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.
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?
2. Colour Contrast
Here are examples of the varying colour contrasts.
Low colour contrast: Monochromatic – which means wearing one colour at a time, or neutrals plus one colour up to analogous colour contrast
Medium colour contrast: Analogous to 2/3 Triadic – wearing colours that are adjacent on the colour wheel to those that form 2 parts of an equidistant triangle
High colour contrast: Triadic to Complementary – wearing multiple colours at the same time from triads to complementary (opposite on the colour wheel to each other)
All the examples pictured here are a low value contrast, but vary in their colour contrast. Next onto mixing value with colour contrast!
3. Mixing Colour and Value Contrast
Here is where people often wonder about how to mix their colour and their value contrast together. Here all the tops are light, but the scarf colours change in contrast, as does the value of the bottom piece (pants or skirt) to create the different value contrasts.
Notice how the neutrals change from being lighter (low contrast) to dark (high contrast with the light coloured top/jacket), but the colour contrast also changes from low to high.
The easiest way to work with value contrast is to work it with neutrals, and mix colours for the colour contrast, that way you won’t clash the colours.
4. Medium Value Colours
So when you wear a medium value colour, such as this one pictured. You can make a low to medium value contrast but not a high value contrast, as the medium colour is only one step away from light and deep values.
You can see that this is a low colour contrast – they are all blue (monochromatic) but vary in their value contrast.
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.
5. Low Value Contrast
This blue top, jacket and jeans outfit is a low value contrast, starting with medium value colour, but the colour contrast varies from low to high and so you can see the effect of how it changes the appearance of the outfit.
6. Playing with Contrast
You can play with contrast levels, both value and colour contrast and see which you think looks the best on you. Try using scarves or accessories to do this.
Remember that simultaneous contrast will change the way a colour looks – you can make it look brighter or duller, depending on what you put next to it.
7. Contrast and Patterns
The easiest way to work with contrast can be to find patterns with the right contrast levels for you, both value contrast and colour contrast.
You can see that you can find prints with all different contrast levels, both colour and value. If you have a print you don’t wear, look at the contrast levels and compare them to your contrast – maybe there is a disconnect at the contrast level, whether it’s colour or value.
Discover Your Contrast
Not sure of your contrast? Then go through my 3 Step Process to discover your contrast. If you’d like my professional opinion (plus a personal colour analysis) then why not try my 7 Steps to Style program that includes this plus so much more (body shape, wardrobing, how your personality influences your style choices, your style values).
Excellent post! Really dinned it in. Thank you!
Thank you so much for this post. So helpful! I’m starting to really understand contrast now. Excited to put better outfits together!
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.
Cripes, so informative. Thank you, Imogen! You’re my internet Santa!
I AGREE …HUNDRED TIMES!
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!
Great that you are figuring out what works for you and seeing it!
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.
Yes it’s a great one – and I show it to my clients all the time!
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?
Uh, darkblue and darkred are triadic, not complementary. Opps! soft yellow with deep purple would be that kind of complentary combination I prefer.
Yes you can use accessories to up the value or colour contrast level of the outfit. It doesn’t have to be a lot to create the contrast.
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.
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.
now I got it – it’s all from the top in the centre!
Looking forward to reading the post on Monday.
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!
Marion, as long as your bottom half is DARKER than your top, then it’s more receding.
Have a look at this post Marion https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2014/03/using-simultaneous-contrast-to-change-the-way-a-colour-looks.html
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 !! 🙂
You can wear a top or jacket in colour, or just a scarf or necklace in colour, to add that colour to your outfit. You could wear your coloumn and add the colour in accessories. There are tips here https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2014/10/how-to-wear-a-column-of-colour-for-your-body-shape.html https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2011/08/how-to-look-taller.html https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2009/11/more-ways-to-create-a-column-of-colour-to-lengthen-and-slim.html
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.
Absolutely Julia I do individual colour analysis! Either in person http://www.bespokeimage.com.au/personal-stylist-women-melbourne/colour-analysis/ or as part of my 7 Steps to Style program https://insideoutstyleblog.com/7-steps-to-style-system – which also gives you so much more!
I know this is an old post, but it just helped me find my contrast level!! That’s always been a challenge for me to nail down, but your guide really helped. I was wondering if there are any famous or celebrity people who are medium high contrast (using lighter, not darker colors)? I feel like this is a less common type. Especially in my case because I am a spring type
How about Michelle Williams? Just google celebrities with XXX hair and XXX eyes (whatever describes yours) and find one with the most similar colouring
Thank you so very much! That is a perfect example! I want to turn my sister onto your system as well because I think she could really benefit from this blog. She is rather similar to me as she’s a spring with medium dark eyes and hair, but she’s more tan so her skin is light medium. Are there any examples of celebrities like that which I can offer her too? She’s really been struggling with makeup because black & dark browns are too harsh on her so she feels like she can’t successfully wear any makeup looks. I think an example of someone with her unique type of medium contrast (a spring with light medium & medium dark features) would help her significantly. Thanks again for your help with this! So excited to share this new information!