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Beige – The Chameleon Color

THE KEYS TO COLOR by Dean Sickler 

Beige

 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.

44 responses

  1. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! My beige is almost pepto bismal pink and now we can fix it! Yay!!

  2. I have a pink issue, even in going back to view the freshly painted walls at different times of day. I had hoped my eyes were playing tricks on me but I am very good with colour and it is most certainly pink. I appreciate that I am not the only one fooled by the paint swatches! Hopefully take 2 will prove less bubble gum.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Alexis,
      Pink can always be tamed by having the paint store add a shot (1/48′s) of Green and 3 shots (3/48′s) of Yellow to a gallon of paint. Do it again if required.

  3. Val

    Help! Mr. Stickler, I have a lot of beige wall tiles in my very small bathroom. They lean to pink. I’ve been trying to figure out what color to paint the walls so the tiles lose their pink tone. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Janice

    I have already had my walls painted a beige but after being placed on wall there is to much pink. I can not afford to have the walls repainted. What color of decor, curtains could I use to tone down the pink color

  5. Maduike James

    I will love to have a copy of color manual to enable me improve in my paint production

  6. Jeanie

    Hello — we have a problem. We just moved and tried to paint the new walls a “coffee ice cream” beige like our old house. The carpet in the new house is a goldish color and the colors we picked have turned too yellowish green. How should we compensate for the color of carpet in order to come up with our yummy ~haagen daz~ coffee ice cream color? Thanks!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Jeanie,
      I don’t think the carpet color is the problem. If you could give me the manufacturer and name of the color, I’ll have a better idea as to what the problem is.

  7. Kimberly Miles

    Hi Dean,

    I’m glad I found this article. I painted my walls “Beige Brilliance” by Olympic.. unfortunately, the walls now look kind of peachy/pink. Can you please help me? The paint was a housewarming gift and I can’t afford to purchase more. I have a ten gallon bucket of the stuff. Any assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated!!!

    • Dean Sickler

      You can kill the peachy pink by adding a small amount of thalo green pigment, either inexpensive artist acrylic or universal tint from the paint store.

  8. Jean Usery

    We are set to close on a new home next week. We got it after a deal fell through with original buyers and the cabinets had already been chosen and could not be changed (spice–medium brown with pinkish tint). The builder stated that the granite color within each offered selection contained many variations. I think we ended up with the worst possible color for granite: strong goldish-yellow features. The Kilham (sp?) brown walls have a yellowish cast and the standard tile with white grout also has a drab yellowish cast. Hate it all. We are set to close next week and I want out. Can something be done to minimize the clash between the cabinets and the counter? The floor tile grout still has to be sealed and I was thinking of trying a colorant to try to tone down the yellow. Help!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Jean,
      Well, the hardest thing to change is the granite so we’ll try to work with that. You didn’t mention whether these are stained wood or painted cabinets so I’ll assume they are stained. It’s always easier to darken a stain color rather than lighten it so you are in luck there. Dark stained cabinets are in now. Colored varnishes are a bit tricky to work with but would be an easy way fix the cabinet color. Try a walnut-colored varnish/stain on the back of a door and see if you like it. You can keep adding coats so don’t try to do it all at once or you’ll wind up with visible brushmarks

      You can add a universal tint to the grout sealer and apply it like a stain to change the color. Add a little raw umber or a very little violet to the sealer and the grout will come out antique taupe.
      The wall paint is easiest to change. Pick out one of the light colors in the granite and try that for the walls. A light pale gold should set off the walnut-colored cabinets well.

  9. Margaret Herrera

    Hi Dean,
    I have a beige paint that I used in our old house and the same color is too yellow in this house. I would like it to be more brown than yellow. Here is the information on the paint. It is a Behr, Interior flat Ultra Pure White. Here is the info on the color mixture:

    CLRNT BL CL FL
    OZ 0 1 0
    384th 36 12 24

    Any help you can provide would be appreciated.
    thank you,
    Margaret

    • Dean Sickler

      The pigments that are in the paint are, (in descending order) Titanium White, Yellow Oxide, Black and Red Oxide. Hmmm, I am not familiar with the tinting strengths of Behr but I would start by having them add 6/48ths of “I” (Brown Oxide) and 1/48ths of “D” (Thalo Green). The Brown Oxide tends to be a bit reddish so I add the Green to counter that.

