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The Papillon Information Center       
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Papillon Colors


This toy breed dog can be found in a rainbow of colors and understanding the colors can be quite a maze. Here is this section we are going to offer descriptions and photos of the Papillon coloring.  We will explain what sabling is and how this differs from solids. We will also discuss the markings of blaze and noseband.  Mismarks are not uncommon with this breed and we will explain these as well.

Dam/ Sire to Puppy

With so many genes at play, coloring cannot be predicted with certainty. Papillons can carry hidden genes. It will not be apparent in the coat but they can be passed down to litters.

Solids and Placement

The possible list of Papillon colors may lead one to believe that this breed can be found as a solid (which is exceedingly rare), therefore if this dog is classified as a white, for example, there will be a secondary color, which would be classified as a marking.  Body - For all Pappies, color may fall anywhere on the body, with no particular shape or placement considered to be more preferable to another.Head - Any color other than white (which will be the blaze – explained below) should cover the entire head, flowing over and covering both ears, and over the eyes.  In show, balanced coloring is favored.
Let's Take a Look at the Color List:

  • White & Black
  • White & Lemon
  • White & Red
  • White & Sable
  • White Black & Tan
  • Black Brown & White
  • Black Red & White
  • Brown & White
  • Fawn & White
  • Red
  • Red White & Sable
  • Sable
  • White
  • White & Liver
  • White & Silver
Now, Let's Go Into a Little More Detail:

White and Black – This is an elegant coloring for this breed. The black will be very solid, if it had lighter shades running through it and only tips were dark, it would be a sabling.  While the hairs are separate and distinct colors, when the Papillon is in motion, they may blend together creating the appearance of grey, although this is only an trick of the eye.

White and Lemon – Lemon is a very light yellow, that is genetically an extremely diluted red.  Most white and lemon Papillons show no lemon as a newborn and will appear to be a solid snowy color.  By the age of 5 months, the lemon will be showing.  It may be 1 year before final placement of the lemon takes place.  

White and Red – Red on a Papillon will range from a light to a dark red, but will not be mistaken for brown. Dogs that are have yellow or red will possess the “ee” gene. It dictates coloring that falls in any category from a pale cream to a deep dark mahogany.

White and Sable – This label is one that breeders and owners debate about… Sable is not actually a color, it is a pattern.  Therefore, any pigment such as red or black can have sabling in it.  For example, with a white and red Pappy, in which the red is not solid, but has a sable pattern may be called: A white and red... or a white and sable.... Alternatively, some will dub the same dog a white and red sable. Therefore, these 3 different terms all refer to the very same coat.

White, Black, Tan - This is the classic tri-colored Papillon and a sought after coat color. The black is very dark and very solid. There are no lighter streaks on those areas. The white is pure, crisp and clean.  There is not a blending of these areas; each is distinct with clear boundary lines.

When only black patches appear on the saddle (back and sides of the dog), some refer to this as a hound tri, although this term is not official terminology for the breed.

Black, Brown, White- This is known as the “classic” tri. One may first assume that the order of the words in this label would dictate the amount of coloring that shows on the coat…although it is the white that is the most prominent…  Having more than a touch of black is what differentiates this Pap from a brown and white with black markings.  To be a true “classic”, tan will appear above each eye, a touch on the cheeks (known as kiss marks) and occasionally under the tail and on the inside flap of the ears.

Black, Red, White – Black will be a dark solid, white will be pure and clean…and the red will stand out as as such, with no confusion as being a possible brown. Red will have a rich tone to it…Some explain it as an intense color, which is fitting since it has been theorized that a gene dubbed “I” (for intensity) may be responsible for a phaeomelanin dilution that allows red to exist in the coat of the Papillon.

Brown and White – As explained above, the difference between a brown and white Papillon with black markings and a black, brown, white is a matter of semantics.   However, when there is no black, the dog can easily be labeled as the parti color of brown and white.

Fawn and White – Fawn appears only when 2 recessive genes are passed down to a dog, one from the sire and one from the dam.  Both the recessive form of “D” and “B” genes must be passed down from both sire and dam. The result is a faded tan, what many describe as a soft yellowish tan.

Red – You will not find a solid red Papillon, however those that are dubbed red should have a good portion of red on the coat. The other coloring will be labeled as a marking.  Therefore, this Pap could be called a white with red markings or a red and white; however since the red is very noticeable, most would label this Papillon as a red and white.

Red, White, Sable – With this tri coat, the sable will refer to what looks like black. Upon closer inspection one would notice that the black is not actually solid. In person, one would see that it has a sable pattern to it.  It has a soft, satiny, almost shadowy quality that sets it apart from a solid.

