Earth tones are colors that—well, look like earth. But they aren’t just mud or soil colors. There’s an entire range of beautiful earth-inspired hues, and they’re making a big comeback in everything from art to interior design from their last surge in popularity in the ’70s.

With some knowledge of color theory and the psychology of color, you can make earth tones work for any art or design project you’re planning. Read on to learn more about this essential part of the color spectrum.

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What Are Earth Tones?

When used in art, design, and branding, earth tones are colors that resemble earth in some way. Interpreted narrowly, earth tones are any colors that contain brown—from a light sandy beige to a deep chocolate mocha. More broadly speaking, earth tones are any that invoke a natural feel. This might include yellows and oranges, earthy greens, some grays, as well as browns. 

marker drwaing
Skillshare student Claire Williams makes use of natural colors in these drawings.

Earth tones are generally warm, but they can be mixed with other colors in a scheme to create cool or colorful overall effects. 

What Colors Are Earth Tones?

Especially in interior design, you might come across a wide variety of creative names used for earth tone colors. Think of paint colors with names such as “Pheasant” or “Roasted Russet” The following list includes some, but definitely not all, colors that are considered earth tones.

  • Brown 
  • Beige
  • Umber
  • Ochre
  • Sienna
  • Tan
  • Camel
  • Mustard
  • Cocoa
  • Taupe
  • Wheat
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Coffee
  • Mocha
  • Walnut
  • Sand

Earth Tone Decor

On display in a modern urban bedroom.

Earth tones can be used in home decor in everything from the floors (whether carpet, tile, or wood) to the wallpaper or paint to the curtains. You may choose to decorate a whole room in earth tones or to pick a few elements and contrast them with pops of color or contrasting or complementary tones.

Paint Colors

paint chips
Source: unsplash
Paint colors.

Paint colors can set the tone for a whole room. They often come with inventive (you could sometimes even say “out there”) names, including these earth tone paint colors:

  • Petrified Oak
  • Tawny Birch
  • Meerkat
  • Butterbean
  • Spice Route
  • Baked Clay

Interior Colors

Earth tones are often combined with other tones and colors for interior design. Here are a few pretty examples of earth tone home decor that show how versatile earthy colors can be.

Earth tone home decor mixed with vibrant blue.
Home decor mixed with vibrant blue.
A Zen style kitchen in natural earthy hues.
A Zen style kitchen in natural earthy hues.
A Bohemian-style living room in earth tone interior colors.
A Bohemian-style living room.
A Western-style kitchen and dining area.
A Western-style kitchen and dining area.
A sunny earth toned kitchen.
A sunny kitchen.
Earth tone interior colors on display in a family room.
Earth tone interior colors on display in a family room.
A home office that combines earthy colors with mint green.
A home office that combines earthy colors with mint green.

Down to Earth (Tones)

Earth tone colors on the color wheel.
The color wheel.

If you’re interested in learning more about where earth tones sit on the color wheel (or what the color wheel is in the first place!), check out an introduction to color theory class. Whether you love experimenting with color in your art and design or don’t know where to begin, learning about complementary colors and other aspects of color theory and psychology can help shape your creative process. Trial and error is a great thing in your art and craft, but making informed decisions about color is even better. 

All the Colors of the Rainbow

Color Theory 101: Using Color in Art & Design

Written by:

Elen Turner