What is my Value Contrast?

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So we’ve covered colour contrast, so now onto Value contrast.

What is it you may ask?
The Value scale (according to Albert Munsell who developed much of the visual colour theory we use today), is the dark to light scale – he numbered the colours 1 – 10, 1 being black and 10 being white.  This scale is used in many fields including hairdressing – so 1 is black hair dye and 8 is a blonde (you may have heard your colourist/hairdresser talking numbers).
So when we think about our value contrast – it is the contrast between our lightest and darkest values.  So taking the scales pictured here what is the most similar lightness and/or darkness to your hair, eyes and skin colours?
If they are 3 or less apart – you are low value contrast:
If they are 3-6 apart – you are medium contrast
If you are more than 6 apart you are high contrast.
So for example: 
Anne Hathaway with her dark hair and eyes and fair  skin has High Value contrast

Rebecca Rojmin with her fair hair, skin and light eyes has Low colour contrast

While Jennifer Anniston with her medium/fair coloured hair, eyes and skin is also a low contrast.


Angelina Jolie – depending on her hair colour at the time, has medium coloured eyes and fair skin, and most of the time darker hair, so is a medium to high value contrast.
Gwen Stefanie with her dark eyes but light hair and skin is also a High Value Contrast.



Whilst Amy Adams, with her medium value hair, and light skin and eyes is a Medium Value Contrast.



So what does this mean as far as clothing goes?  Well, if you have naturally high contrast, you’ll look best in high contrast clothing.  If you have low contrast, you ‘ll look best in lower value contrast in your clothing.  
Value Contrast

Value Contrast – by imogenl on Polyvore.com

The pic here is in neutral colours, but works for any combination of colours and also patterns.

Quite often I find that some of the clothes that my clients have that they rarely or never wear, is either too high or low contrast for their colouring, so they never feel comfortable or think they look great in it.

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39 Comments

  • I think this makes a lot of sense! It’s probably why I look washed out if I wear pastels or black.

    I think I’m a medium. I have blue/grey eyes, fair skin, and brown hair.

    So, if I’m medium-contrast, does that mean I should wear items that are medium contrast with ME? Or should it have medium contrast with all the clothes I’m wearing?

  • Mrs Makeover – medium contrast to each other, so a light colour with a medium colour, or a medium colour with a dark colour, or a light, medium and dark colour all together.

  • I just love your blog posts on color. It´s so interesting and I really want to know more, so I have to keep asking questions. 🙂 Please forgive me for taking up your time.

    Does one combine the value contrast with the color contrast when picking the outfit? Or is the value contrast something you use only for the neutrals? Is it enough to just use the color contrast?(I´m analogous and high-medium contras but a rectangle/apple shape and don´t really like light colors on myself.)

  • Fascinating! I am high contrast, I think, and gravitate towards outfits with lots of contrast … but never knew why they worked.

  • That’s fascinating. I had my colours done last year and I should be wearing pastels and light colours because I’m a summer (would that make it low contrast cause I’m a blonde with fair skin? According to your chart, that is higher contrast?
    I’ll have to keep reading your blog to figure this out.

  • Livet – no it’s not just neutrals, but colours too – just light and dark colours. You don’t have to wear a light colour – you can always put on a piece of jewellery or a scarf in a light/bright colour to create your contrast.

  • Jane – I think you have brown eyes? If so then you’re high value contrast, so add some zing with a small amount of a light or bright colour when you’re wearing dark colours.

    Sal – yes I’d call you high contrast which is probably why you often wear a bright colour with a neutral.

  • Color me Happy – What colour are your eyes? Your hair and skin are lower contrast, but if you have dark eyes then you might add some touches of contrast to work with them.

  • This is so interesting! I have struggled to understand these terms before, but your explanations and examples are very helpful. I am taking notes and am motivated to start a style journal.

    With my vivid red hair, green eyes, and fairish skin I think I am probably high contrast? I do enjoy wearing jewel tones somewhere in my combinations as that always seems to balance my hair color. This post would explain why I never really felt comfortable when people tried to put me in earth tones.

    Thanks so much for all your wonderful advice.
    Mary Lou

  • marmielu – thanks for the feedback and I’m glad it’s starting to make sense to you (it’s not the easiest concept to grasp!).

    You have a high Colour contrast and a medium Value contrast – so the jewel tones will work great with either a light or dark neutral.

  • It’s all starting to sink in. You really have a calling for this. I mean you’ve blown trinny and susannah OUT OF THE WATER! I am just now realizing it is so much more than “I am pear shaped with winter coloring.” Is this all in your book? or will you be writing a new one!

