Even among earthy and muted colors, there are details to know in a color pallette. Here’s the skinny on greige and taupe, and their differences.
Muted neutral tones are en vogue in home decor this fall, but they’re always great interior design staples because of the way you can dress them up and change the design around them. When looking through paint samples or design ideas, you’ve probably come across the color greige.
But little color swatches that don’t vary much in hue can be difficult to deal with when you don’t actually know what greige is. Especially since it looks rather a lot like taupe. Greige is not taupe, however, and here’s how you tell the difference.
Understanding gray and beige
Before getting into the differences between greige and taupe, first you need to look at gray and beige. You’ve probably been decorating and painting with gray and beige for years and automatically can identify these colors, but the way you manipulate the color wheel to get gray and beige is important to understanding the undertones and temperatures found in greige and taupe.
White plus black makes gray, of course. If you add any other hue to gray, technically it becomes another color. However, you can add shades of cool colors (blue, green, and purple) to gray and it will still appear gray. (Gray isn’t actually a cool color, it’s neutral.) This doesn’t work as well with warm colors unless they’re used in extremely low quantities to mix with gray.
Beige is very light brown. On the color wheel, the colors that are directly opposite from each other will mix to make brown. For example, blue and orange mixed together make brown, because what you’re actually doing is mixing all three primary colors in different quantities. If you mix all six color wheel colors, you get brown. Add in white to lighten the color, and that’s beige. You can create shades of beige by manipulating how much of each color you mix to warm up or cool down the undertones.
What is taupe?
The most commonly accepted idea of taupe as a color is beige with a little bit of black thrown in to darken it, and red and green undertones. Sometimes people describe taupe as a “warm gray” color, which is, unfortunately, also one of the ways people describe greige.
With taupe, however, the warm undertones will be reddish, and the cool undertones will be greenish. You can have warm or cool taupe, but red and green have to be the undertone colors.
What is greige?
Greige is black plus beige again, like taupe, but with different undertones. When yellow is the most prominent warm undertone, the color is greige. Yellow undertones aren’t as warm as red, so a greige with warm undertones will still appear relatively cool, especially in comparison with taupe. Cool temperature greige has blue undertones. If your brown is a little gray and a little yellow or blue, that’s greige.
The undertones are everything when it comes to telling greige and taupe apart. In general, greige tends to be a little cooler and taupe tends to be a little warmer, and both of them are much grayer than beige is.