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The Eye Color Chart

Updated on April 9, 2017

Mother Natures does a great job spicing things up

My ex-girlfriend has so much going with her eyes, it is hard to say exactly what eye color she has. If you randomly asked people what eye color they have, not everyone will be able to give me a straight answer.

There was a time, a long time ago when everybody on earth had brown eyes. The first ever blue-eyed human showed up around 10000 years ago, thanks to mutation – according to Professor Hans Eiberg (University of Copenhagen). Ten thousand years is not a very long time given the fact that modern humans have been around for 200000 years. In other words, we’ve been a brown-eyed species for over 95% of our existence here on planet earth. Hence, the non-brown eye colors are all new developments that showed up in humans only recently.

Why are there so many eye colors? Scientists are having a tough time pointing out the exact set of genes responsible for a person’s eye color. This is not only because genetics is a difficult subject but also because there are many genes that code for a person’s eye color; these genes are believed to interact with each other in a very complex way.

Genetic variation has allowed us to exhibit a variety of eye colors; from the darkest shades of brown to the lightest tints of violet and blue. The probability for a person to get a specific eye color depends very much on the set of genes inherited from both parents. This does not mean a child will always have the same eye color as one or both parents. In fact, there is a good chance you are the only one if your family with your eye color.

Whether or not you have the same eye color as your parent, it is interesting to know where you fall in the spectrum of eye colors below.

An Example of a Human Eye Color Chart

There are no clear boundaries on a true spectrum of possible eye colors. This makes it difficult to see where a blue shade become gray, where green approaches hazel or where brown turns to amber. Hence, if one does not know one’s exact eye color then one can only approximate by choosing a known eye color that best matches one’s eyes.

This human eye color chart shows only a selection of common eye colors. There is still an endless number of possible shades between two adjacent eye colors on the chart. Therefore this is for exploratory purposes only.

Due to the huge number of possible shades in each eye color, it is impossible produce a complete list with each and every eye color and shade. Hence we found a collection big enough to accommodate most eye colors but small enough to be useful. If you have a perfect match on the human eye color chart then great, if you don’t then settle for the best match you can find on this human eye color chart.

It seems we can’t say a lot about eye color without mentioning the word ‘melanin’.

The human eye color chart: It could be useful or even interesting to navigate a spectrum of selected eye colors and shades to get an idea where one’s eye color falls.
The human eye color chart: It could be useful or even interesting to navigate a spectrum of selected eye colors and shades to get an idea where one’s eye color falls.

Even though we see lots of eye colors and shades, there are only a couple of pigments in the eye – as far as scientists know at this point. The most important pigment responsible for the colors and shades is a brown pigment called melanin. The more melanin you have the darker your eyes are. Brown eyes are loaded with melanin, dark brown or black eyes - if you prefer, have even more melanin than brown eyes. Albinos on the other hand have very little to no melanin.

The melanin concentration on the human eye color chart (the one above) generally increases as you move from left to the right and from top to bottom.

Here is how lack of melanin can mess up your photo

Red eye effect on a photograph
Red eye effect on a photograph

Melanin does a good job in absorbing light that enters the eyeball. This explains why brown eyed people have fever “red-eye effects” on photographs. People with lighter eye colors don’t have enough melanin to absorb much of light from the photographic flash; hence they are more likely to have red eyes on their pictures.

The red eye occurs when the camera captures a reflection from blood insides the eyeball. This usually happens when you use the camera flash. A lot of the unabsorbed light from the flash is reflected by blood vessels at the back of the eyeball, in a place called the retina.

Don’t get me wrong, people with brown eyes can also get red eyes on their photos, they’re just less likely to get them than people with other eye colors. Besides, this effect also has a lot to do with the lighting condition of the surrounding and the time of the day.

The red-eye effect is a very common event in photography, I am sure almost everyone reading this page has had it at some point in their lives. But this effect is slowly disappearing from our pictures, not only via Photoshop but also because cameras these days are becoming more robust to red eyes.

Poll: Red Eye Effect

Have you ever had a red eye on your photo?

See results

© 2015 Edmund Custers


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