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What color is charcoal GREY?

What color is charcoal GREY?

Charcoal grey is a neutral, dark shade that exists between black and lighter shades of grey. It is created by mixing black with white or grey to achieve a darker grey tone. Charcoal grey gets its name from the charred remains of organic materials like wood or coal, which result in the dark grey color. Despite its dark appearance, charcoal grey is considered a neutral color that can work well in many contexts from fashion to home decor. In this article, we will explore the characteristics and uses of the color charcoal grey.

Defining Charcoal Grey

Charcoal grey sits between black and lighter greys on the color spectrum. It is darker than medium grey and lighter than a true black. The addition of black paint or pigment to a grey base is what creates the charcoal color. The amount of black added will determine the darkness of the charcoal shade. More black results in a darker charcoal nearing black, while less black produces a lighter charcoal grey.

There are warm, cool, and neutral undertones found in charcoal grey. Warm charcoals pull subtle brown, tan, or red undertones, while cool charcoals pull blue, green, or purple. Neutral charcoal greys do not have strong undertones and appear clean. The undertone of a charcoal grey will impact its pairing abilities and overall effect.

Charcoal Grey Color Codes

Charcoal grey is represented by hex code #36454F in RGB color models. This code translates to 56 for red, 69 for green, and 79 for blue on a 0 to 255 scale. In the CMYK color model, common charcoal grey codes are C:40 M:30 Y:20 K:80 and C:60 M:40 Y:40 K:60. Lighter charcoal greys will have less black/K values.

Here are some other common charcoal grey color codes:

– RGB: 114, 128, 144
– HSL: 210, 7%, 35%
– CMYK: 21, 11, 0, 44
– Pantone: Cool Gray 11

These codes provide the precise mix of color components to produce a charcoal grey shade. Designers and artists use color codes to ensure accuracy and consistency when working with the charcoal grey color.

Characteristics of Charcoal Grey

Several key characteristics define the charcoal grey color:

Dark but not black: Charcoal grey is decidedly dark but less intense than true black. It has more depth than lighter greys. This allows charcoal grey to be flexible in contexts that black might overwhelm.

Neutral and versatile: The darkness of charcoal grey gives it versatility as a neutral. It works well as a background and in pairings from warm to cool colors. Charcoal grey also fits with many decor styles from modern to traditional.

Classic and sophisticated: Charcoal grey comes across as refined and sophisticated but not overly formal. Its darker shade gives charcoal grey a classic, timeless look.

Serious and subtle: The muted nature of charcoal grey gives it a serious, subtle effect. Charcoal grey reads as more introverted than attention-grabbing colors.

Softens brighter colors: Charcoal grey has a grounding effect on bolder, brighter colors. Its darkness calms and softens the intensity of colors like reds, oranges, and yellows.

Difference Between Charcoal and Grey

Charcoal and grey are often used interchangeably, but there are some notable differences between the two colors:


– Darker shade close to black
– Has black added to grey base
– Warm, cool, or neutral undertones
– More versatility as a neutral
– Deeper, muted effect


– Lighter and brighter than charcoal
– Mix of black and white
– Often cool undertones
– More lightweight and airy feel
– Variety of light, medium, and dark greys

While all charcoals are greys, not all greys are dark enough to be considered charcoal. Charcoal implies a significantly darker grey shade due to the influence of black pigment.

Charcoal vs. Slate vs. Graphite

Charcoal grey is sometimes confused with similar dark grey shades like slate and graphite. Here’s how they compare:


– Neutral undertones traditionally
– More black added to base grey
– Darker than slate and graphite
– Muted and subtle effect


– Cool blue, purple, or green undertones
– Medium-dark grey with grey base
– More green-grey than charcoal
– Smooth, slightly metallic look


– Grey with blue undertone
– Has a greenish tint
– Lighter than charcoal
– Matte finish

Charcoal is the darkest of the three with its higher amounts of black. Slate and graphite are medium-dark greys with blue-green undertones. Charcoal has the most muted neutral effect.

How Light Impacts Charcoal Grey

The amount and type of light can significantly impact how charcoal grey is perceived. Here’s how light affects charcoal grey:

Low Light

– Can appear black in low light
– Loses depth and dimension
– Looks flatter and darker

Bright Light

– More grey tones become visible
– Depth and texture show more
– Can look lighter and slightly blue

Warm Light

– Pulls out warm, brown undertones
– Feels cozy and soothing
– Can make cool charcoals look neutral

Cool Light

– Accentuates cool undertones
– Feel more sleek and modern
– Makes warm charcoals look more neutral

The lighting around charcoal grey changes how the eye perceives its undertones and dimensionality. Warm light flatters warm charcoals, while cool light benefits cool charcoal tones.

How Finish Impacts Charcoal Grey

The finish or sheen of charcoal grey also influences its look. Here are some common finishes:


– Flat, non-reflective finish
– Mutes the color slightly
– Looks more serious and elegant


– Subtle surface sheen
– Adds depth and richness
– Feels more luxe than flat matte


– High shine and reflection
– Can look darker and crisper
– Gives a sleek, modern vibe


– Reflective, silvery surface
– More dynamic and changeable
– Can brighten up charcoal’s darkness

Charcoal’s perceived depth and boldness shifts with different finishes. Matte charcoal grey feels quieter and more subtle, while high gloss charcoal has a striking sleekness.

