the difference between gray, grey, warm grey, beige, greige, and taupe

Yesterday, I was speaking to a client about the difference between grey, greige, beige and taupe.

It's a conversation I have A LOT!

 I thought perhaps a post about how I explain it to my clients
would be helpful to sort through these terms more easily,
and so here we are :)

First off, for our purposes,
gray (American spelling) and grey (Canada, the UK and Australia) are the same thing.
Just like color (American) and colour (Canada, UK and Australia).
In some technical circles, gray would describe only the grays from the grayscale,
but we're not all that fancy here at 10 Rooms, are we?!
I'm trying to make this simpler, not more difficult...

Let's just start off by saying true grey is any mixture of black and white.
That means that black, white and grey are the only true neutrals.

That said, when we are discussing colour, 
we generally include more than just those colours.

Once pigment is added to a mixture of black and white (grey),
it actually becomes a colour,
although the undertone may be almost imperceptible to the eye.

Therefore, grey, as we know it, can actually have any undertone,
but only purple, green or blue can be added in larger quantities 
for the colour to retain it's title as grey, because these will all produce cool tones.

Are you asleep yet?!!

Lets' define grey as 
black + white = grey
black + white + green/blue/purple = grey.

Sound good?

Now let's head into the beige territory.

Beige basically describes the umpteen versions of light brown.
To make brown you add complements from the colour wheel.

When you add complements,
what you are actually adding are all the primaries together in varying amounts.

Blue + orange
is actually
blue + yellow & red.

Yellow + purple
is actually 
yellow + blue & red.

Red + green
is actually
red + yellow & blue.

That is why adding complements always makes a brown,
and why adding different complements creates different browns, 
usually ones that are predominantly yellow, red, or occasionally orange.

So, we know beige contains some red and some yellow, and some blue,
but what else is in it?

White lightens up your brown to beige.

So lets define beige as

white + red & or yellow + a little blue = beige.

So where does greige fit in?

To grey down beige, you simply add black, because the white is already present.

Let's define greige as 

white + black + red & or yellow + perhaps a little blue = greige

Yes, that would be the entire colour wheel!

That's quite a colour-techy way to look at things, 
but I think it's helpful to understand the way colours interact,
and then it all makes sense, doesn't it?

SO -

 when you're looking at a colour, and trying to determine what it actually is,
you need to look at the subtle undertones.

If it's cool, with a blue, purple, or green tint, it's a grey.
(I wrote a post about choosing the right grey, here)

If it's warm, with a red, orange or yellow undertone visible, it's a beige.

And if it's warm, but contains black, it's a greige (or as so many people say, a warm grey)

source 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Does that makes sense, lovelies?

If you have more questions, please leave them in the comments, and I will respond tout de suite - x

Happy friday... hope your weekend is filled with love and laughs...

oh - and taupe?
That's just a fancy way of describing a red-based beige,
with a little green thrown in,
so that what you end up with is a slight dirty pinky-beige.
It's not actually a group of colours, but different variations of the same mix.

Pin It Now!


Mel said...

What a brilliant post! I'll have to refer to it for my "not-so-colour savvy" friend.

Have a great weekend.

heather (love your space) said...

I love, love, love when you do these excellent color posts--thank you! Often I find I understand some of these things but can't explain them so well. Thanks for giving us the words (and charts!)


Mosaicology said...

Excellent work! I love both grey and beige!

Giulia said...

Great post. Love the technical parts. I think my main colour is grey as I find it reads purple sometimes, but it also doesn't feel cold...mhhh. It's BM Thunder...

Jo @ In Corners of My Mind said...

I may have to share this with my hubby so he finally understands when I say a neutral has 'too much of a yellow undertone',or 'there's too much pink in it'. He never understands and thinks I'm crazy...this could prove I'm not! Thanks!

Kerry @ Design du Monde said...

Well stated.

Wendi @ Classic Chic Home said...

Excellent post! This one's going in my colour file tout de suite!
Have a lovely evening, Anne-Marie!
~ Wendi ~

Beatrice @ said...

Great post! This was so insightful. I love both grey and beige and greige, so loved your post.

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

great techy post. really, not TOO techy :) exactly what, me, an amateur needs :)

Brittany {Gallery No. Eight} said...

That was actually really interesting!!! I knew grey had undertones, but I never would have thought of it like that! Fabulous post lady!! And Happy Weekend!!! xo

homeawaits said...

Truly wonderful, thanks for the details and visuals!

EveandEb said...

I love the bedroom room, it reminds me of a gray linen.

Tatiana Doria said...

Wooow!!! this is very very helpful indeed!!
Great post. I think it will really help me with my clients too!
It has been a perfect explanation, to take into consideration when choosing colors for any room.
Thank you very much!


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Kim@Chattafabulous said...

Wow, and I thought taupe and greige were the same thing. Thanks for the lesson!

Lisha said...

Yay! I really like the way you clearly explain such color details. Sometimes I get confused, oh well, who isn't? :) Love to use these colors and name them right, too.

e t e r n a l i c o n s said...

Love this long post. Very educational and one I'll be refering to on numerous occassions!

Kim Davies Inspired Lines said...

