Greige Week – Greiges and Undertones

This week is greige week around here.

What is “greige”?   According to the dictionary, it means unfinished or raw.  In the decorating world, it refers to the range of colors that encompass all the variations of grey mixed with beige.  Greige can be very elegant and serves as a great neutral backdrop.  It is the “it” neutral right now.

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Grays and greiges are now synonymous with style, sophistication and elegance.

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Gray Horse 2140-50 by Benjamin Moore

Today we will break the color greige down.  Then, Tuesday through Thursday, we’ll be hearing from a number of awesome bloggers about their go-to greiges.

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Stone Harbor 2111-50 by Benjamin Moore

Let’s talk about gray and then beige.  Gray is any mixture of black and white.

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That said, most grays include more than just black and white.

What’s with all this undertone talk, then?

Color can be added to a mixture of black and white (gray), and the undertone of the added color(s) may be almost indistinguishable to the eye, thus still appearing gray, as long as they are not the dominant color.

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The more of the other color you add (above, that color is blue), the more obvious the undertone becomes.

The undertone can be any color, but to stay on the gray side of the scale, the color needs to remain cool, so that means the dominant color needs to be either purple, green or blue, like the original black and white had.   Most of the time, in the end, though, multiple colors are added, with one being the main undertone, keeping it on the cool side.

Remember greige is a mix of gray and beige, right?  So, let’s talk about beige next.

Now that we covered gray as being black and white, maybe with a cool undertone.  Beige is basically any version of light brown which has a warm undertone naturally.

To make brown you simply add complements from the color wheel.  It’s all based on the primary colors red, yellow and blue being mixed with something across the color wheel from itself.  Remember, in the example below, purple is still a mix of two primaries (red and blue).

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Adding any two complementary colors together always makes a brown.  But, adding different combinations of those complements is what creates different undertones that can be predominantly yellow, red, or orange.

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What else is in beige?  White.  White serves to lighten up the brown to a beige.

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Beige has white plus red and/or yellow plus blue, in general.

Now about greige…  It’s simply a mix of the gray that we talked about earlier with beige.

Since we have all the other colors already in the beige mixture, to get greige, you simply add black to a beige mixture (the white part of gray is already present).

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So in a nutshell, greige is white, black and some combination of the primary colors that dominate on the warm side (brown).

And, now, all that undertone crap starts to all makes sense, huh?  It all depends on what colors are being added to it and in what quantities.

To review:

1.  Gray.  Cool with a blue, purple, or green tint.

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As discussed above, gray contains one of three undertones – purple, green or blue.  Green based blues generally appear the most neutral on walls.

Blue based greys are most commonly used and are the coolest.  Many start here and end up using a gray that is less blue as these undertones can quickly come out making a room read blue rather than the intended silver.

Purple toned grays are used least frequently as they easily clash with other tones such as wood tones.

2.  Beige.  Warm, with a red, orange or yellow undertone.

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3.  Greige.  Warm but contains black.

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When you are looking at a color, you need to look at the subtle undertones to determine how well it will play with other things in the room.

Now you can see what makes up a greige.  And, due to all the colors that can be involved, that’s why it’s so tricky when choosing grays, beiges and greiges.  Darn undertones.  They have to go with the other elements in the room and the undertones need to not be too dominant so the color still appears neutral.

Ask what the predominant colors are when you have them mixed.  And, try holding the color up to a pure white and a blue.

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Zircon 7667 by Sherwin-Williams

And, be sure to also consider the saturation.  If you like a color, but want it lighter, you can have it diluted.  How dark do you want your greige?  I like mid-tones as they contrast trim work, show in photos, but don’t overpower a room.  You?

What else is there to consider when choosing a paint color?

Lighting. The lighting in the room – are the bulbs warm or cool?   The lighting from the windows – natural light doesn’t cast yellow tones like a bulb would.  Yet, flourescent lighting casts cool blue tones.

What are you placing with it?  If you have a blue ceiling like I do, that will also affect how other colors appear in the room.

For these reasons colors can read very different in one house to the next as well as from one room to the next. And, it can get frustrating.

How do you determine undertones of paint colors?

Did that help in understanding greiges and undertones?  Was this boring?

On Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll have some of our favorite bloggers sharing what their go-to greige is!  May give you a good place to start!

Have you embraced greige?

kristysig

Thank you to 10 rooms for the Color Theory information that I tried to re-iterate for my readers.

16 Comments :

  1. It’s amazing how much effort has to go into picking the right paint color! After this series can you do one on good whites? :)

  2. My problem is I pick a color in the store and then get home and it’s looks nothing like it did in the store. I think it’s their harsh lighting. I loved this post! thanks for all the info. not boring at all!!

  3. Ooooh thank you for this post. And I can’t wait for the next! LOL I’m so in love with the griege colors but I often have trouble choosing the right color for my home. I just recently painted my foyer London Fog by BM… and I love it… but I’d like to know other colors that are out there.
    xo
    Michelle

  4. Thanks you for the info! I love grays and just painted our master bedroom with BM’s Classic Gray!

  5. Great post! Totally explains why sometimes it seems like neutrals are SO much harder to “get right” than other colors.

  6. I love greige, but it’s hard to pull off brown undertones in our house with all our natural wood trim!

  7. I loveee greige and gray and all those good colors. This post was so thorough and well done! Good job, girl :)

  8. I do love the sophistication of a good greige. I’ve had good luck with Ben Moore’s Grant Beige, which has a bit of a green undertone.

  9. Well no wonder gray is such a tough one to figure out!

  10. I love any form of gray. I just painted my living room, dinning room and bedroom gray. I couldnt be happier.

  11. Kristy this is such a great breakdown of color- very informative! Cant wait to see all the bloggers favorite picks of greiges.

  12. Wow, thanks for analyzing all the complexities for us! Gray Horse could be a new favorite!

  13. When did we stop calling it taupe? It’s a perfectly good word. ;-) Love that velvet couch, it looks so rich and comfy.

    • I’ve totally been thinking that too! Apparently that’s a huge topic – and people disagree and say taupe has more red undertones. I, from all that I explained here, believe they are the same color. So, yeah, just avoided that.

      • Glad to see it’s not just me! :-). Whatever you call it, it’s a great neutral color. When we built our house, we didn’t know what color we wanted all the rooms to be, so we had the whole thing painted taupe. Better than builder’s beige! Goes with everything and really made our white woodwork pop.

  14. This is a GREAT break down of what goes into making different colors. After trying to pick colors for the Beach House I have a completely new respect for whites and tans! And I’ve pretty much fallen head over heels for greige! :-)

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