How to Tell the Difference Between Grey, Gray, Greige, Beige and Taupe

 

***This was the most popular post on our first blog, and so it’s being added to the archives here, with a few updated photos!***

 

Yesterday, I was speaking to a client about the difference between gray, 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 🙂

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.46.55 PM

 

 

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…

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.02.30 PM

 

 

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.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.02.45 PM

 

 

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.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.03.01 PM

 

 

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
or
black + white + green/blue/purple = grey.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.03.14 PM

 

 

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.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.03.25 PM

 

 

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.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.03.37 PM

 

 

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.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.03.46 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.03.59 PM

 

 

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

 

White.
White lightens up your brown to beige.

 

So lets define beige as

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

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.04.10 PM

 

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

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.04.17 PM

 

 

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)

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.04.28 PM

 

 

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

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.04.43 PM

 

 

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

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.04.58 PM

 

 

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…

 

x am

 

 

*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.*

 

 

10 Comments
  • sdf

    February 14, 2016 at 12:38 pm Reply

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog
    that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me
    tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is
    an issue that not enough people are speaking intelligently about.
    I’m very happy I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.

  • Mary Narlock

    February 15, 2016 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Excellent information!

  • Karla Jo Tupper

    February 16, 2016 at 5:15 am Reply

    Elegantly simple and clear explanation.

  • Karla Jo Tupper

    February 16, 2016 at 5:17 am Reply

    I appreciate your style of communication and substance. Thank you!

  • Liz M.

    March 8, 2016 at 12:50 am Reply

    So which of F&B would be considered Greige?

    • amezeard

      March 10, 2016 at 7:09 pm Reply

      Hi Liz! It always depends on the light in the room and the other tones around the color, but a beautiful Farrow and Ball neutral is Purbeck Stone. It usually sits just in the middle of cool and warm, and pairs with pastels, brights, and mid-tones.

  • Kim Mackintosh

    March 26, 2016 at 12:15 pm Reply

    This was very helpful. I am building a house…..OK the builder will be! This is my third build and I want to get it right this time. The builder usually tries to stop you from talking about paint, fabric and colour, they want you to choose the kitchen, floors, bricks etc. WELL, I now know this doesn’t work and we have come unstuck with this way of doing things before. I can pick my kitchen grey until I am sure of the other colours. He will just have to wait!

    I live in NZ and you can only get ON TREND fabric and wallpaper and now we are getting stuck with furniture too. I found it very easy in the UK and fell jealous of what you can get in the US. To save my bacon I am stepping out of the NZ box. Wainscoting in white (never seen that here) Very light grey kitchen (shaker) Dark wood floor. It’s the warm greys and beige that I am having problems with! I want warm but neutral but choosing the colours are scaring the you know what out of me!!!! The idea is – My house will be a neutral backdrop to what ever is on trend and in the shops. I can change it up without decorating……..I hope. This Blog is making me feel a little better so thanks.

    • amezeard

      April 1, 2016 at 3:14 pm Reply

      Hi Kim – Such a nice note, thank you! It can be so frustrating to find the perfect materials and not have access.. I’m glad to hear you are being true to your own taste and design, that’s what it is all about! You have a good design plan, a neutral backdrop will serve you well if you like to be able to change it up more often. You’ve gone with classic choices that will serve you well. Hope you enjoy your new home and thanks for stopping by!!

  • TaraLP

    May 15, 2016 at 5:39 am Reply

    Love this article! It is very informative, broken down quite clearly and truly makes perfect sense. Yet…. I remain in a quandary. This is our 4th build and although it is oodles of fun it is also quite frustrating and stressful. I want a warm grey. Although I loved the color grey it’s a little too cool of a color for me to be happy with. I’m trying to find the often aloof taupe. I’m on the fence about Benjamin Moore’s Fairview Taupe or Briarwood and Functional Grey and Requisite Grey by Sherwin Williams. I want Benjamin Moore paint so I would take Sherwin Williams color to BM and ask them to match it. I just cannot seem to make up my mind and this has been dragging on for a month. The end of the week will be dooms day as the builder must have my choice in order to move forward. We are traditional in our taste and will have mahogany and cherry wood furnishings. I believe those woods would be better suited for warm greys in opposed to cool greys. There will also be an office which will have brown leather furnishings. The flooring in the home is Italian marble, honed (with lots of movement) in tan and grey. What to do. What to do.

    • amezeard

      May 27, 2016 at 4:42 pm Reply

      Hi Tara! I’d love to hear which paint you went with, and how it worked out 🙂 It can be overwhelming, and I hope that you managed to select something that you are happy with… if not, I’d be happy to help you! Anne-Marie

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