fertile, ideal for an active living space. The versatility of greens allows endless possibilities, and these two earthy shades complement countless color palettes. So embrace both sage and olive greens to add depth and meaning to your designs.