Choosing Prints for Your Color Contrast!

(Or Patterns…)

Happy day, dear reader!

Spring is here (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) and summer is not far behind. It’s the season many people shuffle out of their predominantly neutral and solid wardrobes to embrace some color and print or pattern. Technically, there is a difference: a print is just that, printed onto the fabric, a pattern is woven or knitted into the fabric itself. One of the biggest questions I get is about prints and patterns. “Can I wear them?” The short answer is yes! Everyone can wear prints. The trick is finding a print that works for you, and not against you!

There are multiple factors to consider when choosing a print, but for the sake of simplicity (and to further expand the concept of Color Contrast), I’ll tackle just the Color Contrast side of the equation.

Note: All the images in this post are scarves from Echo. This is neither a paid post nor an advertisement. I needed images. Theirs were lovely and varied, so to credit their images, I’m linking their site.

When choosing a print or pattern for a client, I always look at the number of colors in the print. This can be confusing, because I count colors and not neutrals. To illustrate, none of the scarves below are “colored.” They are all neutrals. Even the bit of blush in the middle scarf reads more neutral than pink!

To flatter, I look for prints that mirror my client’s natural Color Contrast. This creates harmony and keeps attention where it belongs… On the wearer rather than on the print! We’ve all seen lack of harmony in action; you meet someone at an event, and for the life of you can’t remember his name… But you remember the Hawai’ian shirt he was wearing. The shirt wore him, rather than the other way around! Note: If the wearer has a highly Dramatic, Creative, or Rebellious personality, then all bets are off. These personalities can wear things that would wear the rest of us!

If you have not already read the post explaining what Color Contrast is and how to determine yours, please read here. It will put this post in context!

Low Color Contrast (3N)

If your coloring is LCC or 3N, you will look your best in prints that are neutrals, like the ones above, or in prints that are variations on a color, for example shades of blue or pink. Here are some examples. Remember, the whites, tans, and blacks don’t count as “colors.” Just the color wheel colors are counted!

Each of these scarves is LCC, but with very different Value Contrasts. The reason I included the Australian animal scarf in this category is that the blues and greens are so minimal that they don’t really show, and will be even less noticeable when the scarf is folded.

Neutrals + 1 Color (N+1)

Like the person with Low Color Contrast, the N+1 looks great in prints that are a neutral or two plus one color, or in shades of a color. The difference is that while the LCC looks good in a print of the right neutrals, the N+1 will need a color in that print. A plain leopard print scarf would wash her out; but a leopard print with a coral or turquoise border? That would wow!

The bold rose print scarf is predominantly iris. The grey and navy portions of the design, being neutral, do not count toward the number of colors. The second scarf with all its shades of blue could also work for a cool N+1; those blush pink touches are minimal when the scarf is folded, and resemble a neutral skin tone.

Neutral + 2 Colors (N+2)

This combination is easy to find! Each of the scarves below works for a +2 Color woman. The daisy print has two colors, yellow and blue. I don’t count the navy and white; they are neutrals. The colors in the block stripe scarf are red and blue. Pinks are tints of red. The pinks and wines of the floral scarf count as one color (red) because they are shades of red, and gold is the second. Again, the white in the design does not count as a color in the pattern. The last scarf with the black background is greens and reds, from wine to blush pink, which makes it another N+2C.

High Color Contrast (3C)

The scarves below are all highly colored! They look most flattering on someone with High Color Contrast. This is the situation with many scarves, which may be why so many women struggle to find ones that “feel right” on them. The first scarf has at least four colors: purples, greens, glues, and orange. The first floral is also highly colored: oranges, reds (pinks are red), greens, blues, and yellows. The second is the same design in a softer colorway; although the colors are less vibrant, it is still high color contrast: blues, greens, purples and pinks.

Ways to Up Your Contrast to Wear a Colorful Print

So, what to do if you love a print, but your coloring isn’t up to it? No problem! If your personal coloring is low or N+1, you can still wear multicolored prints. The easiest way is to up your personal coloring by adding a bright lip, and colored eyeshadow and/or liner. Even an N+2 or 3C could use a boost for the scarves above!

Now for a quick review! Which of these works for a woman with all neutral coloring (LCC or 3N)? And which works for her sister who is 1 Neutral + 2 Colors?

If you answered the black trimmed scarf for the Low Color Contrast woman, and the blue and red for her 1N + 2C sister, you’re right! Next time we’ll talk about how Value Contrast plays into our perception of prints…

Take a look at the prints in your wardrobe… Which work for your coloring, and which need some help? Which prints and patterns do you love, but find they never “feel right”? Is it a case of a Color Contrast mismatch? Do let me know in the comments below! It’s always nice to hear from you! (Especially if you found something helpful!)

Stylishly yours,



    After figuring out my color contrast it all makes since why I like neutral and ivory blouses best on me!!! Also a color and white when I was younger. For example, purple & white gingham!!

    • Liz K

      Understanding yourself makes it SO much easier to just walk past the less good choices and right into the arms of what works for you!

  • Rita

    Now I understand myself why I like something and why not and thinking something is wrong but I couldn’t put my hand on it but I do thank you so much you are amazing I love it 🥰

    • Liz K

      Thank you, Rita! It’s amazing how our shopping and choices change once we understand there’s nothing wrong with us, it’s just the print/pattern/shape, etc. Glad to help!

  • Leslie Susan Clingan

    So interesting. I, like you, am a N+1. I love prints but also gravitate toward neutral shades or earth tones. Although, I probably look better in brights. I have seen square kerchief-type scarves aroung this spring. Need to order a couple Great accessories.

    • closetplayadmin

      Thank you for the visit, Leslie! Glad you found the information helpful. I do so love a neckerchief, but know that many women just find them constricting. I find when I need calming, I definitely gravitate towards my neutrals, but still try to add some color near my face!

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