Earth Tones – The Brown Color Palette

Attribution: Donald Jusko Real Color Wheel

Earth Tones are typically the color of the land and what grows on it. Earth tones are not clear colors and do not mix with clear colors well. The reason the sky appears far away is because it’s a pastel clear tone which is in contrast to the land.Earth tones can be pastel or dark and the white of the earth tone palette is cream.


Earth tones are all the colors on the color wheel which are mixed with orange. You can see the earth tone palette on the color wheel near the darker portion of the center in the orange and yellow areas. Many people do not realize that a purple or blue can also have a creamy undertone and be an earth tone. the earth tone purple is called mauve. In addition many light color paint samples and fabrics have a creamy undertone and are earth tones, so if you hold a white undertone sample next to it, and it appears to separate it’s because one of them is an earth tone. typically you can’t mix earth tones and clear tones. One of the biggest mistakes amatuer decorators make is to paint the walls tan with white moldings and ceiling, and while it does not look horrendous, it’s wrong, the trim should be cream.


Earth tones are the most widely used color scheme in residential interior design. The brown color is warmer and more inviting than clear tones. Earth tones are found in every room, and are the top selling color. And important note is to hold your samples next to each other for everything, because it takes some practice to immediately see that a brown or tan can swing toward yellow or red. As in all color palettes the basic mix of colors in analogous, and complimentary is the same, so have fun with the color mixes. 
Pastel Earth Tones – The pink is a tan, this takes some eye practice to see when looking at swatches. If the pink has a tan undertone, it will appear to blend into the tan tile next to it. If it is any version of a clear tone, it will contrast. 
Medium dark earth tones complimentary color scheme – There are millions of rooms decorated just like this. This is the classic red against olive green complimentary color scheme in earth tones. the floor is either dark brown or olive which is the main color of the comforter, the walls are slightly lighter olive green, the trim is dark brown, the window curtains are a stripe with all the colors in it, and if the colors are medium in lightness so is the wood furniture. 
The red in the earth tone palette plus an orangy tan walls and pine trim make this room a beauty. The earth tone red plus cream is an exquisite color scheme, as is light pastel blue and cream, try it. 
If your house has a lot of dark wood trim and dark wood floors in it, you are stuck with decorating it in the earth tone palette. (Sorry.) This one is mustard yellow and the earth tone orangy red, and you can see just how many patterns you can mix into it as long as they all have the same colors and are in the same color palette. 
Most elegant hotel rooms and private master bedrooms are decorated in dark brown for a warm luxurious effect. Mixing a little black into it adds a touch of regal elegance. This color scheme makes the walls dark chocolate brown, with light brown floor and ceiling trim. Some light against dark elements are necessary to pull off this decorating color scheme. 
This is a classic southwest interior. The tan is almost an orange, there is a fair amount of blue in the rug and picture to add interest as the complimentary color. 


Basic Color Theory Start Page