What’s Your Colour Contrast?


Have you ever thought about colour contrast when dressing?  What is colour contrast you may ask and why does it even matter?
Colour contrast relates to your own natural colouring and creating harmony and balance with you.
For example, if you are monochromatic in colouring – so say have brown eyes and brown hair, you will find that you look great in similar colours (for example see the outfit on the left).  You may even be attracted to wearing a few similar neutrals together and prefer them over wearing colour.
If you are more analogous in your colour – so say have auburn hair and brown eyes, you will look good in a selection of colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel, greens with blues, violets with reds, or  yellows and oranges together. (middle picture)
If you are complementary in your colouring – say red hair and green eyes, or burgundy hair and blue eyes – consider wearing complementary colours together – you can more successfully pull off wearing blue and orange or red together, purple and yellow, or combinations of colours others may run away from as they’re too daring.

Colour Contrast
Colour Contrast – by imogenl on Polyvore.com

On of my issues with Trinny and Susannah – especially in their 2nd book What to Wear book, was that they were always advising people to wear monochromatic colours and avoid black and a colour – because in their experience of dressing themselves it didn’t work.  When I look at their colouring, I see fairly monochromatic to slightly analogous colouring,  in a low contrast (will explain the value contrast in my next post), so this advice worked for them, but was terrible on people who have colouring like I do.

What are your favourite colour combinations?  What are your eye and hair colours?


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  • I have brown hair and green eyes … would that be analogous? I do like greens with blues, reds with pinks, etc. But I do like complimentary colors together too … red-orange with lavender (like a sunset).

  • CB – thanks so much for coming by.

    As brown is a version of orange – you are almost complementary, so can go either analogous or complementary. You may find monochromatic looks rather bland or boring on you.

  • I also have brown (dark) hair and green eyes. I love navy with green. And brown, but i never really make brown work for me. I just can´t figure out what color to add to it. I try chocolate brown and black a lot, but it never looks good. Is it to little contrast? 🙁 Please help. /Laura

  • Livet – thanks so much for commenting and reading.

    Chocolate brown looks great with red, teal, mid-blue and yellow (just a few options).

    I would guess that brown and black together need more contrast for you.

  • Red hair and green eyes. I’m getting braver about doing more color mixing (thanks again for your suggestions!) and am mostly working the analagous-to-complementary territory.

  • I never thought of this. I learn so many things from you. My eyes are hazel/green and my hair is brown with gold highlights. When I was younger, my hair was about your color, maybe just a bit lighter. I love to wear black and white though. I do love monochromatic schemes.

  • Fascinating, as usual, Imogen. I never thought of this before. I have brown hair and brown eyes and always feel most comfortable wearing a monochromatic palette. Every once in awhile, I step out of my comfort zone and add a bright top but those days are few and far between. At least now, I have a better idea as to why I am drawn to a monochromatic palette! Thanks for the insight!

  • That is interesting although I can’t quite work out what I am.
    I have naturally mousy (but now highlighted hair, a sallow complexion and green eyes.

  • Deja – work that colour!

    Julianne – you’re more analogous – so wear monochromatic to analogous schemes

    Kellygirl – thanks so much for commenting and coming by! I appreciate your feedback.

    Jane – you are more analogous in your colouring. Try 2-3 shades around one side of the colour wheel at a time.

  • WoW, as usual you've got the missing piece. Exciting color advice. And makes perfect sense of T & S's goofy insistence on the horrors of black with a color.

  • Sure enough, I’m attracted to combinations of neutrals, and I have a monochromatic look (medium-brown hair and eyes). I always wondered why I seem to gravitate toward this look. Thanks for spelling it out!

  • Fascinating! I have brown hair and brown eyes, but tend to shy away from monochromatic looks. They just bore me. Maybe I should think twice!

  • Help, I'm not sure what I would be. I have medium brown hair & green/brown hazel eyes. Does that make me more monochromatic, or complementary, or do I split the difference & say analogous? Thanks Imogen, for this wonderful blog & all the great advice you give.

