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Looking Through Rose Colored Glasses: The Art of Tinting

Photo: Courtesy of Transitions Optical, Inc.

When discussing tinting as a lens option, the eye care professional must first discuss with the patient what he or she is looking for. Is the patient wanting to cosmetically enhance the appearance of the glasses or is the patient planning to wear the eyeglass for a specific purpose? If the main reason is cosmetic, what look is the patient trying to achieve? If the desired outcome is to help with a specific activity, what is the intended activity? Tinting for an activity usually falls within three general categories: occupational, sports, and sunglasses.

Dedicated Follower of Fashion
Some patients are a true fashionistas and want a certain look for his or her eyewear. For these individuals, fashion tints, also called café tints, are available in a wide range of colors and designs. Usually tinted in ranges of 10 to 20 percent darkness, the most common fashion tints are pink, blue, yellow, purple, and gray. In the lightest hues, these tints do not provide much, if any, protection against the negative effects of bright, outdoor light. Nevertheless, if applied effectively, fashion tints will enhance the appearance of most eyewear. There are three methods of applying tint to a lens; solid tints, gradient tints, and double gradient tints.

A solid tint, as the name implies, covers the whole lens in a uniform color. A gradient tint refers to a lens with a darker tint at the top that fades gradually to little or no tint at the bottom of the lens. This provides additional protection from light coming from above, without inhibiting much light transmission from the middle and bottom of the lens. A double gradient tint describes a lens with a darker tint at the top and bottom of the lens, and a medium tint in the center of the lens. A double gradient tint can be applied utilizing the same color for both the top and the bottom, or by combining two colors, such as blue and pink. In addition, a mirror flash coat can be applied to fashion tints to enhance the colors.

Working 9 to 5
Tinting for occupational use is something that is commonly overlooked by the ECP, but increased knowledge of lens tints can greatly benefit the patient. Many common visual tasks can be improved by the proper tint. Accurate tinting can increase visual acuity and depth perception, thereby reducing eyestrain and fatigue as well as increasing productivity. Common activities that may benefit from a tint are computer use and industrial tasks. For most ECPs, computer use is going to be the most prevalent occupational activity that can be aided by the proper tint.

The most common computer tints are:

  • Rose or pink- A light tint that can be used to soften bright, fluorescent lighting and may help reduce eyestrain, glare and headaches.

  • Amber- A color that helps eliminate blue from the visible light spectrum, amber may help reduce eyestrain by reducing the amount of blue light emitted from fluorescent lights that enters the eye.

  • Gray- At a darkness of 10 to 15 percent, gray provides a good reduction of blue light without altering colors.

Although the color of the tint is mostly patient preference, all computer tints should be accompanied by ultraviolet (UV) and anti-reflective (AR) coatings. These coatings provide greater protection for the eye from harmful radiation and superior glare protection. When using an outside lab to apply the AR coat, communication is very important to ensure the desired outcome for the patient. It is crucial that the lab know the exact color and density that is preferred to achieve a positive result and the easiest way to communicate this is to provide a sample. By providing a sample, the discrepancies in the way people perceive different tint shades under varying lighting conditions is eliminated.

Tinting for industrial professions can be challenging. When providing a tint for an industrial purpose, it is very important to note that a tint that may be wonderful for one type of visual occupational task may cause harm to the patient when used for another task. Great resources for the optician that provides tinting guidelines for common occupations are OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These organizations outline what is appropriate for use within certain industries and occupational professions and can be of great help when deciding which tint would be the most advantageous to the patient.

Winner Takes It All
When it comes to sports, patients have a winner take all attitude and they want their glasses to reflect that by giving them an edge. The ECP can help by supplying the proper tint for the given activity. Although there are many different color combinations and tinting densities to choose from, the following are common tint colors and some of the sports that they work best for.

Yellow and Orange These colors heighten contrast between objects and blue or green backgrounds. Sometimes marketed as “blue blockers”, yellow and orange tints are good for hazy, foggy or overcast conditions. Not an appropriate color for an activity that depends on accurate color perception, it is an excellent choice for low light and indoor activities. Sports that work well with this tint are cycling, hunting, shooting, indoor basketball, handball, racquetball, tennis. When used during extremely low light conditions, the lens can be helpful in skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling because of the color makes it easier to see slight bumps or ridges on the snow or ice. A word of caution, yellow and orange can cause discomfort to the eyes when used in extremely bright light conditions.

Rose and Red Although these colors heighten contrast in partly cloudy and sunny conditions, they may cause significant color imbalances. The main benefit to these colors is that they allow the patients’ eyes to adjust quickly between alternating light conditions. As a result, sports that work well with rose and red are cycling, fishing, hunting, and shooting.

Purple Commonly used as a fashion tint, dark purple can shade to the eye while maintaining natural color perception. Accordingly, this color can work well for hunting and shooting.

Dark Amber, Brown, and Copper These colors help reduce glare and perform best in hazy sunshine. They are especially advantageous in improving contrast on grass and against blue skies; as well as activities where glare and depth perception can be a deciding factor. For example, racing, fishing in waters with grassy bottoms, hunting, skiing, water sports, cycling, baseball, and golf are all sports in which the previous conditions can be a factor.

Green A mild, contrast enhancing tint, green is generally used to reduce eyestrain under bright lighting conditions. A soothing tint, it offers the best contrast and visual acuity of all tints due to the human eye being most sensitive to green light wavelengths. Sports that work well with green tints are baseball, golf, flying, and tennis.

Specially Made Sunglasses
Sunglasses are the most common choice for tinted lens and for good reason. If fitted by the ECP properly, sunglasses combine fashion and utility into great package. The most common tint colors for sunglasses are brown, gray and

G-15 and are found in color densities ranging from 60 to 85 percent. Because brown tint is discussed in the previous section, gray and G-15 tints will be covered here. Gray is the most popular color for sunglasses in the US. Sometimes referred to as a true color tint, gray reduces light intensity without altering object color. It provides good bright light protection and is an excellent choice for all purpose sunglass use.

G-15, or the Ray-ban tint, was first developed by a pilot for pilots during the late 1930’s and made popular during World War II. A combination of a gray and green tint, the tint transmits 15% (blocks 85%) of the light, thereby giving the color its name. The combination of colors reduces glare and eyestrain in bright sunlight while enhancing contrast better than gray alone.

It is important to note that although dark sunglasses lenses may reduce light transmittance, they do not remove glare as effectively as polarized lenses. Furthermore, wearing dark lenses without UV protection can cause more damage to the patient’s eye than wearing nothing at all. Dark lenses cause dilation of the pupil, allowing more UV to enter the eye if there is not a filtering agent within or added to the lens. Polarized lenses automatically solve this problem since they are inherently UV protective; however, UV coat can be added to tinted lenses and solve this problem just as efficiently. Also, since dark lenses can cause reflections off the back of the lens, backside AR may be applied but be sure to follow the AR recommendations given earlier.

To tint or not to tint, that is the question; or at least part of it. With all the colors, design options, and benefits that tinted lenses offer, the ECP has a wide range of decisions to make along with the patient. By discussing all the tinting varieties with the patient, along with the outcomes that he or she desires, the perfect pair of custom tinted glasses is just a shade away.

Carrie Wilson

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Posted: 12/4/2009 6:39:23 AM

This article was a great overview and was exactly what i was searching for. I am, however, still needing to understand the best tint percentage for indoor/computer activity. Also, is there a tint that will aid in night vision (depth perception, glare, etc) especially driving?
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