What is human tone?
Following the previous colorDNA articles on hue, this article explains how the second element of conventional colour theory – value - has been applied to human colouring.
Value, in the colorDNA human colour system, is referred to as 'tone'.
Given biological human colouring is a neutral colour tone and not a flat value from an achromatic grey scale, the term needed to be changed.
There is no current universally accepted classification schema to accurately measure the tone of human colour characteristics.
The two human skin classification scales, which are randomly used or referred to – the von Luschan’s scale and the Fitzpatrick scale – have practical applications but do not scientifically classify human colouring.
In the hairdressing industry there is a universal hair colouring measurement, which has a similar classification process to the colorDNA method.
Hair is measured by a range of 10 tone levels: 1 = black, 10 = very light blonde.
Different colours and colour coverage is considered at each level, with every hairdressing brand using a slightly different scale.
Human skin, hair and eye tone within the colorDNA system is measured from 0–10, and is described by the perceptible level of darkness through medium to lightness.
The tone level of all human colour characteristics can be measured and classified using the 0–10 tone scale.
The colorDNA scale has pure black below zero-0 and pure white above ten-10, given pure black and white are not found in natural human colouring.
Pure black is required on the colorDNA human tone scale, because it is used to describe superficial colour characteristic changes, such as tattoos, dyed black hair and make-up.
Natural characteristics such as the eye’s pupil and very dark hair, maybe referred to by some people as black, even if the true colouring is above the zero line on the colorDNA tone scale.
Pure white on the DNA scale is used to describe such superficial colour characteristic changes as dyed white hair, make-up and face paint.
White may also be used to describe naturally occurring characteristics such as teeth, the whites of the eyes and white hair, even if they are below ten-10 on the tone scale.
Skin tone is usually the most dominant colour quality of a person's colour expression.
The tone of a person’s individual skin, hair or eyes is relatively simple to determine, even as a person ages and the tone becomes lighter.
The overall tone of a person’s colour expression can be more challenging to establish, especially when there is contrast between light skin and dark hair.
The level and type of contrast between colour characteristics is an important part of a person’s colour profile.
It is worth noting that because human colouring is organic, it is in a constant state of change. Unlike a painting, human colouring has not been created from a clean, flat canvas.
People are three dimensional and may have a variety of tones across their skin, hair and eyes.
Biological factors such as aging, sun tanning and health issues can be responsible for natural tone changes (albeit by one or two levels in most cases).
For these reasons, it’s important to talk about biological human colour characteristic tone in general colour quality terms, such as light, medium or dark, not as a tone number such as T5 or T9.
Optical tone mixture
When human hair, skin or eyes have more than one tone, a general optical mixture (average) tone across each characteristic can be perceived as a resultant tone combination.
The tone would be the result of mixing all of the juxtaposed tones in each tone’s volume, as if they were paint on a painting.
The following three images demonstrate how different levels of juxtaposed tone find harmony with particular levels of tone in the hair.
With optical mixing of the eyes, the dark pupil would combine with the lighter tones of the iris to create a resultant tone.
The whites of the eyes can also be considered in optical mixing or separated as a highlight contrast.
Different levels of whiteness in the sclera produce different resultant tones.
The eyebrows, hair, skin and any lighter or darker areas on the skin, such as freckles or blemishes, can also be optically mixed to create a general resultant tone.
Determining a localised or overall resultant tone can be used to harmonise with particular values of make-up or clothing.