Sable – This terminology originated from the sable, a small forest animal that had been historically hunted for its luxurious fur.  There is some confusion with this term, because many consider it to be a pattern as opposed to a color. It is a shadowy black that is slightly diluted to produce a wavy hue that is distinct from a solid. The very tips of the hairs will be a solid black. Hard to see in most photographs, if you were to lift the hairs up and look toward the roots, you will then notice the sabling.

Puppies may not show the sable, as the hairs grow longer, it is then apparent that only the tips are a solid black. (See also: Hair Growth)

White – This will be pure and bright. If it appeared to be creamy, it would default to a light fawn. It is common for this color to cover the majority of a Papillon, with other colors falling onto distinct areas of the body and usually, to the head.

White and Liver – We like to talk about this coat, because liver is a very interesting color. When trying to determine if a dog is a liver, one actually does not look to the coat.  First, one must look to the dog’s nose, and then, lips and eye rims.  On liver dogs, the nose will be a diluted brown. In most cases, lips and eye rims will follow suit.  Paw pads may also be a liver.  It is common for the coat to be a brown and white…The important element to keep in mind is that a brown and white Papillon will have a black nose and a white and liver will have a liver/brown nose.  It is the skin pigmentation that dictates this coloring.  With some, the iris of the eyes will be green, as opposed to the desired dark hue.

White and Silver – This is a rare color, not often seen with this breed.  Silver will range from a dulled gray to glossy steel.  Some seniors will develop a silvering to the coat as they age; while the coat will never completely turn, it is not uncommon for canines over the age of 8 to have slivers of silver.  For some, it will not be apparent unless outside in bright sunlight.

Alternate Colors

There are non-standard hues that can appear on the Papillon. One of these is blue. Blue refers to a diluted, faded black.  If a dog is truly a blue, the pigmentation on the nose will also be a blue. Often only noticed in bright, outdoor sunlight, the black will have a blue tint to it.  When registered, one must choose the closest color, which would be black.

For some, the blue will also disperse to the iris of the eye, which goes against the called upon standard of solid, dark eyes.


  • There is most often a big difference in color from the time a Papillon puppy is born until the age of 1-year-old, when the Papillons, along with other toy and small bred dogs, are considered to reach adulthood.  

  • There is even more change up until the 2 year mark, when the final adult coat will have grown in.

  • The changeover from puppy coat to adult coat is a normal process that occurs with all breeds.  In regard to color change, most changes will occur during the first 6 months. 

  • Colors may lighten or they may darken.  In many cases, patches will also spread out and grow larger, while maintaining clear borders.  In some cases, a color will blend, for example a darker brown into a creamy tan, however this does not officially add a 4th color.

  • For some Paps, the white will appear to be dusty, not quite a cream (version of fawn) and much of this may be due to the shorter hairs. As the dog matures, the hairs grow out and the colors intensity.

  • Due to the changes that can occur, it is not unusual for a puppy to be registered as a parti (2 colors) yet mature into a tri-colored adult.  

Skin Points

On all Paps, other than those with liver, the nose, lips and eye rims should be a dark, solid black color. Eyes will be dark. On livers, the skin pigmentation of those areas will be a soft, livery brown. The eye rims may be light enough to almost appear yellow.


Blaze - One of the most distinguished features of the Papillon breed is the blaze. This refers to the stripe of white that begins at the tip of the nose and travels up to the back of the forehead.  Many blaze markings are symmetrical, although others are asymmetrical. 

While it is prefer that it extends the full length of tip of nose to over the round of the head, a blaze may be small, only spreading from the nose to a point between the eyes. 

If there are just small tuffs of hairs between the eyes, this will usually be classified as a white marking and not a blaze.

There are some Papillons that do not have a blaze; although this is rare and considered to be a fault; however the dogs are still quite beautiful.

Noseband – This is a prominent white that circles around the Papillon’s snout, often narrowing into what becomes the blaze or blending into the blaze.


A mismark means a misplacement of coloring, conflicting to what is desired in regard to conformation standard for the breed.  
An example of this is white that covers one or both ears. (This includes both front and back of the ears).  While extremely rare, a solid Papillon is considered a major fault and should be pulled from any breeding program.

How Coloring Affects Fringing

Darker Papillon tend to have more fringing that lighter dogs and due to complex genetics, red and sables will tend to have much less fringes than other Paps.  Red fringes tend to be thin and very susceptible to breakage, and once red hairs break, the fringe may be very slow to grow back. Read more about fringes.