  • I am blue eyes with red hair. So, I am analogous? I am not sure what colours, according to this system I am supposed to wear? Is it black with black and then more black? If so, I am already doing a great job.

  • Hi! I am a recent reader of your blog, and am finding it very helpful. This is a great post! Your picture examples are always os helpful. I have very vivid red hair and green eyes, and have lately been playing more with color. I think getting older has made me braver. When I was younger, I never really knew what to do with the red hair.
    Thanks! Mary Lou

  • Seeker – personality can overrule and rule!

    Vildy – thanks so much – and glad you agree.

    Susan – so glad I could help.

    tooblonde1 – more analogous than complementary (yellow and green being next to each other on the colour wheel), unless you’re a strawberry blonde when you’ll then be complementary.

    Karen – Analogous to complementary for your.

    Sal – it’s also about personality!

    Christine – try analogous

    Belette – you make me laugh!

    Mary Lou – thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  • Thing is, Imogen, I have not see my real hair colour since oh, 1980. I am just going to wear black no matter what because red wine does not show on it… and does white count as a colour?

  • Duchesse – I’ve been dying my hair for 20 years – but I still get to see the roots – way more often than I’d like!

    I count black and white as colours – you will relate more to value contrast (which I’ll get to next).

  • My coloring confuses me. My hair is blonde with a gold or yellow tone, my skin has a reddish tone, my eyes are hazel with a gold circle and specks. I feel like an Easter egg in coloring. I feel my own coloring clashes, which makes it very hard to know what to wear.

    • Saje, You are my twin! LOL I hope Imogen answers you. I’d love to read her opinion on our coloring. I’ve never read anything on contrast and I feel this could explain a lot for me, why sometimes things seem to just “work” and others don’t but I’m not sure why.

  • This is super interesting. I’ve never heard of picking clothing color based on hair/eye color. I usually base my clothing color choices on my skin and hair – pale skin, medium brown hair, so I avoid very pale colors (wash me out) and very dark colors (blend in with my hair). In general, I end up in the middle.

  • Just found you thru “Colour me happy” and so glad I did! I have colouring quite like amy adams: that same shade of red hair (but mine’s real!), pale skin with pink cheeks and freckles and blue/gray eyes. Very much an “autumn.”

    I think I’m medium contrast, complementary colouring. But now comes the hard part. Should I not wear a white shirt with dark jeans, then? Or, I can do that, but only if I have, say, a fawn-coloured purse thrown into the mix?

    My favourite colours to wear are charcoal gray, brick reddish orange and bright pink (although, never these 3 at once). I cannot manage jewel tones.

  • S – thanks so much for reading my blog and your kind words!

    If you want to wear a white (for you slightly off white) shirt and dark jeans, put a medium colour in between, it will lessen the contrast and the medium colour will act as a step.

    Did you read the post about contrast and personality? If you have a high energy or bold/dramatic personality, you can wear high value contrast without the step as your personality is one of a ‘rule breaker’ and you can do what you please!

  • i have light brown hair with hazel eyes, what am i? and i like pinkish colors, purpilish colors, and bluish colors

  • As a child I was blond, then I became darker blond with redish highlights (beautiful gold). Grey eyes ( changing!)I find that my color fades away with years(47) and ends up a little dull in winter.I cannot decide wether to get blond highlights or red highlights. I love my color at the end of summer, and also when they are wet. Any idea?…I love wearing tonic lime green with red (dark or primary). Or cardinal silk with white or neutral. white cotton and yellow. clear bluish grey wool with apple green…My worst color is gold yellow. I cannot separate colour from fabric, but to do so is a nice exercice. thanks I want more on colour!

  • Also. How do we find what are our neutrals? Black is so nice when you are very fresh ( in your twenties…)dut I find it doesn’t suit me well since e couple of years and earthy neutrals are dull on me… Sorry for my english, not my first language.

  • I have caribbean blue eyes , fair skin (I don't tan, I burn) and dark brown hair. I believe that is high contrast?

