How to Find Your Ultimate Colour Contrast – Your Three Step Process

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Following on from my post on colour and value contrast this post on ultimate colour contrast is my simple guide to finding your ideal contrast levels. For each step write down the option that suits you for both colour and value.

1. What is your hair colour?

Colour Contrast

Colour –   strawberry blonde, golden blonde, copper, red, violet, blue etc.

Ultimate Colour Contrast

Neutral – platinum blonde, ash blonde, grey, silver, white, light or dark brown, black

Ultimate Colour Contrast

What is your Hair Colour Contrast?

Choose from one of the following:
COLOUR / NEUTRAL

Value Contrast

What is its value?

Use the grey scale to compare.

Hair colour

You may wish to copy this grey scale and print it out so you can compare it to you in a mirror.

value contrast tool

What is your Hair Value Contrast?

Choose from one of the following:
LIGHT / MEDIUM LIGHT / MEDIUM / MEDIUM DARK / DARK

2. What is your skin colour?

Colour Contrast

Colour – golden, pinkish (florid), bronze

Neutral – beige (from light to medium), white, deep brown, darkest black

coloured darker skins
coloured skin caucasian

What is your Skin Colour Contrast?

Choose from one of the following:
COLOUR / NEUTRAL

Value Contrast

What is its value? You can see I’ve created a value scale to compare your depth to.

Use the grey scale again to compare.

skin value
value contrast tool

What is your Skin Value Contrast?

                                           Choose from one of the following:
VERY FAIR / FAIR / MEDIUM / MEDIUM DARK / DARK / VERY DARK

3. What is your eye colour?

Colour Contrast

Colour – blue, violet, green, blue/green, olive, bronze – a few examples below

coloured eyes

Neutral – grey, brown, brown/black – a few examples below

neutral eyes

What is your Eye Colour Contrast?

Choose from one of the following:
COLOUR / NEUTRAL

Value Contrast

What are their value? Use the grey scale to compare then choose one of the following options:

Light/Medium Light/Medium/Medium deep/Deep

value contrast tool

What is your Eye Value Contrast?

Choose from one of the following:
LIGHT / MEDIUM LIGHT / MEDIUM / MEDIUM DEEP / DEEP

Putting it all together

Colour Contrast:

  1. Eyes – colour/neutral
  2. Hair – colour/neutral
  3. Skin – colour/neutral

3 neutrals – low colour contrast – best in monochromatic outfits or all neutrals

1 colour, 2 neutrals – low to medium colour contrast – best in neutals plus a colour

2 colours , 1 neutral – medium to medium high contrast – must wear some colour with their neutrals

3 colours – high colour contrast – best in multicoloured outfits

Value Contrast:

3 numbers similar in value – low contrast – best in all light, all medium or all dark colours

2 elements separated by half the grey scale – medium contrast – best in light and medium, or medium and dark, but if you want to do light and dark you MUST put a medium colour on too

2 elements separated by most of the grey scale – high contrast – best in dark and light together

 

 

Now this is what I call your natural contrast level.  But you may choose to wear contrast levels that differ from this based on your personality.

 

To see example of putting together outfits that work with different value and colour contrast levels check out this post.  Before you go, what is the most important sort of contrast for you?

Finally

Now which is more important for you?  The question to ask yourself is what do I see first?  Do I notice a coloured element or elements of my appearance, such as red hair, blue eyes, golden skin, or do I notice a the difference between my hair and skin or eyes and skin colour (the value contrast element)?  Some will find they are equally important.

colour and value contrast

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I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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74 Comments

  • Thanks, Imogen. After your other post I worked out I was Medium Value Contrast, but, couldn’t decide between Medium High Colour Contrast & High Colour Contrast! Now I think I am High Colour Contrast as I have noticeable hair (strawberry Blondish & medium deep green eyes with neutral, I think, skin. My skin is freckled, though , but with the warm freckles, can this still be neutral?

      • Hi, Imogen….have just seen a Xmas photo of myself, &, I can see , even with makeup, my freckles still show. my legs, arms & face have the “pattern” of freckles. Now I think I must be Medium Value Contrast with Medium to Medium High Colour Contrast?

  • Great article! I like your new way of linking related parts together. Really helpful!
    My only question (on this topic) now is when grey, grey green / grey blue eyes go from colored to neutral? Is it when I immediately think of a color or do I have to check for the eyes to be purely grey?
    Thank you for this blog, by fining it, you’ve unravelled many long term style mysteries for me, and even tought me loads of new stuff. It truly is inspirational to me!

      • Thank you! This is a super-important question for me, too. Mine are blue-green and often look grey, grey, grey. But sometimes they turn sapphire in the sunlight. So I would guess that if they are more grey than blue or green, this would not be possible. I decided to claim them as a color in that case.