This is a fantastic post, Anne-Marie! Thank you for sharing this. A really concise explanation.

essays said...

Excellent work! I love both grey and beige!

Rachael said...

Thanks for this info! It's very helpful! I recently bought a "mis-tint" 5 gallon bucket of paint for an extremely low price. It looked like a beige on the top, but after painting two small rooms with it I realize it is too pink! I can't afford to buy any other paint and I have about 3-4 gallons left. What can I do to fix the problem. Could I add a quart of black paint to make it a greige? I appreciate your help!!

Anonymous said...

Can you list the colors in the paint cans used in the photo. (especially those in the larger square samples in the bottom of the photo.)thanks!

Jennifer BNHblog said...

This was a really neat post! Thank you so much for putting it together. I am very much into nominalism and color theory but it's hard to find new material on the latter, especially material that is applicable to decorating!

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SylviaAnn said...

I feel so validated! You have no idea how many 'discussions' I've had with my husband over gray or beige paint options. He is SO getting a link to this post in his in-box!

Faye said...

Thank you! I learned a lot.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I have been in love with gray for some time now.

KellyL said...

This is so helpful - thank you!

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Vanessa Torres said...

Who makes the color swatches above? I really like a color (elephant breath) and would like to purchase one. Can you provide the name? Thank you

Anne-Marie @ 10 Rooms said...

Hi Mel - Elephant's Breath is from Farrow and Ball - here is a link:'s-breath/colours/fcp-product/100229

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Allie Gunter said...

I love that bedroom with the amazing headboard. Great blog :)


Anonymous said...

I painted walls using sherwin Williams. Stonelion #7505. I have brown leather furniture. Completely lost as to what color/colors for curtains. And solid area rug color or printed? I am thinking solid rug printed curtains.

Anonymous said...

Love this, extremely helpful in trying to pick a paint color. Do you have a favorite go-to greige color? Any tips would help.
Thank you,
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Bethany [at] Powell Brower Home said...

this was a sensational post. id like to refer people to it! thank YOU :)

Brittany said...

Great post!! There's so many variations of 'griege' it's hard to keep them straight sometimes aha

Helen Morales Escosora said...

You are so brilliant, very well explained, especially like me who gets confused of all those shades of colors. Lately I'm loving all grays and beiges colors, this is very helpful for my home improvements projects and update my fashion wardrobe too.
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Joni2011 said...

Well, this article really help. Thanks a lot.

Jen said...

Thank you! This was really helpful for explaining beiges. Most of the time I can tell if it is yellow or pink or green based, but I'm a bit stumped on Sherwin Williams China Doll. Any thoughts?
Thanks again for your insights!

Catherine Montano said...

Thank you so much! what a fantastic post, we are hoping to paint our home and have been so overwhelmed by the choices, after browsing the web for inspiration i came across your blog and I'm hooked! I feel so enlightened.

Thanks again

Carrie LaFay said...

This post saved me from going crazy! I have been looking for this explanation everywhere. Thank you! I am still confused on if I can use "greige" and grey in the same house and it will still flow? Also, if I have "greige" walls, if I should stick to cool or warm accent color walls? So much to consider!

Debbie Dearie said...

Hi there
Great info..... Can you advise what colour is in the picture of the bedroom with the big brown wooden bed, next to the picture if the door knocker???

Anonymous said...

I love this, so informative. Im having an awful time getting paint to match my new wall paper, it is pewter with grey and silver script writing through it, I bought they dove grey suggested as a match but it is too dark for my room. Could you suggest a dulex or crown colour which would go? Thanks

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Katie Almond said...

Any feedback on mega greige or versatile grey from Sherman Williams? Are those true greiges? I want to have that for the main color in my house.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great post, very clarifying!

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Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. You have explained different greys really well. I have just painted our walls in a warm grey and I would like to have a tiled floor. I'm not sure what colour tiles to use. I would like to have some timber furniture. I don't want a cold feeling to the house. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanking you


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Thanks for the great post. I knew this on some level, but your explanation was very clear and easy to understand.

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Anonymous said...

Can you recommend a nice colour for a really small sitting room? It has one window so its dark, and a black fireplace

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Rebecca said...

This was so interesting - thank you. I would really appreciate your advice about a new sofa I just bought for my small but welcoming office. The sofa color was described as gray - and looked gray online - but in reality it's a warm beige. What color pillows could I buy to make it look more gray?
many thanks,

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Anonymous said...

If u had been a science teacher at my school I would have got A's...thanks I was a beige girl last converted to greige....:)

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Help!, I am struggling to choose my laminate, have light grey green walls, lots of washed beige furniture my previous floor (damaged by flood) matched the walls, so a clean canvas if you like for the rest. It's been discontinued, and can't find another...either too yellow, too white, too much grain..

Is a heavy oak grain going to look busy?

Must I pick up the grey green again or can I go for a Narvik Oak which is white, grey but heavily grained
Which other colours would work?

Hope you can help
Thanks all he way from Cape Town :-)

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"Therefore, grey, as we know it, can actually have any undertone,
but only purple, green or blue can be added in larger quantities
for the colour to retain it's title as grey, because these will all produce cool tones."

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