  • Hi,

    I’m so confused with what to wear. Don’t know if I’m warm or cool either. My skin tans easily. When I stand beside my husband, he looks pale and pink compared to me, I’m a little darker and yellow/beige toned. My hair is medium to light mousy brown, my eyes are green. I know that all shades of purples (including light lilac), reds, and deep teal colors look best on me. I look awful in pale orange, but can wear bright coral. Beige is not nice, brown on the other hand is. Pale yellow is not nice, although if a yellow is bold enough, I can carry it off.

    What type am I???

    • L Bern – you sound warm from your description, but there are many variations of warm, lighter, darker, brighter more muted, very warm to only a bit warm. This is why you need a professional colour consultation.

  • I love your blog! I’m having a little trouble though. I have very dark brown hair and very dark brown eyes with pale skin, I believe that means I have a monochromatic to analogous color contrast. But I also have a high value contrast. I’m having a hard time figuring out how to put clothing together that is monochromatic with high value contrast without only wearing black and white.

    • Mariel – absolutely not! You can wear shades of a colour together – such as light blue and dark blue, light pink and burgundy, or wear a light colour with a dark neutral such as light green and charcoal. Does this make sense?

  • Good lord, more brilliant information. So this is why, at least partly, “colour” frustrates the crap out of me! med-dark brown hair, hazel eyes probably the same value as my hair, fairly fair skin, which I believe is also a little bit cool, despite the hazel eyes. The hair is ashy brown, with some natural highlights. Monochromatic! With med to med-high contrast between skin and hair/eyes. I do prefer neutrals to colour and find colour really difficult to wear. I had two colour consultations with differing results using differing systems, I confess, it is the thing I find the most utterly confusing. And yet I feel as if I have to wear it. Perhaps I don’t. Just more browns! Yes! Brown, brown, take me to your browns section. The excitement.

    • Kate – it sounds to me like you’re what I’d call Enigmatic – which is on the just warm side of cool (so warm, but many people look almost cool). Your colours will be smoky (that’s why you find colour hard) and you will want to wear them with your high contrast. None of the seasonal colour systems have this as a group – probably why they found you difficult. Brown is not your only option! There are many colours that will work for you.

  • Thank you, yes I started to wonder last night if perhaps just warm rather than just cool was more accurate. I have been analysed as both cool and warm, so it gets confusing. The “just a bit” category is really helpful. Because it works! Like everything on your blog, it’s grounded in reality. Lovely stuff.

  • I have green eyes (blue with gold chunks), pale slightly warm skin and medium brown hair with coppery highlights (coloured to cover grey but close to its natural colour). I’ve been working through my wardrobe and trying things I don’t wear to see if they should get donated. Today’s planned outfit was black trousers, black/brown/tan animal print blouse and a tan cardigan. It was really off on me (though lovely on the hanger) and that blouse and another similar one are now gone. I switched into dark brown trousers, print tee including brown, orange and coral pink and a coral pink cardigan and I look alive and feel like me.

  • Wonderful information to know! Thank you so much. I have highlighted ash blonde hair, some reddish tones in my fair/medium skin, and dark blue/gray eyes. Would appreciate any advice you can give me!

  • I find color studies fascinating: fashion, psychological, the “season” system, all of it. I have been categorized as an Autumn and have always naturally gravitated to the softer of those colors. I have fair/medium skin, very blue eyes that can appear from grey to bright blue to almost violet depending on what color I’m wearing on top. My hair was pale blonde as a small child, then warm golden, then warm light brown to mousy. Now it’s turned mostly grey, which I feel adds interest, but I find I’m wearing less brown. I wear and like the way I look and feel in chambray blue and charcoal, although they are not listed in the standard Autumn palette.
    I’m most happy in medium to darkish neutrals. Favorite combinations are: rich camel/heathered grey, camel/charcoal, black/tan. When I wear color, it’s usually blues in the soft turqoise to deep teal arc or green in the saturated sage to medium olive arc. Some maroons or purple, but usually what I call “chewed grape gum” – a very greyed-down med lavender. Not comfortable in light, primary or even secondary colors, but tertiary and beyond, usually heathered, faded, or what I call murky (heathered with black fibers instead of white). If I am feeling “up to it” I may wear a heathered lavender pullover with butter yellow shirt collar peeking out, or heathered peach w/chambray collar. I enjoy your posts so much.

