7 Important Factors for Working with Contrast


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I’ve been asked to show you some examples of using contrast – what is high medium and low contrast, so here are examples and the 7 essential elements you need to know about using contrast.  You need to understand your personal contrast levels to then choose the clothing/garments and create outfits using a similar contrast so that you are in harmony.

1.  Value Contrast

How the lightness and darkness of the clothes you are wearing together create contrast

Here are 6 outfits, created with a light top and dark (high contrast), medium (medium contrast) and light (low contrast) bottoms.

contrast levels


This is the easiest way to work with value contrast and to mix colours, using your neutral to create the desired contrast level.  It’s very easy to create contrast:

High value contrast – light and dark colours or neutrals together

Medium value contrast – medium and light or medium and dark

Low value contrast – light with light, medium with medium or dark with dark

Simple!  But what about colour contrast?  Let’s look at that next – click over to the next page

Click here to view in your browser if you are reading this in an email to see the rest of the post and the other 6 important factors of contrast

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  • Thank you so much for this post. So helpful! I’m starting to really understand contrast now. Excited to put better outfits together!

  • Hi Imogen,
    This was the most helpful post of yours to do with value & colour contrast ever!
    I feel like I finally am getting closer to understanding this.

    I am medium-high value contrast (medium in spring/summer & high in autumn/winter) with medium colour contrast (analogous to triadic).

    Navy & Grey’s are my neutrals. So need to stock up on Teals, Blue & Green Aquas, Mint, Blue Violets, Pinks & Cool Greens.

    Thank you for a wonderful Post.

  • Thank you Imogen – amazing. great blog. I am medium value contrast (blue-grey eyes & dull blonde hair vs light honey skin). Today I wore a white skirt & dark green singlet top and I knew I was wearing high value contrast. That was fine around the house. When I went out I put on, a mainly white, sleeveless shirt that had a cobalt blue flowered pattern – the flower squiggles to breakup and soften the value contrast (and the green) – and I knew why I did it. Yippee!!! Today I wasn’t worried about the color contrast – perhaps another day for that. Cool!

      • My mind always goes back to the two photos you posted (back in March 2014) of Princess Mary with and without a brown belt. Princess Mary has low color contrast (brown hair and eyes). Princess Mary has high value contrast and I love how she has used this to her advantage by adding a dark brown belt to a light neutral colored dress. You are actually drawn to Princess Mary’s eyes. I love those twin photos.

  • Now it make sense why I cant stand wearing low value contrast and monochromatic outfits, It wash me out and doesnt work with my personal style. I need higher contrast.

    My colorings has medium value constrast and medium color contrast. But when taking personal style into consideration I prefer high value contrast with neutrals but low to medium color contrast or more muted/dark colored high color contrast (complemtary darkred + darkblue). The example outfit with black skirt and lighter triadic colored top+jacket nailed it. With prints I prefer high contrast when wearing a neutral print (black+white) but lower contrast when wearing multiply colored print.

    But can dark colored accessories add a high value contrast?
    Something I noticed with my personal style is that I like adding contrast with accessories both value and color. Like a bright blue jacket with fuschia accessories or black accessories with an otherwise muted/light colored outfit.
    An outfit example: A lightpink top with burgundy skirt/jeans and white or lightgrey cardigan (low color- but medium value contrast i think?), would black accessories make a higher value contrast or does outfit still has a medium value?

  • Hi Imogen – I look similar as the woman in the video with light skin, blonde hair and blue eyes – so I guess I am neutral plus colour and low to medium contrast. How do these things go together? You write about monochromatic and triadic etc – am I monochromatic if I am neutral plus colour?

    Value contrast is clear : I choose from the following:

    Medium value contrast – medium and light or medium and dark

    Low value contrast – light with light, medium with medium or dark with dark

    But how do I bring everything together?

    You write : Low colour contrast: Monochromatic – which means wearing one colour at a time, or neutrals plus one colour up to analogous colour contrast

    Does that mean – that I also have low colour contrast and monochromatic? Which pictures of your post are the right ones for me? (I guess it would be easier if I weren’t a neutral with a colour….)

    All the best

    • Tina – Look at slide no 3 which has pictures of the varying value and colour contrasts.

      So you are low medium in value – so light with light or medium, or medium with medium or dark colours.

      Then you are neutral plus an obvious colour (blue is an obvious colour) so wear neutral plus colour, and up to triadic (medium colour contrast options). You need to wear some colour otherwise you will look dull.

      I’m doing to do a post on this with picture examples.

