Beige – The Chameleon Color

THE KEYS TO COLOR by Dean Sickler 


 Beige is a problematic color for walls in that no two people will agree on exactly what it is.   It can be the most docile of neutrals and it can be as insipid as a flesh tone.  Beige is used as a neutralizing hue in between stronger hues but most often it is used as a safe compromise.

The many names of beige include; latte, tan, sand, buff, cream, oatmeal, biscuit, ecru, mushroom, manila.  Not to forget the made-up names such as Manchester cliffs, Mohave Desert,  Coffee Cream, etc., off the top of my head.

Some people see it as a cream…Beige - light cream 

While others see it as dark as ecru…  Beige - dark


Beige is usually made with white as the major pigment, then yellow oxide for a base color, then adjusted with small amounts of raw umber and/or burnt umber, black, red oxide, violet, etc.   The yellow could also be raw sienna or hansa yellow.  Raw sienna keeps it calm while hansa yellow has a tendency to give beige a lemony cast.

It is difficult to show a proper beige on a web-based computer screen because the earth pigments in beige REFLECT light in a special way but the pixels you see on a computer screen ARE light.  Ditto with printed color cards.  The ink used has only 3 transparent /organic pigments to work with and paint stores use opaque oxide pigments to color the paint.  See Chapters 5 & 6 for more info.

 Beige changes considerably with the type of light it reflects.  So much so that you may think it’s a different color from wall to wall!  

The light that comes in through a window will reflect off the floor and then on to the wall giving that  particular wall a cast that may be objectionable.  Then at night, with incandescent light, the walls will reflect warm light in proportion so that all the beige walls will turn pinkish!  Let me show you how to “fix” the problem without having to buy a different color.   

To fix Beige – Beige is an ambiguous warm neutral color that can be as light as an off-white up to a mid-tone value.  It will leans towards yellow/ gold or pink. 

Objections – beige will frequently have either a pinkish or yellowish cast that comes out over a large area.  Beige is rarely too cool because it would then be taupe.

Use the Color Kit sold here or Golden Fluid Acrylics

How to fix a Beige that is too Pink 

– To a quart of paint, add 10 drops of yellow pigment and 1 drop green (to make green/yellow)

A beige can be too yellow or warmBeige is too yellow or warm

 Use violet to fix a beige that is too yellowTo a quart of paint, add 6 drops of magenta pigment and 1 drop blue (to make violet)

Using these simple pigments, you can adjust the beige color over to what you want, without making the color darker.

My favorite way to make beige is to color white paint with raw sienna and raw umber.  Or color a glaze with, in descending order,  titanium white, raw sienna and raw umber.  With these simple pigments, you can make a perfectly neutral beige that is never too pink or too yellow.