Are You Colour Contrast or Value Contrast Dominant


Contrast is a hot topic amongst my 7 Steps to Style and Evolve Your Style program members, because once you see its impact, you can’t go back to ignoring it.  It’s an important part of any personal colour analysis – discovering how to wear your ideal colours (not just what they are).

Colour contrast =  (how many colours you have naturally occuring in your colouring and how different they are from each other – read up about it here – and discover your colour contrast here) is a topic that comes up again and again with my 7 Steps to Style members as the more people see it, the more they realise its importance.

Value contrast = (the difference between light and dark in an outfit or garment and that difference in your own colouring – hair, eyes, skin) is what many think of when they say “contrast”, but it’s just one of the two kinds of contrast.

And recently there have been comments asking about how to define if you are colour or value contrast dominant, so I thought I’d answer that question here.

Firstly – what is dominance – well it’s what we see first.  What we notice first about your colouring.   For some it’s value, for some it’s colour and for some of us, neither are particularly dominant – in fact they are equal in importance.

Are You Colour Contrast or Value Contrast Dominant? Discover why this is so important when putting together outfits.Colour Contrast Dominance

If someone is colour contrast dominant – the first thing you will notice about their colouring – well is colour!  You will see colour in their features, from eye colour, to hair colour and even skin colour (a pinkish or golden skin can create an extra level of colour in features).

Colour Contrast Dominant - means you need to wear multiple colours at once

What to Wear – Colour Contrast Dominant

They will look their best when wearing colour – and often multiple colours that are in harmony with their own colouring.  Avoid wearing just neutrals as it will look bland.  High colour contrast works well with multiple colour patterns too.

Value Contrast Dominance

If someone is value contrast dominant – the first thing you will notice about their colours is their value.  They will most likely be high contrast (light and dark features) or they will be low contrast (very similar value) but they are less likely to be medium value contrast.   You will generally notice the difference in value, or that they have very neutral colouring (rather than any sort of obvious skin, hair or eye colour)

Value contrast Dominance - we notice the light and dark, but features are more neutral


What to Wear Value Contrast Dominant

The value contrast dominant will look best when wearing the value that best harmonises with their own – either high contrast or low contrast.  They ususally look better with fewer colours – more monochromatic outfits, rather than multiple colours at the same time.  Avoid multiple colour outfits (unless you have a dramatic or creative personality).

Equal Colour and Value Contrast Dominance

Then there are those who sit in the middle between the two.  With one coloured featured and the remaining two more neutral, and most frequently a medium value (though not always).

Equal colour and value contrast dominance - needs to wear colour and the correct value contrast levels

What to Wear Equal Colour and Value Contrast

They need some colour, but also only a medium or medium low value contrast to look their best unless they are an obviously coloured skin (such as bottom left) but still high value contrast.  They can look dull in a complete monochromatic outfit.  They are ideal in  neutral plus a colour (or two colours, but not lots of colours at the same time).

Remember, no matter your natural contrast levels, that personality may trump guidelines.

You can see how I use contrast in these 9 Real Life Examples of Dressing to Your 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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  • Great stuff! This really helps to understand how to put colours together. Can you also do something on the link between colour and personality, eg how dramatic personalities with lowish colour and/or value contrast should use colour (thinking being that muted blended colours don’t look particularly dramatic?) and vice versa?

  • Dear Imogen,

    having been following your blog for quite a while now, I finally have to comment and say thank you:
    Thank you for your detailled and valuable insight in how fashion can work for our bodies, thank you for breaking it down so I can understand it, too, and most of all, thank you for alway stressing that personality trumps style rules.
    I only recently understood why a lot of looks and combinations that *should* work for me, according to body shape, colour and proportion rules, didn´t feel right at all. It just wasn´t me, it doesn´t fit my personality.
    Still, I find it necessary to know about these rules so I can choose which I follow and which I break. Your articles are a tremendoes help in finding my way.
    Learning about contrast added another piece in my style puzzle and explains why I feel more at home in neutral plus a colour that are pretty similar in value.

    Thanks again!


  • This aspect of dressing for my colouring has made the biggest impact. I spent a long time poring over Imogen’s posts on colour and value and analysing photos. I changed my dress formula to two neutrals + colour and have never been happier. I feel amazing now when I am dressed. I’ve had a few compliments from colleagues and family but mostly I just can’t believe the difference it’s made mentally – I feel so much more comfortable and whole. Thank you so much Imogen for your advice.

  • I wonder if this is why I have so much trouble with nude lipsticks. I’m highly color dominant with red hair, green eyes, and fair peach-toned skin. My friend with both colored and neutral aspects, but very low contrast looks amazing in nude-for-her lipsticks, but I always feel like the color just drained out of my face when I try nudes.

  • I just love your blog and your explanations. I have had several aha-moments reading your blog. ? Somewhere I read that you should not wear colours that are darker than your darkest feature. What is your opinion about this?

    • Ideally yes, but many of us who are lighter in value may need to wear darker clothes to convey authority at work. If you are overall lighter, rather than go really dark, go a few shades darker than the darkest element of you.

  • I am without a doubt color contrast dominant. I don’t have a very obvious value – my skin is light, but my hair and eyes are just ‘vaguely somewhere in between light and medium’ (which would give me low-medium contrast). It’s not like ‘DARK EYES!” “LIGHT HAIR!” it’s not obvious like that. The actual colours, on the contrary, are rather obvious and contrasting with very golden reddish hair and greenish eyes.

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