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Human Eye Color Charts

Attempting to trace the genetics behind eye color was a simpler task in the past – back when eye color was largely described as a single gene trait, with brown eyes being dominant over blue (the “recessive” trait).

While this understanding is generally true, scientists today recognize that at least eight different genes factor into the color that a child’s eyes ultimately take on. They also say that no two humans have the same eye, as no two eyes in the world have the same exact shade.

For these reasons, it’s now a bit more complicated to chart eye color with great precision and confidence. Nonetheless, the approaches and information below can help you get a better sense of all the factors involved in determining eye color, and how these are relevant to your long-term optic health.

Different Types of Eye Colors

  • Brown:The most common eye color worldwide, the color appears brown because of the pigment melanin – the same pigment that determines the color of one’s skin and hair. 
    • Blue: Blue eyes in humans is considered a quirk of nature – the result of a genetic mutation that managed to disrupt the body’s natural production of melanin in the eye. Due to the reduced amount of brown pigmentation in the iris, the way in which the light is contoured by the eye contributes to the bluish shade that we see.  
    • Green: There is some darker melanin in the irises of a green eyed person, but in very low concentrations; this, taken in tandem with the increased levels of yellow melanin that’s present, is what produces the green hue.  Overall, this is the rarest of eye colors, as it’s estimated that just 2% of the world’s population has green eyes.
    • Hazel: The least understood of the eye colors, hazel is considered a somewhat rare iris color: it’s more ubiquitous than green, but less common than the color brown. Though the exact color can vary significantly from person to person, in general, hazel-colored irises tend to contain a certain mixture of brown and green hues.

Some other eye colors that fall on the chart in different places include gray, amber, red, violet, and black.

Martin-Shultz Scale

The Martin-Shultz scale has long been relied upon to determine eye color with a high level of precision. This oft-utilized color scale is composed of 16 different colors, ranging in hue from very light blue to a dark brownish-black shade. In theory, this extensive range is meant to encapsulate all – or at least the vast majority – of eye color variations that exist in the world; in this way, it also acts as a measure of the amount of melanin pigmentation that can be present in any given iris.

Lightness & Darkness

It could also make sense to group eye colors according to their relative lightness or darkness; essentially, this classifies them by the amount of pigmentation that’s present in their irises.

Three general groups would emerge from such an approach:

  • Light Eyes: The main colors that would fall into the light eyes category are blue, green, and gray. Eyes in which the blue is mixed with the green or gray hues (or a similar combination) can be called ‘light-mixed,’ for the sake of further precision; this label could also apply to very light-colored eyes that contain a small touch of brown pigment.
  • Mixed Eyes: This category is meant for eyes where the brown pigment is mixed in with the lighter color hues of blue, green and gray. In mixed eyes, the amount of brown pigment and light pigment in the iris is either the same or very similar.

Dark Eyes: Whereas ‘dark-mixed’ eyes have irises containing brown pigment mixed with small amounts of light pigment, you could say the label of ‘dark eyes’ refers more specifically to eyes containing a combination of dark brown and light brown shades. Oftentimes, these brown-on-brown mixtures can make the eye color appear almost black.