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The Eye Color Chart

Updated on June 30, 2017

Some people have so much going with their eyes, it is hard to say exactly what eye color they have. If you randomly ask people what eye color they have, not everyone will be able to give you a straight answer.

Why Are There So Many Eye Colors?

Scientists are having a tough time figuring 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. In addition, 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 that 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.

The Number of Possible Eye Colors and Shades are Endless

There are no clear boundaries on the 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. Therefore, 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 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 endless number of possible shades of each eye color, it is impossible produce a complete list with each and every individual eye color and shade. So we have found a collection big enough to accommodate most eye colors but small enough to be useful. It would be great if you have a perfect match on the chart below, otherwise, settle for the closest match you can find.

The Human Eye Color Chart

It would be useful or even interesting to navigate a spectrum of selected eye colors and shades to get an idea where your eye color falls.
It would be useful or even interesting to navigate a spectrum of selected eye colors and shades to get an idea where your eye color falls.

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

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 above generally increases as you move from left to the right and from top to bottom.

How Lack of Melanin Can Mess Your Photo Up

The 'red eye' effect on a photograph
The 'red eye' effect on a photograph

Melanin does a good job in absorbing light that enters the eyeball. This explains why people with brown or black eyes are less likely to have the 'red-eye' effect on their photographs. People with light eye colors (such as blue, gray, red/pink) 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 red-eye effect is mostly observed when the camera flash is used. Much of the unabsorbed light from the flash is reflected back to the camera by blood vessels of the retina—a structure at the back of the eyeball.

Don’t get me wrong, people with brown eyes can also experience this red eye effect, they are just less likely to experience it 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 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 because of Photoshop but also because cameras are becoming more and more robust in fixing this issue.

Poll: Red Eye Effect

Have you ever had a red eye on your photo?

See results

Mother Natures Does a Great Job Spicing Things Up

There was a time, a long time ago, when everybody on earth had brown eyes. The first ever blue-eyed human only 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 only 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, all the non-brown eye colors are relatively new to humans, they only showed up 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. In addition, 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.

© 2015 Edmund Custers

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