  • Thanks Imogen for creating this step by step guide, which pulls everything together from your previous posts and makes it much easier and clearer to work out your colour and value contrast. Much appreciated.

  • Imogen – Thanks for this great post. It’s so much clearer now. I think I am best in neutrals plus one color, and low to medium value contrast. I’m finding this information about contrast is the key to why I’ve always felt out of balance. When I get the contrast right, I feel elegant and balanced. Thank you for putting this together and for all the work you do!

  • I’ve figured out my value contrast which is medium (my skin is the 2nd lightest shade and my eyes and hair is on the middle shades on the grey list) and I do know I prefer to wear triads and more muted complementary color and all neutral wash me out, but can makeup change your color contrast if you wearing almost anywhere/time likr blush or bronzers?

    My hair switch between a brassy dark blonde to a more medium mousy color so hair color wise, I think my hair debating for either side. and because Im so pale I always use a golden bronzer or a light plummy blush to add some color, plus Ive a slight reddish area in my t-zone, but Im not sure if thats considered being “colored”. I often hide it with concealer. Over/Undertone is something I m struggling with figure out, I only know that skin is a warm pink because when consider nude colored clothes/shoes a peachy-pink color blends with my skin (not yellow-beige nor rose-beige): (the pic below, Im just wearing concealer, blush and eye makeup. Very pigmented Lips natural and other than under eyes and around the nose, Im just wearing concealerl):
    https://scontent-b-fra.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfp1/v/t1.0-9/10552541_263095843899037_1174631396714767823_n.jpg?oh=22ea07546149ff5777eb485bbdbb8712&oe=5503BA95
    Am I high or medium color contrast?

  • my hair is a medium/dark neutral and I have no idea what that means in relation to what you guys are talking about – contrast? value? no idea I am afraid!

  • Wow, this is amazingly informative. Thanks Imogen in all our names!

    I can see now that I have medium-high value contrast (which I’ve known for a while) and my hair and skin are neutral with blue/green/grey coloured eyes, ie I need neutrals plus a colour. Guessing that if I put blusher on or if I wear my purple framed glasses I then need two colours?

    And there is always the question of does one create contrast with neutrals first before adding a colour (black and white plus a colour) or one neutral plus a colour creates the contrast (black and light turquoise or white and dark purple)?

    One final query if I may: silver and gold (ie jewellery) – counts as colour or neutral?

    • Blusher doesn’t make your face ‘coloured’ just healthy, that is, unless you don’t put it all over your face so you look pink all over! If you have purple glasses you would only want to add one other colour. You can create contrast with your colours or neutrals, there is no rule. Silver is more neutral because it is like grey, and gold is neutral on a very warm skin, but will look yellow and therefore coloured on a cool skin

      • oh thanks!

        I shall now take care to wear two colours when I’m wearing my glasses, and just one colour when I’m in contact lenses. just going through my old photos to see where i got things right or wrong and it often jumps at you, it’s intriguing!

        this is all so fascinating and makes a lot of sense, you should have a TV show Trinny and Susannah style with all this invaluable information and if you lived in the UK or the US, those image conscious celebrities should go for your style advice rather than turning up in clothes that often do not suit them at all.

        I often create contrast with silver jewellery esp as I have a lot of black garments. and gold actually looks rather trashy on me, anyone who maybe wanted to marry me one day will have to invest in platinum wedding band, as I’m really unhappy wearing gold!

  • I love this, thanks! I kept comparing my hair color and thinking “I had no idea my hair was THAT dark!” until I finally realized the grey scale and hair color scale are opposite each other (while the skin color ones are the same.) Made much more sense after I figured that out. Looking forward to reading more.

  • Thanks for these last two posts. They have helped me understand how to use a color analysis I had done recently, and I am very grateful.

  • Thanks so much for this Imogen; I’m starting to get a feel for this now. Can you help me with the value contrast for eyes (slide 3).

    At the end of the slide you ask us to find the value contrast using the grey scale to compare – but I’m not sure what I’m comparing that grey scale to??

    If it helps, my eyes are the first colour you’ve shown – the blue with brown around the iris…

    Looking forward to piecing all this together!

  • This is pure gold!

    Does anyone know anyone in Australian TV that could put in a awesome word for Imogen? This would benefit so many women & men.

    I think I have a pretty good idea of the best combinations of colours, but have been off on my value contrast a lot sometimes. And when I look back on photos that I do look my best, I don’t know why.

    Imogen & ladies can anyone help me? I have 2 questions.

    Is navy considered a colour or neutral? I have blue/grey eyes, so I find that very confusing.
    Most people say its a neutral. But if the navy is surrounded by other blues, does that change the perceived colour it is?

