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Is tan darker than beige?

Color can be a complex topic. When comparing different shades and hues, it’s not always straightforward to determine which one is “darker” or “lighter.” In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at tan and beige to see how they compare on the color spectrum.

Defining Tan and Beige

First, let’s start with some definitions. Tan and beige are often used interchangeably, but they refer to slightly different shades:

  • Tan is a pale brown color, like the skin of someone who has been tanned by the sun. It has yellowish, orangey undertones.
  • Beige is a very light brown color with more grayish undertones. It’s often described as a pale sand color.

So while quite similar, tan leans more brown and orange, while beige is a softer, more subtle neutral shade.

Comparing Tan and Beige

Now let’s directly compare tan and beige. Here’s a look at how they stack up:

Color Darkness Level Undertones
Tan Slightly darker Yellow, orange
Beige Slightly lighter Gray

As you can see, tan is considered slightly darker than beige. The yellow/orange undertones give it more pigmentation than beige’s subtle grayish tone.

Viewing Tan and Beige on the Color Spectrum

Another way to compare these shades is to see where they fall on the color spectrum. Here is an approximate spectrum showing tan and beige’s positions:

White Beige Tan Brown Black

This illustrates that beige is closer to white, while tan falls closer to brown. Beige is a very pale neutral, while tan has more color saturation.

Comparing Lightness Values

Another way to compare shades is by looking at their lightness values on a scale of 0 (black) to 100 (white). Here are common lightness values for tan and beige:

Color Lightness Value
Beige 92-96
Tan 75-80

Beige’s lightness value ranges from 92-96, while tan’s is around 75-80. The higher the lightness value, the lighter the color. This confirms that beige is lighter than tan.

Common Uses and Associations

Now that we’ve compared tan and beige, let’s look at some of their common uses and color associations:

Color Uses Associations
Tan Shoes, leather, fall clothing Earthy, warm, inviting
Beige Walls, bedding, neutral backgrounds Soft, subtle, calm

Tan’s warmth makes it popular for leather, shoes, and autumnal colors. Beige’s subtle neutrality allows it to blend into backgrounds. Their associations reflect these uses.

Comparing Tan and Beige Paints

If you’re looking to compare actual tan and beige paint colors, there are a few options. Here are some of the most popular tan and beige paints:

Brand Tan Paint Beige Paint
Benjamin Moore Tanbark OC-61 Chantilly Lace OC-65
Sherwin Williams Russet SW 7076 Accessible Beige SW 7036
Behr Chocolate Truffle PPU18-13 Linen White PPU1-1

You can see that tan paints like Tanbark or Russet have those warm, brownish-orange undertones. The beige paints like Chantilly Lace and Linen White are much cooler and grayer.

Interior Paint Colors

When choosing interior paint colors, both tan and beige can create soothing, neutral environments. Here are some tips for using them in your home:

  • Tan – Best for dens, offices, and dining rooms. Creates a cozy, inviting feel.
  • Beige – Most versatile neutral. Works well in any room, especially bedrooms and living areas.
  • Pair tan with blues and greens to create an earthy color scheme.
  • Pair beige with bolder accent colors since it won’t compete visually.

Whether you prefer the warmth of tan or the subtle neutrality of beige, you can use either shade effectively in your home’s interior.

Textile and Fashion Colors

For textiles and fashion, tan and beige are common neutral shades. Here are some examples of how they are used:

Color Textile Uses
Tan Belts, leather goods, sued shoes
Beige T-shirts, linen clothing, twill pants

Tan’s boldness makes it ideal for accessories like belts and leather bags. Beige is commonly used for clothing like shirts, pants, and jackets.

Makeup Shades

In makeup, tan and beige are popular shades for eyeshadows, lipsticks, and face powders. Here are some examples:

Color Makeup Uses
Tan Bronzers, contour powders
Beige Highlighters, nude lipsticks

Warm tan shades add color for bronzing and contouring. Beige works for more subtle highlighting and lip colors.

Decorating with Tan and Beige

Tan and beige both work beautifully in home decor. Here are some tips for integrating them into your decor:

  • Use tan in moderation – as accent walls or smaller decor pieces
  • Beige can be used abundantly – paint entire rooms or buy full beige furniture sets
  • Add textures like wood grains and woven accents to warm up beige
  • Choose rich woods like walnut and leather with tan

Both shades create tranquil, welcoming spaces. Tan is bold enough for accents, while beige can become the main neutral. Add layers of texture and natural materials to give depth.

Tans and Beiges Found in Nature

Some examples of tan and beige found in nature include:

Tan Beige
Sandstone cliffs Beach sand
Deer hides Mushroom caps
Clay soil Sea shells
Tree bark Buttercream flowers

Tans like sandstone, deer, and clay reflect the warmer, earthy side of nature. Beiges like sand, shells, and mushrooms embody the delicate neutrals found outdoors.

Geographic Locations with Tan and Beige Landscapes

Some parts of the world are known for tan or beige landscapes. For example:

  • Tan: The Australian Outback, Sahara Desert, American Southwest
  • Beige: French and Italian Countryside, Beaches of Hawaii, Greek Islands

Arid, rugged regions like deserts and canyons showcase striking tan tones. Soft beiges appear in idyllic countryside settings and island paradises.

Cultural and Historical Use of Tan and Beige

Historically, tan and beige have carried different cultural symbolism:

  • Tan symbolized humble earthiness, peasants, monks, Native Americans
  • Beige was more elite, symbolizing luxury, wealth, refinement

This is likely because tan’s orange undertones connected it to earth and simpleness. Beige’s subtle neutrality made it seem cultured and exclusive.

Use of Tan and Beige in Fine Art

In fine art, tan and beige convey different moods:

Color Art Uses
Tan Conveys warmth, earthiness, autumn
Beige Conveys softness, delicacy, tranquility

Tan shades add a rustic, welcoming feel. Beige sets a tone of subtle calmness and gentle charm.


In summary, while tan and beige are similar neutral colors, tan is slightly darker with warm orange undertones. Beige is lighter with subtle gray undertones. Tan is bold and earthy, evoking fall leaves and clay. Beige is more delicate and elegant, the color of subtle backgrounds and peaceful settings. Both can create relaxing, welcoming environments. Just keep in mind that tan has more visual presence, while beige recedes gently into the background.

Understanding their unique traits allows you to use tan and beige effectively to enhance everything from interior design to fine art. So next time you come across these timeless neutral shades, you’ll know exactly how to distinguish tan from beige.