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Which Colour is tan?

Which Colour is tan?

Tan is a light yellowish-brown colour that has become quite popular in recent years. Many people wonder exactly what shade tan is and how to describe it. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of the colour tan, examine its properties, look at variations of tan, and see examples of tan in design. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of this versatile neutral colour.

What is Tan?

Tan is a pale tone of brown that results from the mix of brown and beige. It’s often considered a neutral colour, meaning it works well alongside many other shades without clashing.

Some key characteristics of tan include:

Hue Yellow-brown
Saturation Low to moderate
Brightness Medium to dark

Tan sits between cream and light brown on the colour spectrum. It has more grey undertones than light brown but less than cream. This allows tan to complement both warm and cool palettes.

The name ‘tan’ comes from the tanning or dyeing of animal hides to produce leather. Tanners would soak hides in a tan bath to change them from blue-grey to tan. This tan leather colour gave the name to the tone we know today.

Shades of Tan

There are many subtle variations of tan. Here are some of the most common tan shades:

Beige The palest tan with more grey. Almost a greige.
Fawn Light peachy tan.
Buff Warm, reddish tan.
Khaki Earthy green-brown tan.
Camel Medium brownish tan.
Taupe Cool greige tan.

Tan can vary from very pale, almost sand-coloured stints to quite deep, earthy brown tones. The undertone also shifts from cool to warm. This diversity allows designers to choose a tan shade that perfectly suits their needs.

Tan Colour Meaning

Colours often evoke symbolic meanings and associations. So what feelings and impressions does tan convey?

Neutral and Balancing – Tan’s middle ground hue gives it a very flexible, neutral quality. It balances the warmth of brown with the coolness of beige. This allows tan to work with nearly any colour scheme.

Natural – As an earthy, sandy colour, tan connects to nature. It evokes images of raw, organic materials like wood, stone, leather, and clay. Tan feels grounded.

Warm – While tans can skew cool, most shades have yellow undertones, giving them a cozy, welcoming warmth. Tan creates a pleasant, inviting feeling.

Relaxed – From nature hikes to coffee shops, tan suits laidback, casual spaces. The natural vibe blended with neutrality makes tan feel unpretentious.

Vintage – Tan’s association with natural materials also ties it to traditional, old-world style. Tan lends a retro, rustic quality to designs.

Using Tan in Design

How and where is tan used in design? This adaptable colour fits seamlessly into many aesthetics and elements.


In home decorating, tan works excellently as a wall colour. It provides a soft, cozy backdrop without seeming bland. Pair tan walls with crisp white trim for an updated look. Tan is also popular for sofas, chairs, pillows, and rugs when going for a relaxed style. Combining tan furniture with blue or green accents makes a inviting living room.


As a neutral, tan offers a subtle base for fashion looks. Camel and khaki tan coats and jackets became iconic in the 1960s for their versatility. Tan works for accessories too – try tan leather belts and shoes, or tan satchels. Tan suits lend a vintage vibe while still looking smart.


For product packaging and branding, tan evokes organic and artisanal. Food products like coffee, chocolate, and beer use tan labels to feel handmade. Tan conveys the natural quality of their ingredients. Tan is also a smart choice for outdoors/lifestyle companies, linking to trails and natural environments.

Colour Combinations with Tan

Check out these great colour palettes using different tan shades:

Green + Tan Earthy tan contrasts nicely with lively greens. Try moss green, olive green or sage green.
Blue + Tan From navy to sky blue, crisp blues pair attractively with tan’s warmth.
Grey + Tan Mixing tan with light greys or charcoal creates a cool, sophisticated look.
White + Tan Crisp white highlights the subtle depth of tan without clashing.

Don’t be afraid to combine different tan tones like buff, fawn and khaki for added dimension. Tan also suits bright accent colours like yellow, coral and teal nicely.

How Light Impacts Tan

Light can alter tan’s appearance significantly. Warm light emphasizes its brownness while cool light plays up tan’s beige side. Early morning or afternoon sunlight makes tan warmer. Indoor light gives it a cooler, greyer cast. Keep this in mind when choosing furnishing or paint colours. View tan samples in the space at different times of day to ensure you get the right hue.


Tan is the perfect versatile neutral that suits a wide range of settings and colour schemes. It walks a fine line between the warmth of brown and the coolness of off-white to provide a harmonious, balanced tone. With earthy, organic roots yet a relaxed, inviting feeling, tan works beautifully in both traditional and contemporary spaces.

So if you’re looking to add a dash of subtle neutrality to your home, wardrobe or designs, turn to this timeless shade. Whether you prefer creamy fawns, rich camels or earthy khakis, there’s a tan for every taste. Just keep in mind factors like lighting and adjacent colours to get the most flattering effect. With the right attention, tan can become your new go-to neutral colour.