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Is there a navy gray?

Welcome back readers! Today we’re going to explore the nuances between navy blue and gray. These two colors can sometimes appear similar, especially in low light conditions, leading to confusion about which is which. Keep reading as we dive into their subtle differences.

Defining Navy Blue

First, let’s start with navy blue. This deep, dark shade of blue got its name because it closely resembles the dark blue color used in sailors’ naval uniforms. It sits between a bright royal blue and a midnight blue on the color spectrum.

The hex code for navy blue is #000080 in RGB. This means it is made up of:

  • Red: 0
  • Green: 0
  • Blue: 128

Having no red or green in its RGB makeup gives navy blue a deeper, cooler tone compared to brighter blues. While subtle variations exist, this hex code provides a good representation of the true navy blue color.

Defining Gray

Now let’s look at the color gray. Gray is made when black and white are combined, resulting in a muted, neutral shade. There are many variations of gray depending on how much black or white is used.

A mid-level gray has the hex code #808080 in RGB, which breaks down to:

  • Red: 128
  • Green: 128
  • Blue: 128

Having equal parts red, green, and blue gives gray its balanced, neutral appearance. Lighter grays have more white, while darker charcoal grays have more black. But in general, true grays sit in the middle of the spectrum.

Comparing Navy and Gray

Now we can start to compare navy blue and gray. While they sometimes get confused with one another, especially in low light, they have some distinct differences:

Color Navy Blue Gray
Hex Code #000080 #808080
RGB Values R: 0 G: 0 B: 128 R: 128 G: 128 B: 128
Hue Blue Neutral
Shade Very dark Medium

As you can see, navy has a strong blue tone while gray remains neutral. Navy is also much darker than a mid-level gray.

Is There a “Navy Gray”?

Given their differences, is there such a thing as “navy gray” or is it an oxymoron? Well, color names can sometimes be arbitrary and subjective. With that said, here are a few considerations:

  • Pure grays by definition remain neutral and do not take on a color hue like blue.
  • However, some darker charcoal grays may appear to have a subtle blueish tinge, especially compared to warm grays.
  • A dark blue that is lightened slightly could be perceived as having grayish qualities while still maintaining a blue tone.
  • The term “navy gray” is sometimes used to describe a very dark gray that approaches a midnight blue but still reads as a gray rather than true blue.

Based on these factors, while a “navy gray” may not exist in the purest sense, it can be a useful descriptive term for shades that blur the line between navy and gray. Context is important – a color appearing navy gray under incandescent light may look clearly blue or clearly gray under sunlight. But in general, a navy gray sits in a nebulous zone between the two colors.

Comparing Navy Gray Paints

To provide more visual examples, here are some popular navy gray paint colors from leading brands:

Brand Color Name Hex Code
Benjamin Moore Gray Cloud #B9B8BD
Sherwin-Williams Online Gray #918D94
Behr Blue Note #677183
Valspar Navy Boots # 444F5A

As you can see, while categorized as “navy gray,” most of these colors retain a subtle blueish quality while being darker than a true medium gray. Benjamin Moore’s Gray Cloud is the lightest and most gray-like. Behr’s Blue Note and Valspar’s Navy Boots have the strongest blue tones. So a “navy gray” can occupy a wide range depending on the specific shade.

Differentiating Navy Gray in Design

How can you tell if a color is more navy or gray when working with different materials like fabric, paint, or digital design? Here are some tips:

  • Compare in natural daylight – gray will appear more neutral while navy has blue undertones.
  • View against white – navy will contrast more strongly with white than gray.
  • Accent with red – red looks more vibrant against navy than softer gray.
  • Check RGB/hex values – navy has stronger blue, gray has more balanced RGB.
  • Go with your gut reaction – if it appears blueish, it’s likely more navy than gray.

Trust your eyes and the context. If a color feels more navy than gray, then treat it as such by using accent colors accordingly, regardless of any “official” color name.

Using Navy Gray in Home Decor

In home decor, navy gray can create some beautiful, sophisticated spaces. Here are some tips for effectively using navy gray paint and decor:

  • Use as an accent wall color – it provides depth without being overpowering.
  • Pair with crisp whites and warm naturals like tan and jute.
  • Add pops of contrast like yellow, green, or metallic accents.
  • Ground the space with wood floors and trim.
  • Bring in some patterns and textures like woven throws or pillows.
  • Use it in transitional spaces like halls or stairwells.

Avoid going too dark or monochromatic. Balance the navy gray with lighter tones and introduce contrast to keep the space visually interesting.

Navy Gray Clothing and Fashion

Beyond home decor, navy gray makes an attractive, versatile color option for clothing and fashion too. Some ideas include:

  • A navy gray blazer or sport coat for polished style.
  • Navy gray pants paired with tan shoes and a white button-up.
  • A navy gray sweater with jeans.
  • Navy gray tie to complement charcoal and medium blue suits.
  • Navy gray overcoat for staying warm and stylish.
  • Navy gray dress or skirt suit for professional women.

Aim for a balance of navy gray with neutral and softly contrasting pieces. Monochromatic can read dull, so liven it up with textures like wool, cotton blends, or melange knits.


While navy blue and gray are distinct colors, navy gray occupies an intriguing space between the two. It can bring a touch of subtle complexity and depth to home and fashion when used thoughtfully. Trust your eye and decorate or dress according to what feels more navy or gray. And don’t get too caught up in attempting to define the undefinable when it comes to color names. Go with what looks great to you!