  10. Margaret Herrera

    Hi Dean, I did try your recommendations and it did make a difference in the color, its more tan than yellow. Thank you, now we can finish painting!

  11. Maria

    Selling house and so I purchased a Qt.of Better Homes and Gardens Interior Premium Paint in Eggshell/Satin with a Dapper Tan tint to touch walls, but it is much lighter that the Dapper Tan I used several yrs. ago, can U tell me how to make it a little darker to try to match what is already there? Not sure which brand I used prior, may have been Color Place??? Thank you, Maria <

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Maria,
      Unless you have a color fan deck from several stores, you need to take a sample of the paint color to the paint store. Maybe a switch or outlet plate that was painted.

      It is very difficult to touch up walls with a new can of paint and have it match exactly, even with the same brand and right color. Color fades, different batches are manufactured, colorant machines go out of calibration, etc. You are better off trying to clean off any marks or re-painting the entire wall.

  12. Jennifer

    I have bought 2 beiges that keep coming out pink on certain walls. They are from Ace, 2 gallons of lonesome Dove D11-2 and the other was Crushed Peanut in a quart. I have an opportunity to take the 2 gallons back that I bought and exchange it. All the beiges that I have looked at the color combinations of B (black) C (a yellow) and F (a rust color). What specific color is making it turn pink, the black or the rust? I want a yellow beige to go with my furniture and honey oak woods that are in there.. Most of the F colors are in the low range 2/5 to 3 shots while the blacks ranges from 4.5 to 12.5 while the yellows in the range 10 – 16. I don’t mind doing a custom mix but I don’t want the pinky beige, it is ghastly on the walls. I know I need to change my lighting but I need to get the paint color right. On the south end I have 2 large windows and on the north end just 1. West end has no windows and the kitchen has small ones throughout.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Jennifer,
      The “F” colorant is red oxide. That is where you get the pink. Either ask for a little less “F” (0.5 to 1.5 shots total) or have them add a little of the complement “D” colorant (1.0 to 2.0 shots) which will counter the pink without making the entire paint color darker. Beiges ARE tricky to get just right.

      • Jennifer

        Thanks so much for your prompt reply. I did have them add the 10 drops of yellow and 1 drop of green to the quart can and it took out the pink. Just still not wild about that color. I had read somewhere on your website about black having some purple to it and thought maybe that was what was causing it to turn pink. They say I can have a totally new gallon of beige made, is there a common formula you would recommend? You stated “white + yellow oxide (or raw sienna) + raw umber or burnt umber. This paint company adds in black. Could I just substitute the umber for the black? What would be the ratios? Thanks for any help you may send my way.

        • Dean Sickler

          You didn’t need to add the additional yellow as you already have some in your formula. This will give your color a “lemony” cast. Just add a little green (D) as I just wrote. Black (B) is really just a very dark, dull blue. Added to your formula will make a dull green but also make the paint color darker. Additional Raw Umber (L) will be a better choice as you suspect. Try about 4-6 shots to the quart at a time. You need the red oxide (F) to make the color warm otherwise you would wind up with a dull green or taupe with these pigments. Paint colorant strengths are not uniform across brand lines so there is no universal formula which will make a perfect beige. Sorry, it is not that easy (grin).

  13. I cannot find beige have used behr paint with at least 15 samples @$3.00 a piece it’s getting expensive
    I take in a sample and it comes out too yellow or pink
    When I painted my condo in ’96 I bought 5 gallon bucket and told them to put either a pint or a quart in and it turned out the most beautiful hint of pink. I used it on walls and ceilings though out and loved it

    If I put darkest brown quart or pint not sure in
    5 gallons of pure white will that come out a beautiful color of beige. Like my pink did. I have to have the color by June 1 when the painter will start.

    I went to porter paints and they found the closest to beige they have is called shalestone
    #417-2. Please let me know about the 5 gallon idea also

    Connie

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Connie,
      Unfortunately I am in Tokyo until May 30 and do not have access to American color fan decks. The five gallon idea will work if you use the right quart of color. Don’t commit to the whole pail until you test some first. If it is too yellow, add some violet (J) or raw umber (L). If is too pink, add a little green (D).

  14. 5 gallons of pure white and add a quart of darkest brown of behr paint. Will that come out beige?

    • Dean Sickler

      Sure but it still may turn out too pink or too yellow. Brown is mostly made with red oxide, green and yellow pigments.

      • If a go with a taupe color and have th cut it in half do you think that will take yellow out??