    Second my value contrast is a little crazy for me.
    My hair is medium dark, 3rd from right, going to 2nd from right in winter here.
    My skin is fair 9 on the scale & 10 in winter.
    My eyes are medium slate blue, going to medium light depending on what I wear and the time of year.

    The first thing you notice about me is my value contrast. Then my slate blue eyes.

    Thank you Imogen for your great work. When I move back to Sydney from Asia in late 2015, I am coming down to Melbourne to book a consultation with you.

    • Navy is neutral but is also a deep dark blue, so it is more of a ‘coloured’ neutral than a grey (which is the only achromatic neutral). So wearing navy with other blues will appear lower colour contrast, wearing navy with red, pink or orange will create more colour contrast.

      • Hi Imogen,

        Thank you for your reply.
        That totally makes sense with Navy being a coloured neutral & how it changes it’s colour contrast being surrounded by other blues.

        You look absolutely breathtaking in that photo & I can’t even remember you with dark hair.
        The colour combination in your outfit I am going to try & recreate. As Navy is a favourite colour of mine.

        Off to play around in my wardrobe to try High & Medium value contrast outfits.
        One of my friends suggested I try Light, Medium & Dark in my outfits with a colour thrown in.
        I think she may be onto something:)
        I think I should be able to see which one I lean towards more, when I view the photos.

        Have a fabulous holiday & looking forward to seeing lots of photos of your trip.

  • Now I get it! Thank you. This explains why light/dark outfits really don’t work for me, yet I can get away with mixing colors some would never dream of wearing together, as long as they are close in value. It’s because I am high color contrast and low value contrast. Of course. 🙂

  • This seems to confirm that I really need to be wearing more medium to lighter neutrals and colours. Neutral lightish skin, neutral blond hair, green eyes- I was clear spring colouring but with age need softer marled colours now. However, being short and pear shaped I prefer to wear darker bottoms, plus in the UK climate they are more available and practical. What would you suggest as a combination which wouldn’t make me look cut in half or short?

  • This was soooooo helpful! I always wondered why, as a high contrast winter, I hated myself in black and white. But adding the color contrast helps me understand why this combo is harsh on me. Thanks for the brilliant lesson’

  • This is very helpful and I believe it explains why I can’t always get my color analysis colors to work for me. I have not been making enough of a value or color contrast. I’ve learned that I have medium value contrast and medium-high color contrast. I must go out and buy some more colorful clothing and prints!

  • I could have sworn I read this post and it was different. This time I noticed more skin tones and a different explanation. If you did change this post some, I love it. I’ve found my contrast for sure. Thanks Imogen.

  • I don’t know where my skin tone falls.in the color category. I have olive skin, but when standing next to mynsisters (one has lovely ivory skin, the other has a nice pink to her cheeks) I look yellow. It’s Almost a muted tone, but I tan easily, yet I have freckles and odd orange/Cooper hair. I love my features, but I feel sallow often, with bright hair, and hazel eyes that shift between amber and a deep green. So I think Is olive/sallow skin neutral? I feel like it’s muted, but my freckles are very copper in the summer. So confusong 🙁

    • Nevermind. I looked over several pictures and determined that my coloring is a medium/high contrast with a range of copper to olive, to the gd brown and green present in my eyes. However, my value contrast is more medium. Somehow everything blends together in the middle range. I’d never really pieced it all together before.

  • Hi, thanks for your advice. I’m a little confused about my value and colour contrasts. I have medium brown hair colour, hazel eyes (mainly medium colour green with a bit of brown), pale skin. I have watched and read several of your posts and think I have medium value contrast but not sure if I’m low to medium colour contrast based on this post or high colour contrast or high colour contrast based on your video from your post “How To Figure Out Your Contrast.” What are my value and colour contrast please?

  • I can’t help wondering..

    * What happens to my value contrast when light skin, light eyes, medium hair – (naturally) darker eyebrows..?? Since they are defined, not thin or sparse.. When choosing frames for my glasses I always end up with darker-than-medium ones b/c anything and everything else seem unbalanced, but how does this translate to entire outfits?

    • If you have darker eyebrows these are giving you a higher value contrast than your hair/skin/eyes combination. So you will need to work with a higher rather than lower or medium contrast for your clothes.