    • White is a neutral
      Skin beige? Then neutral
      Blue eyes – colour

      So that would be neutral plus a colour – colour contrast
      and white/beige are light colours and blue eyes? How dark are they? I would assume low/medium value contrast.

  • Thank you!!! I have been so frustrated trying to shop for clothes that I’ve almost completely given up! I have platinum blonde (turning slightly silver),fair complexion but has some redness to it and I have blue eyes – pretty bright colored. Please help!!! All the sales and I’m afraid to shop. – arghhhhh

  • Oh this was so interesting to read! I dont know what I would fall under, I got middle/darkblonde hair with golden tones and greenish -greyblue eyes (hard to tell what colour they are). I got fair skin with a cool undertone… Lovely webpage, this is 🙂

  • I have a warmer toned medium blonde hair color, light skin with blue undertone, and medium-dark blue-grey eyes. With the blue /blonde combination I think this would be complementary in colors right? With my cool skin and eye coloring, what would be some complementary color combinations? Orange, gold, corals all look horrible on me!

  • Where do grey eyes sit on the colour wheel, are they neutral? I have ash brown hair, neutral skin (slightly yellow) and grey eyes (slight green tinge – think alien colouring). Not sure whether I should be going for monochromatic or something else?

    • Grey eyes always have some colour to them -as you said yours are a green-grey – you will probably find that some greens make them look greener (sounds like they are a warm green), so depending what you’re wearing you may be better with more monochromatic outfits or just one colour with your neutrals.

      • Thanks so much, I’ve just found your blog and am loving it. It’s the first time I’ve actually got why I can’t do too many colours at one time (looks overpowering on me).

  • Sorry, my computer and I had a disagreement, so my previous post is mostly unintelligible. My eyes are different colors. Left is mostly blue with some green, right is mostly green with a lot of blue and gold in it. Hair is light to medium brown. Not sure what this does to my color contrast or how to play up the colors in my eyes… They either go wildly divergent or settle on a green blue.

    • Your different coloured eyes mean that you are high colour contrast so look best when wearing multiple colours together (steer away from all neutrals!).

  • Very interesting! I have pale, cool olive-ish skin, almost black hair, and light/medium brown eyes….Is tend to stick with black and other dark colors…Is this correct?

    • If your hair is almost black then your overall value is dark so wearing more dark colours works, and you sound like you’ve got more monochromatic colour contrast. But remember that this is one aspect and you also need to consider your value contrast too.

  • Thank you so much for all this info. I’ve been struggling with figuring out colour and style for all my 50 years. Contrast sounds like the key for me to understand!! . My hair is medium golden brown( crazy curls) . My eyes are odd. Small and close set but change colour from rich golden brown (almost red) when I’m active to a green grey when I’m calm. My skin is pale but with very light orange blotches. With Base I look really pale but without I’m blotchy. I’m always told im an autumn but I look orange and scary in too much autumn colour. Cant do very soft colours. On dressing your truth I’m a spring/winter. . I don’t know if I can wear bright and dramatic though . ( although it is my personality) . Please please help me figure it out!!

  • I have a beige blonde (between ash and golden blonde) hair, blue/green/gray eyes with a yellow ring and beige skin. Still trying to figure out whether 1 neutral + 2 colors or 2 neutrals + 1 color would be more suitable for me.

  • I just can’t seem to figure out where my colours belong. I have dark to medium brown hair with tones of brass in the higligts, my skin is really pale with a clear yellow undertone and lots of light brown freckles. My eyes are generally just dark, and they kinda change colour after what I’m wearing and after a closer look I see dark grey green, pale bluegreygreen, olive-green, orange brown and slate blue in them.
    Do you have any suggestions on where I’m at. I do have strong contrasts but winter is to cold and clear for me, true autumn seem to varm and demanding (at least some of the colours) spring and summer is to light and delicate and they don’t have dark enough colours. Confused…

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