  • Tessa – Thanks SO much – I really appreciate your comments – any book publishers or tv producers want to get in touch?

  • I am more sure than ever that I need to hire you to shop with me when you come to LA. I have no idea what I am doing.

  • Belette – happy to oblige – these are some of the more advanced concepts (as Tessa points out) in image – have a look at the two links I put for Karen and you might start to see what I mean!

  • Belette – I meant to add that you are medium to high contrast (value) as well as for colour. Probably why you like black and white together and splashes of red.

  • This is really helpful. I noticed myself instinctively favoring some tops with my level of contrast today at a store…after I read this post last night I understood my preference better.

  • This confuses me a little bit… I have dark brown eyes and hair, and fair skin. That mean high value contrast and low colour contrast. How do I use that with clothing ? Does it meas I should always wear a light and a dark piece in the same colour ?

  • Hi, very interesting. Seeing these low contrast blond womans from the pictures. I notice that they all have dark eyebrows. To my point of view this adds them much contrast. I am strawberry blond with strawberry blond eyebrows. I must be a superlow one! My contrast is so low that it can ever revert. In winter, as I get whiter, my hair is darker than my face, and during summer I can reach a point where my hair is lighter than my skin. Do you have color and contrast suggestions? Thanks!

  • This has been very helpful. There is a B/W picture of me when I was three my sister had dressed me in black and white. My face is a shade darker than my white blouse but my hair is black and my eyes appear black. Two years later, white blouse, black jumper, my face is still 1 shade lighter than my blouse, my hair is one shade lighter than the black jumper and yet my eyes are about the shade of my hair. By the way they are either green, gray or blue with a jagged brown star around the pupils. They are not muddy but clear. As I get more sun in newer pictures, my hair takes on an auburn cast but my roots stay dark ash, I do not have white white skin but compared to Angelina I am definelty lighter skinned but not as white as Megan Fox without a tan. Too bad, I always wanted to be Snow White 🙂 Therefore I would say I have high to medium conrast. I’m Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, French, Native American and Ecuadorian.

  • This was somewhat addressed already, but I looking for further explanation. I have hair and skin #9, eyebrows #7, Dk green eyes #4. I am medium contrast, analogous coloring. If I wear clothing that is more than 6 shades darker than my skin isn’t that creating high contrast just by wearing it? I am uncomfortable wearing dark skirts with my white legs. That much contrast seems to draw my eye to my white legs, away from my face. PS. I love your posts!!!

  • Hi Imogen – love love love your blog. Happy Mother’s Day! I know this post is old, but I’m just now trying to figure out my contrast. I think I’m getting it, but a couple of examples of Asians/Filipinos would be helpful. Can I e-mail a pic to you? I think I’m a medium/high contrast. Dark brown/black hair, medium(?) skin (definitely wouldn’t say fair but I’m not totally tan either), dark brown eyes. I would say similar to Lucy Liu if that helps at all, except maybe a tinge more tanned (she seems to have a little more pink to her skin than I do).

    • Lucy Liu is high value contrast (many Asians think their skin is much darker than it is). Or you may be medium high if you are more tanned.

  • Hello\; \\\\i have platinum blond hair (grey) grey green eyes, I wear Elizabeth Areden in their lightest shade. I feel most comfortable wearing low contrast clothing. Am I correct. Taupe, charcoal, dark blue green blue purple. black and white. Help thanks

  • Hi Imogen!–
    FYI, the photos aren’t showing now.
    I have pale skin and medium-dark brown hair naturally (but it’s now henna-ed,) with green eyes, so sounds like I’m high contrast. As I age (I’m now 53,) if I go lighter with my hair (as you did) I could end up medium contrast, I guess. I sent you some photos. Thanks!!!

  • I have noticed when wearing white pants the contrast always seems to be higher on me when wearing a top of medium value. I have white hair and my value contrast is medium/low. Can I consider white as a neutral the same as a light/medium grey and wear medium value tops or bottoms with it, or do I need to wear only the lighter values with white?

    • White is the lightest neutral – and so ideally if you have medium low value you’d wear it with a light value top rather than a medium one.

  • Hi I’m truly enjoying your blog. The question I have is , when your hair goes gray and you age does this change your contrast and value? For I used to be dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin, now I’m steel grey, lighter eyes and pale skin. . Been draped years ago as a dark winter, now I feel those are the wrong colours for me. Thank you so much for your help

    • Yes they do change completely! I used to have very dark hair – and am now mostly grey (but dye my hair blonde). My value contrast has lowered to medium from high, and my colours have lightened and are softening (and my skin is changing too). Yes, you’d need to reassess your colours as your colouring has changed.

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