How would you refer to a color of a standard brown carton box?
I mean, a one, that we normally use day to day for moving or storing stuff, etc.

Is it brown or yellow? Dark-yellow or light-brown?
Hmmm... I doubt it.

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The cartons may be indeed darker or lighter colored, but I wonder if there is any unique term in English, generically (and definitely) stating it's color.

It is not about just color names, but about the color of a carton.

I noticed that almost all answers below offer just the name of the color. Asking the question I was looking for a fixed expression to distunguish between these light-brown cartons and the white ones.

Here's my case: I have a bunch tiny stuff and what to distribute it among cartons of different form-factors, colors and shades. Then I want to document all storage objects into a database. I need to print out descriptive labels to stick to each storage object. For example, white cartons can be easily labeled as "White carton #5". So I need a similar universal fixed expression to distinguish cardbox-plain-brown cartons. The shades do not really matter - just a fixed expression please. If you say: "Hey dude, don't waste our time, just label'em as brown" - so be it!

  • Boxes like this are sometimes faced in white. If anyone wanted to differentiate a box like those from the ones you've pictured, I think they'd always just say there are white ones and brown ones. Sep 18, 2015 at 12:40
  • 3
    Most people understand what a "brown cardboard box" is. If you want to be more specific/accurate, it could be a "plain brown corrugated cardboard box".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 18, 2015 at 12:55
  • Non-color words that could be used to describe it are "neutral" and "natural", since most people already understand them to usually be some shade of brown. Sep 18, 2015 at 19:31
  • "Kraft Paper" is also this "natural" unbleached color, so it can be used to describe the cardboard color as well. This may only be an American term - not sure.
    – JPhi1618
    Sep 18, 2015 at 20:10
  • If box color names are that crucial to your process, proprietary color names may be a way to go: "Marshmallow #5" (white), "Peanut Butter #10" (brown), etc, - might make the task at hand more entertaining.
    – Oldbag
    Sep 19, 2015 at 11:41

8 Answers 8


I love this question because I'm an artist and I hate a void in color-names. But, as common as these items are, the most easily understood terminology in the lexicon is: "plain-brown".

You could say "brown box" or, "brown bag", (and most people would get the idea) but there will always be some anal-case thinking: "What shade of brown?"

If the color in question was on your car, you might describe it as "tan", but if pressed to describe the shade of "tan" you'd say; "The color of a plain-brown box/bag". (US)

  • So far this answer seems to be the closest one. Can you please take a look at the updated question? TIA. Sep 18, 2015 at 19:56
  • 1
    I was going to say "plain", but you are right: "plain brown" (usually not hyphenated in my experience) is FAR more common and correct. This is clearly seen by google image searching "plain box", "brown box" and "plain brown box". Sep 18, 2015 at 23:36

Cardboard brown or #a58855 everyone who speaks English will immediately have an image that will be as close to each other as if you said 'fire engine red' or 'sky blue'

  • Compare search results for "brown cardboard box" to pretty much any other adjective and "cardboard box" and brown wins. Lots of people say it and write it, so it's going to be widely known what it means.
    – barbecue
    Sep 19, 2015 at 2:04

The boxes are simply cardboard boxes, or maybe cardbox packing-cases. These are usually brown, so they are not usually qualified with a colour. If they need to be distinguished from white cardboard boxes, then [as I hinted in my earlier answer] they are brown cardboard boxes.

Original answer, pre-edit...

Although the box would probably simply be called brown, the colour is probably best described as manila (or "manilla" with two Ls).

(also Manila paper) Strong brown paper, originally made from Manila hemp


The outer layers of the corrugated cardboard are made from this paper. It does vary in colour between manufacturers (as the images show), but it is a suitable generic name.

  • The outer layers of the corrugated cardboard are made from this paper. Hm, are you sure? Could you give a reference for this? I don't see the connection mentioned in google hits - for instance here or here. Just curious.
    – Drew
    Sep 18, 2015 at 15:16
  • @Drew "The key raw material in corrugating is paper, different grades for each layer making up the corrugated box." Strong brown paper is used.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 18, 2015 at 15:21
  • 7
    Most people associate "manilla" with envelopes or file folders of that color, which is generally more of a yellow than the brown of the classical corrugated cardboard box.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 18, 2015 at 18:28
  • @HotLicks In the UK, manilla envelopes vary in colour considerably (just as the boxes do in the images). Some are quite light; some are quite dark. I've certainly received envelopes of the colour of both those boxes.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 18, 2015 at 18:49
  • Is there any fixed expression like manilla carton referring to an above mentioned carton? My question is not actually about the color itself, but the fixed expression. Sep 18, 2015 at 19:39

"Manila" usually refers to the color of file folders- a lighter vanilla color. This is Kraft Brown.

  • Do you have a reference for the colour name 'craft brown'? Sep 19, 2015 at 7:28
  • Yes, you're right... (too many years since art school) we did refer to the paper of the same color as "kraft paper". However, I don't think the term is common among the general population.
    – Oldbag
    Sep 19, 2015 at 11:26

If you want a named colour, some possibilities are beige, buff or fawn. All describe various shades of yellow-brown.

  • As a native English speaker, I know what beige is, but I've never heard of the colors buff or fawn. Sep 18, 2015 at 20:05

Note - you can actually, and certainly should, use


as a color. This is completely commonplace among art directors, designers, and other such trendy types.


The answer is 'kraft'.

Kraft is a generic term we use for regular 'brown' boxes. The other side of the coin would be 'oyster' -- which are white boxes. You can ask to order 'kraft boxes' and you'll get the generic brown (no specific shade).

Ref: I work with cartons/boxes/chipboards.

  • Welcome to EL&U. This answer is a correct one (originally, the color of paper from kraft pulp processing), but could still be improved with a reference or examples of its usage. I encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance.
    – choster
    Dec 2, 2015 at 22:19

On my last move, the removal men specifically referred to the large brown boxes as Tea Chests (even though they weren't those old wooden style tea chests). Apparently that's standard in the industry.

  • Is that what they called the box or the color of the box?
    – Mitch
    Sep 19, 2015 at 16:19

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