      • I see.. anything darker on my pale self will automatically raise the contrast level. Makes sense and explains some of my trouble lately. Although.. the problems really began when my eyebrows went from very nearly black to something between charcoal and really dark chocolate. So I need to aim for a higher contrast level than the too washed out medium level I’ve been going for recently – yet lower than when I was younger (soft/greyed black is too harsh now – big change!). It’ll change again, but adjusting outfit contrast level the first time around is probably the most difficult.. I hope! Living and learning.. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Imogene I have to say I am in absolute awe of you. There are a lot of people out there that consider themselves image consultants but you are the consumate pro. I learned so much from this post, I can’t tell you. I am featuring this post on my Friday fun stuff this week. It is invaluable. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

  • Hi Imogen, great post!
    I am quite sure I have high value contrast: my hair is nearly black, my eyes are brown and my skin is fair. I’ve been draped as a Bright Winter. I’m just not sure about the color contrast part: I could be neutral x3. But monochromatic with one color isn’t my best look, I don’t think. So, I was wondering about my skin. I am fair, but my skin is as yellow/olive as they come, with obvious green undertones. You can definitely see a greenish cast to my skin in pictures, and my makeup is the purest yellow they offer. Would I count that as a color?
    Or can I just wear more colors at once because I am a Bright Winter?
    Thank you! 🙂

    • If you feel that your skin is coloured then it is! Someone with bright colouring also wears brightness well. Plus personality always comes into play. Remember these are guidelines not rules

  • My hair and eyes are around 2-3 and are neutrals. My skin is a 7 and a color. My question is – does it matter that the color is on the opposite end of the value contrast from the neutrals? I could imagine a situation with a neutral 2, colored 3, and neutral 7. Does that have different guidelines than a neutral 2, neutral 3, and colored 7?

  • Forgive me for being dense here, but although I have read the other posts on value and colour contrast, I am stuck on step 1, about the value of my hair. You say:

    “What is its value? Use the grey scale to compare

    My hair is (choose one of the following options):

    Light/Medium light/Medium/Medium Dark/Dark”

    Wouldn’t my hair be just one colour and level of dark/lightness in the sense we are looking at it? I am clearly missing something, because I don’t understand what you mean by the options listed. Isn’t it one level on the grayscale rather than two? Any chance you could clarify? I thought from the other posts that value contrast was about the difference in light/darkness between skin, hair and eyes. I’d say my hair is medium darkness, or perhaps a bit more towards the dark end of the scale if I’m looking at your scale, but in real life it seems medium to me.

    • Value means the lightness or darkness of a colour.

      Your hair if it’s one colour, will be one of the options on the grey scale. But if you have highlighted hair it may be more than one.
      your skin will be another
      Your eyes may be another

      It is the difference between these that gives you your value contrast.

  • Oh, I misunderstood the options. Instead of reading them as

    Light OR Medium light OR Medium OR Medium Dark OR Dark

    I read them as

    Light/Medium OR light/Medium/Medium OR Dark/Dark

  • Hi Imogen, Just went through this post again. What a great post!! Have one question though. I have natural hair, coloured skin and eyes, therefore medium to high contrast. I get that. But my hair reads as dark, my eyes medium and my skin fair – all three evenly spaced on the grey scale. What is my value??? I’m cool. I tend to lean towards medium darks (burgundy, navy, french blue, medium lilac) similar values to my hair colour or eye colour, and I wear white sometimes. I tend to avoid pastels. Am I on the right track?

    • Hi Keiran, without seeing you it’s very hard to make an exact diagnosis – but you sound fairly high value contrast. If your hair is darker in colour then your overall value is darker (similar to your hair) and the bulk of your outfit will look better in darker shades mixed with smaller proportions of lighter colours. Which exact ones I couldn’t tell you without doing a personal colour analysis!

  • Hi Imogen,
    I know this is an old post, but wanted to point something out: 1 colour, 2 neutrals – low to medium colour contrast – best in neutals plus a colour. Did you mean “best in neutrals”? I love that you are writing about style from a “technical” perspective. It’s a fresh approach in this world of fashion-model-turned-blogger-promoting-brands. Even though I have worked in the fashion industry, and have started my own blog, I have already learned a lot from just a few of your articles. Best wishes for 2018! Nipa

  • Hi Imogen, I find the hair example confusing in that you have lined up the hair color examples under value contrast with very dark hair starting on the left, aligning with the grayscale visual right below it with the very lightest value also on the left, essentially looking like the darkest hair then has a light value. Is that an error?

  • Hi Imogen,
    This is a very insightful post and the visual aids definitely help me understand this concept better. I tend to be a very visual learner. However, I like my definitions. Can you provide me with some straight up definitions of color contrast, value contrast, and then how they work together. Or could you send me a link to a post with these definitions in them.
    Thanks.

  • Thank you for a very precise lesson on color and value contrast. Congratulations on being such a good teacher on this subject! I’ve been studying under a really well known Image Master and you have made me understand what I was fuzzy on. I really appreciate your approach and laying things out in order to be clear.

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