Charcoal Grey in Design and Decor

Charcoal grey is a popular neutral shade in interior design and home decor. Here are some of its top uses:


– Provides cohesive base as accent wall
– Cool charcoals feel sleek and modern
– Warm charcoals give a cocooning effect


– Sofas, chairs, tables, cabinets
– Feels grounded and sophisticated
– Works in modern, transitional, traditional decors


– Pillows, throws, curtains
– Adds visual interest and warmth
– Nice pair with brighter colors


– Vases, trays, decor items
– Pops against lighter walls and furniture
– Charcoal ceramic or metal feels elevated

Charcoal grey brings balance as a foundational neutral while still providing some contrast and visual appeal. It’s versatile enough for any home’s style.

Using Charcoal Grey Outdoors

Beyond indoor spaces, charcoal grey can enhance outdoor areas as well:

Exterior House Colors

– Provides a neutral backdrop
– Feels classic and timeless
– Pairs with colorful plants and front doors

Outdoor Furniture

– Teak, wicker, and metal furniture
– Hides dirt and wear better than light colors
– Feels relaxed yet still stylish

Landscaping Features

– Planters, fountains, statues
– Complementary foil for greenery
– Doesn’t distract from plants

Outdoor Fabrics

– Umbrellas, cushions, drapes
– Withstands weathering and sun
– Easy to match with other exterior colors

Charcoal’s dark hue holds up well against the elements while contributing a sophisticated neutral tone.

Popular Pairings with Charcoal Grey

Charcoal grey’s versatility as a neutral makes it easy to pair with a wide range of colors. Here are some of the most popular charcoal grey color combinations:

Yellow – Cheery yellow balances charcoal’s seriousness

Blue – From navy to sky blue, all shades complement charcoal

Green – Deep emerald green pops against charcoal grey

Purple – Regal next to charcoal, especially lighter purples

Red – Charcoal muted red’s intensity in an elegant pairing

White – Bright, clean white contrasts the dark hue

Wood Tones – Warm woods feel cozy and natural with charcoal

Metallics – Pewter, silver, and gold gleam against the neutral backdrop

Charcoal grey provides enough contrast for colors to pop but doesn’t overwhelm them. The neutrality also prevents clashes with most palettes.

Charcoal Grey in Fashion and Beauty

Charcoal grey also sees frequent use in fashion and beauty for its sophistication and versatility:

Fashion Beauty
Dresses, trousers, blazers Nail polish, eye makeup
Sweaters, cardigans, coats Hair color, lipstick
T-shirts, button-downs Foundations, pressed powders
Shoes, bags, jewelry Soaps, perfumes, candles

Its neutrality allows charcoal grey to pair with colorful prints and patterns or as a base for accessories and makeup to stand out. Charcoal suits and separates feel polished yet contemporary. For beauty, charcoal creates a muted, smokey effect.

Psychology of Charcoal Grey

The psychology and symbolism of charcoal grey includes:

– Balance – Between black and white, dark and light

– Calm – The darker shade feels calming and grounding

– Neutrality – Neither positive or negative, warm or cool

– Subtlety – A quiet elegance, neither loud nor showy

– Maturity – Sophistication and refined restraint

– Melancholy – Can evoke somberness in some contexts

– Detachment – Its darkness can feel distant at times

– Security – Practicality and preparedness

Charcoal grey leans positive in most contexts with associations of balance, wisdom, reliability, and composure. But in some settings it can come across detached, gloomy, or impartial if not tempered well with other tones.

Charcoal Grey in Culture and History

Some cultural and historic connections to the color charcoal grey include:

– Associated with technology and futurism. Charcoal’s dark sophistication fits with a modern high-tech aesthetic.

– Often used in photography to create dramatic contrast in black and white or evoke a moody, cinematic feel.

– Connected to uniforms and utilitarian style. Charcoal grey is adapted well to simplify wardrobes.

– Seen in Gothic and industrial design and decor for its serious, strong effect.

– Heavily used in the 20th century modern art movement, exemplified in works by Picasso and modernist architecture.

– Evokes images of wise elders, hermits, and contemplative monks in robes. Connects to spirituality.

– Linked to suited businessmen and formal business-wear, connoting authority and professionalism.

Charcoal grey strikes the balance of being futuristic yet classic, uniform yet artistic, spiritual yet commercial across cultures.

Charcoal Grey in Nature

In nature, charcoal grey gets its nameake color from:

– Dark grey rocks like granite, slate, and shale that form mountain cliffs and dramatic coastlines. Their muted palette contrasts with vibrant blue oceans.

– Stormy grey skies and clouds that signal incoming weather systems with wind and rain to restore balance in nature.

– Charcoal and ash remnants after natural fires helping to fertilize the soil for future regrowth. The cycle of death and rebirth.

– Feathers and scales of birds and fish that rely on dark neutrals as camouflage to survive, blending into stone and shadows.

– Grey wolves, known for their wisdom and family bonds, with layered grey, brown, and black fur.

Charcoal grey natural associations are stone, storms, fire, stealth, and wisdom. It embodies natural forces at work and the visual harmony found in nature.


Charcoal grey is a versatile neutral that spans the bridge between black and lighter greys. Its characteristic muted darkness gives charcoal grey sophistication and flexibility across many design and fashion contexts. Charcoal’s neutrality also allows for diverse color pairings from vibrant tones to pastels to earthy wood hues. Whether it’s for clothing, decor, or art, charcoal grey’s classic, balanced look will endure for years to come as a foundational neutral shade.