        I tried the shalestone from porter paints today and it still has yellow in it. He said it was the closest to beige they had. I will take your recommendation to them tomorrow and hope they help me with your suggestions

        Thank you so much Dean for your quick response and enjoy your time in Tokyo.

        • Dean Sickler

          Hi Connie. Sorry, this is the first time I saw this question (two months later).
          Cutting the formula in half will not reduce the yellow.
          You want to add a tiny amount (1/48 oz) of Violet, “J” , “VT” or however the paint store calls their Violet to the gallon. Be careful they do not use Magenta. An alternative is to add a small amount of Raw Umber (2/48 oz). Add more of either pigment until the yellow goes away. This will work.

  15. Clint

    First, your site is awesome and very informative.
    Second, you are incredibly generous and gracious to have helped so many desperate people who were likely at their wit’s end and ready to just throw their paint cans at their walls.
    Third, please help me!? Haha. I am trying to find a light tan color to paint a S/SW-facing room with one window that lets in a decent amount of light. I have tried a few different paint colors that appear brownish/tan in the paint store and incandescent light. However, when painted on the walls of the room, the color changes to have a grayish to light violet/purplish in natural light–especially in close vicinity and adjacent to the window.
    If I want the paint color to take on more of a brownish/tan appearance on the wall without getting pinkish/peachy, how would you suggest adjusting the formula?
    For reference, the latest paint color I have tried is a 50% formula of Pittsburgh Paints Grand Distinction Summer Suede. (100% is too dark). I’m open to other color alternatives you might think are better ones, too.

    Thanks so much for all your help. We all appreciate it!

  16. Nancy

    Hello,
    I’m trying to get a true light silver gray. When mixing white and black paint, the mixture ends up with some beige tone. How do I tame the beige to get a true light silver gray? Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Nancy,
      You cannot get beige tones out of a mixture of white and black paint. The black paint must actually be a dark brown. Try to find a true black paint. Keep some of the beige mix however because true black into white paint will have a bluish cast. Mix some of the beige into it to warm it up.

  17. Jacque

    How do I fix a gray that looks purple?

  18. Andrew

    Hi Dean,

    You are saving relationships with your advise, you know!! Great work!… So we have the same beige nightmare on our hands, some too yellow, some too pink and even some too gold. Valspar signature holmes cream (chosen because it looks great in another house) was slightly too peachy, the paint folks don’t have your exquisite knowledge so they recommended leaving the red oxide out of the mix. This eliminated the peach, however now it’s too far on the taupe side (to my eye). Going for a beige that is somewhere between your examples of the “cream ” and “ecru” above (of course taking into consideration the computer screen effect). THANKS!!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Andrew,
      Thank you for the kind comments. The “paint folks” helping you had the right idea…just too heavy-handed. I would have eliminated half of the red oxide. It obviously needed some to balance the color. Color is both art and science. The mind can tell us where to go but the eye has the final say. Cheers,

  19. Shyrl

    Hi Dean,

    I live in a townhouse with very little natural lighting. After trying numerous samples of various whites in my first and 2nd floor hallways and stairwell, I finally settled on Ace’s brand Bone White. Based on mixed reviews of the color, it was suggested I prime the walls with Kilz original (previous owner was a smoker) tinted to the same color as the paint, which I did. After painting with the Ace paint it looks pink! More so in the foyer and stairwell. I’m so upset, plus it was a royal pain to do the stairwell.

    I may as well start from scratch. What do you recommend?

    Thank you for your help!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Shyrl,
      That’s the problem with off-whites. The “character” of the color doesn’t show up until after it is on the wall. You could try putting in cool-white or daylight bulbs. That will help a little.

      • Shyrl

        Thank you for your reply! I tried various bulbs after reading your other article and settled with a cool white. It’s still pink looking, but not quite as bad.

        Do you think having the store reduce the red by half would work or should I add yellow and green as suggested in your above article?

  20. cindy

    Hello,
    I, like so many, have tried “beige” colors that when I put them on my walls have too much yellow. Lastest is a gallon of a Behrs mixture of CL 340 LL 312 VL 8. The base is interior satin enamel ultra pure white. I would like to salvage it if I can. How can the yellow be toned down?
    Thanks!!
    Cindy

    • Dean Sickler

      Try a few drops of Violet into a cup of the paint color and see if that helps. Make sure it is a true violet and neither blue nor magenta.

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