      • Thanks Imogen,

        so I am low medium in value -that is clear now and I know how to work with that. However, I have problems with this neutral thing and how to bring both together – as I have to keep in mind that I am low medium value and medium colour and then neutral plus colour. Therefore, it would be great if you could do a blog post with picture examples cause I think that it is much easier for me if I see what you mean on pictures.

        To no 4 – you write: “So when you wear a medium value colour, such as this one pictured.” – but there are several garments – do you mean all together bring medium value?
        So, I am looking forward to reading your post – thank you so much Imogen,


        • Tina – I’m doing a post Monday with some real life examples so keep your eyes out for that one!

          Tip no 4: So when you take the medium value blue top in the centre, you can create a low contrast by pairing it with the jacket on the left, a medium contrast with the jacket above or a medium high contrast with either of the two jackets on the right, but one is created with a darker colour, the other a lighter colour.

          • Thanks Imogen,

            now I got it – it’s all from the top in the centre!

            Looking forward to reading the post on Monday.


  • Dear Imogen,

    Does these rules also apply for the Body shapes?
    For Example, an A-Shape who has low contrast levels: Doesn’t ist broaden her hips if she wears lighter neutral bottoms?

    Thank you so much!

  • Love all the help you’re giving with ‘contrast’ … and pulling it altogether!! I’m sure that after we get used to it, it will be 2nd nature, as it likely is with you:) I have an ‘added’ challenge as I’m doing all this … in that I am only 5’2″ and look a ‘bit’ taller when I do the ‘color column dressing’ (which helps a lot in elongating) but with having to vary neutrals, plus a couple of colors, I’m just how to do this. Wear neutral jacket or cardi in med gray and pants in med gray and then a ‘top’ in a ‘color’ … is that IT or do I need to bring in ‘another color ? Right now my wardrobe is almost ‘non existent’ in that I have jeans, in denim and muted brown, and med gray, and dressy pants are that ‘dark’ brown… Jackets/cardigan … well, mainly a soft heather gray, and a fairly dark long brown cardigan .. body skimming … a red waterfall, another red cardi, and a burgundy cotton topper with ruffles … I plan on ‘adding’ after I get my colors .. but for now, other than a ‘few’ tops, which don’t all have a 3rd piece (jacket/cardi) I will be ‘cut in half’ … sure would be easier with this to be TALLER !! Thanks so much for EVERYTHING !! Maybe I should just forget I’m not that tall … funny I don’t think about it much, except for this or if I’m around VERY TALL people !! 🙂

  • Hi Imogen
    This is so easy to follow and makes such sense. I am a bit confused though. How does dressing according to our contrast levels work when we’re mixing colours that are the same value? In other words, if I have high contrast levels, doesn’t that mean that the colours I wear will be light and dark and therefore not the same clarity? I think you said once that you sometimes wear a ‘middle’ colour so there’s not such a big jump between light and dark? I appreciate your help Imogen. Many thanks

    • When mixing colours in the same value, you still want to have the same level of clarity. Light and dark colours can still be the same clarity (intensity or saturation), they are just have more white or black in them, not differing amounts of grey in them. If you want to create a medium contrast and wear light and dark, then go for a middle or medium colour in between. I’m doing some more blog posts to illustrate these concepts so keep your eyes out!

  • I am confused about the Triadic example. It looks to me like the example shows two different shades of blue and a pink jacket. If a Triadic color combination is a triangle with equal sides, shouldn’t one of the colors be a yellowish shade? (I.e. blue-red-yellow or blue-pink-yellowish).

    • Blue and red are two parts of a triad – pink is just ‘light red’. You could go blue and yellow too, or red and yellow, too, as that is the other part of the triad. I generally find that 2 of the 3 triadic colours together is enough. 3 colours at once can be overwhelming for many unless they have a high colour contrast too.

  • Very helpful info, Imogen. I have lighter hair and skin and darker eyes with warm skin tone. I assume I am low contrast. Please let me know which address I can send my picture to for your analysis of my gray/color scale. I learn something useful from each of your informative posts.

    • Dark eyes and light skin/hair give you a higher contrast, thought you want more light than dark, so light with pops of dark, not so much big blocks of light and dark.

  • Deep, Cool, Soft – can you explain the value and colour contrast or just send me to the person in your selection of images. Thanks Imogen.

  • so do you do individual assessments? Gray hair, use to think I was a winter, had a color assessment that said I was a summer. Of course, at 68, I have gray hair, green eyes. Would love to know a final answer on season, (which I do think is summer now) and what my contrast is.

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