A Quick Guide to Contrast Levels

Contrast.If you’re familiar with my posts on the body types, you may have heard me mention contrast before. But what does contrast mean, and why would it affect the way you dress?

Perhaps more importantly, how does it connect your coloring and your body type?

To start, your contrast level is simply the amount of contrast between the values of your skin tone and the values of your hair and eyes.

For example, I have pale skin, fairly dark hair (looks almost black in the winter), and medium darkness in my eyes. My hair and eye value is on the cusp between 4 and 5, whereas my skin tone is on the cusp of about 1 and 2.

This means that I have a high level of contrast, so wearing fairly dark colors suits me and makes my features stand out.

If I wear medium value colors, I tend to look… meh. It doesn’t make me look bad, but it doesn’t do me any favors either. It’s just there. (We’ll get to how lighter colors look on me later, when we discuss how contrast levels are connect to the body types).

So, let’s look at how to figure out a contrast level, and then go into some examples.

How to find your contrast level:

For this, I suggest using a black & white photo of yourself. Exposure levels can affect how contrasted you look, so make sure that the photo isn’t too heavily edited.

First, choose which value range your skin tone has:

1 - Very Light
2 - Light
3 - Medium
4 - Dark
5 - Very Dark

Next, choose the average value between your hair and eye color:

1 - Very Light
2 - Light
3 - Medium
4 - Dark
5 - Very Dark

Now, subtract your skin tone value from your hair and eye value.

If you got 4 or -4 then you have a very high contrast level.
If you got 3 or -3 then you have a high contrast level.
If you got 2 or -2 then you have a medium contrast level.
If you got 1 or -1 then you have a low contrast level.
If you got 0 then you have a very low contrast level.

Now, let’s take a look at some examples of people with varying contrast levels.

A black & white image of Duckie Thot

This is Duckie Thot, an Australian-Sudanese model. As you can see, she has very dark skin (5) and dark hair and eyes (5) so she has a very low contrast level.

Duckie’s features look quite striking when she wears colors of a similar value to her skin tone (low contrast colors).


A black & white image of Ashley (aka Best.Dressed)

This is Ashley, aka Best.Dressed. She has some fairly light skin (about a 2 based on several photos of her) and somewhat dark hair and eyes (I’d say about a 4 based on several photos of her) so she has a medium contrast level.

Ashley’s features look the most striking when she wears a color that offers some contrast to her skin tone (medium contrast colors).

And what about contrast levels and body types?

Well, there are two kinds of contrast levels: contrast levels in terms of skin tone/hair color/eye color, and contrast levels in terms of how contrasted your features are (both in the face and body).

For example, my coloring is high contrast, but my body type (structured blended) is low contrast. If I wear high contrast colors then I look pretty striking, but when I wear low contrast colors I look pretty balanced.

So I find that people look their best when wearing colors that match either the contrast level of their coloring or of their body type.

Wearing colors that match neither contrast doesn’t make someone look bad, I just find it doesn’t do anything for their features.

Of course, contrast levels aren’t the only factor in dressing well. If you’re interest in colors, check out my post on how to determine your undertone.

And if you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to my blog, that way you can get an email notification each time I publish a new post. Thank you for reading!

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