Human Contrast

What is human contrast?

Contrast is the term used to describe the juxtaposition of the hue, tone and variable saturation qualities of a person’s skin, hair and eyes.

There is tone, hue and variable saturation contrast across this man’s skin, hair and eyes

Contrast between a person’s skin, hair and eyes is as influential in their colour expression as the colour qualities of their colour characteristics.

Light, low tone contrast
High tone contrast
Dark, low contrast

The seamless balance and harmony of contrast across a person’s colour expression is the result of human nature judiciously combining their parents’ colour characteristic qualities. 

The contrast hierarchy of human colour, texture and proportional contrast between the skin, hair and eyes ensures balance and harmony is centred on the eyes.

The juxtaposition of the dark brown pupil and iris with the whites of the eyes provides maximum contrast. The tone of her brown pupil and hair against her caramel coloured skin creates moderate colour contrast – overall moderate high contrast

Contrast is not considered a quality of the skin, hair and eyes. 

It is, however, a quality of a person’s overall colour expression.

In the colorDNA system, contrast is generally classified and graded from low through moderate to high.

The ambiguous point at which contrast turns from being low to moderate and moderate to high is quite general, considering all the juxtaposed variables.

The overall contrast of this man is moderate, given he has moderate tone contrast and low to moderate variable saturation and hue contrast

The level of a person’s contrast is an abstract classification, but serves as an integral part of their colour expression. 

Human beings are organic and in a constant state of change, which adds further complexity to the animate state of a person’s contrast levels.

The overall contrast of this man is high, given he has high tone contrast, moderate to high hue contrast and low to moderate variable saturation contrast

It is not necessary to gain an exact contrast classification to obtain a person’s colour expression. A general contrast level will serve perfectly well, especially considering the constant change we all go through.

The overall colour contrast of this man is low moderate, considering the tone contrast is primarily on the top of his head and there is low variable saturation and hue contrast

Human tone contrast

The tone contrast (lightness to darkness) between a person’s skin, hair and eyes is the most obvious and common type of contrast across the human population.

The extensive dyed black hair on this man has created a higher level of tone contrast than his natural hair

The contrast of tone between a person’s skin and hair is usually what determines most people’s level of contrast.

If a person has no hair they usually have low contrast, similar to having the same or similar coloured hair as skin.

Without hair this man has low contrast, with a small area of high contrast in his eyes. With hair he has moderate overall tone contrast

The more hair a person has the greater the influence the hair will have, especially if their natural contrast is high through light skin and dark hair. 

The more hair on the face the more contrast is created, especially if it’s dark and circles the face, such as a beard.

The large amount of hair on this man has framed his face and created a high level of contrast

The tone contrast between the eyes and skin do not have a dominating effect on a person’s colour expression, even if the contrast is high. The eyes contrast adds to the overall contrast level, or is seen as a highlight or lowlight feature.

Hue contrast

The hue contrast is determined by the difference in hue between the skin, hair and eyes.

Natural hue contrast can also be in the form of contrasting rosy cheeks, lips, blemishes, freckles and discolouring through illness or lifestyle choices.

The foundation hue of this woman's skin is red orange, with contrasting red cheeks and lips

Most people do not have any significant natural hue contrast.  

Light skinned people have a greater chance of colour characteristics which have hue contrast.

The blue eyes of this woman are a complementary contrast to her yellow orange hair and orange skin foundation

The most common hue contrast is that between a person’s eyes and hair or skin.

This woman has remarkable hue contrast in her colour expression. There is a low contrast of hue between her red orange hair, freckles and eyes, underlying orange skin and red-based lips

A person’s hue contrast can’t be determined properly without first knowing the underlying hue quality of their skin, hair and eyes.  

Accurately determining most people’s underlying hue quality with the naked eye is almost impossible.

The hue contrast on this man is quite significant. He has a general red underlying skin hue, orange-based hair (including the beard) and blue green eyes

The level of hue contrast will be determined by the intensity of the hues, where the juxtaposed colours sit on the colour wheel and the extent of the area on a person’s head taken up by the contrasting colour characteristics.

If the colours are next to each other on the colour wheel the contrast combination will be a low analogous contrast combination.

An example of analogous contrast is orange-based skin and eye pigmentation, with yellow orange-based hair.

There is a natural low, analogous hue contrast of this woman’s colour characteristics. Her underlying skin hue is orange, freckles and hair are the yellow side of orange and the underlying hue of her eyes is the orange side of yellow

Nature also has an amazing way of creating human colour characteristic harmony, even when the colours are very different.  

The colours will generally harmonise through a similar level of tone and variable saturation.

Quite often the opposing colours are complementary - opposite each other on the colour wheel – creating beautiful balance and harmony.

Natural complementary contrast is present with this woman’s blue-based eyes and orange-based hair

The natural aging process and loss of pigmentation in the hair creates a natural hue contrast – given white hair does not have a hue.

This woman’s white/grey hair creates a hue contrast between her skin, facial features and hair

Sunburn can also create a temporary natural hue contrast.

Superficial hue contrast between the hair, skin and eyes is easy to achieve, but can be difficult to make appear natural.

The contrasting yellow-based hair is a superficial colour and different to the underlying orange hue of her skin

Variable saturation contrast

Variable saturation contrast does exist between colour characteristics on some people.  

Most people have low contrast variable saturation, which naturally occurs across the skin, hair and eyes.

An example of variable saturation contrast is when a person’s hair is a solid pure colour and their skin has an uneven, possibly dull, look due to acne, blemishes or scars.

The scarring on this man’s face has left a variable saturation contrast between his skin, hair and eyes

Usually, the contrast is low to moderate and in some extreme cases it may be high.

Individual characteristic contrast

Contrast within individual colour characteristics is quite common. 

An example of this is the contrast of tone, hue and variable saturation within a person’s eyes.

These eyes have contrast within the light medium tone, grey olive hue and variable saturation

Variable saturation contrast, within a person’s skin is normal, and can include any range of facial variables such as blemishes, discolouration and freckles.

The natural variation of tone, hue and variable saturation within hair is also quite normal in a person with light to medium skin tones, especially with men’s facial hair.

This man’s hair has a range of natural hues, tones and variable saturation. His skin also has a range of hues, particoloured hues and variable saturation

The aging process, health and lifestyle choices all have an effect on the contrast within an individual colour characteristic.

Contrast levels change over time and are generally at their most naturally vibrant before the aging process starts.

The aging process has changed the hue, tone and variable saturation of this man’s skin and hair

Lifestyle choices, illness and inflammation, primarily to the skin, affect individual characteristic contrast.

Artificial and enhanced colour characteristic changes, such as make-up or hair colouring can also have a slight or profound effect on personal colour contrast.

Artificial hair colouring and make-up have transformed this woman’s contrast and colour expression

The type of contrast a person has affects the level of contrast which best balances and harmonises with clothing and make-up.

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August 29, 2023 1:17 PM
Wonderful explanation and visuals to support. Thank you!
colorDNA Response

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August 29, 2023 1:17 PM
Wonderful explanation and visuals to support. Thank you!
colorDNA Response