Today’s safety eyewear comes with seemingly endless combinations of features. From frame style and color to lens coating and safety standards, there’s exactly what’s needed for any situation.
Lens tints create even more options. With a range of colors and gradients, every option holds specific purposes and benefits. Choosing the best lens tint depends on the environment and lighting conditions combined with the unique needs and preferences of the wearer.
Understand Light Exposure
Understanding light exposure can help you understand the value of lens tints and how to choose the best color. Specifically, having a basic knowledge of visible light (white light) and the two light ranges on either side of it on the electromagnetic spectrum, infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV). General knowledge of visible light transmission (VLT) is also helpful.
Visible light, also called white light, makes up a relatively small range of light waves humans can see. If visible light is broken out through a prism, we can see a rainbow pattern showing the spectrum of light colors visible to us. That range starts with blue on one end and ends with red on the other, with yellow and green combining in the middle to make up the range most natural for us to see and process.
While we won’t go into detail on each type of visible light, blue light does deserve some attention because of its potential negative impact. Because blue light scatters easily compared to other visible light, we have more trouble focusing on it. Prolonged exposure results in quicker eye fatigue than different types of visible light.
Blue light also suppresses Melatonin, a hormone our brain releases to help us sleep. In addition, electronics like cell phones, TVs, and computer monitors emit blue light and can contribute to sleep deprivation.
“More research is needed, but exposure to blue light clearly has a significant impact on general health. In addition to causing color distortion and potential eye strain and damage, blue light may also increase cancer risk and have connections to diabetes and obesity.” (Benefits of Copper, Orange, Yellow and Brown Lens Tints)
Beyond blue light in the visible light spectrum is UV light. UV is invisible to us. Overexposure to UV light damages skin and eyes, which is why we wear sunscreen and sunglasses that block UV light.
All quality safety eyewear and sunglasses block 99.9% of UV light regardless of lens tint.
“Lens tint is sometimes confused with how dark the lenses are, and some people feel that the darker the lenses the more effective they are. Unfortunately this is a false assumption… it is not how dark or light the lenses are that determines their effectiveness in blocking these harmful uv rays, but rather the coatings applied to the lenses!”
IR, just beyond the red end of the spectrum, is also invisible and harmful to us. Tools used in welding and lampwork applications emit IR, and working with or near these requires precise lens shading.
Visible Light Transmission
When sunlight passes through any barrier, like a window or lens, some is absorbed, and some is reflected. The light that successfully passes through the barrier is measured and represented as a percentage of total sunlight. This number, known as VLT, is affected by any tinting, lens thickness, lens material, and any coatings applied.
“The reason visible light transmission is important is that the amount of light determines how comfortable your eyes are when looking through sunglass lenses…” (The Importance of Visible Light Transmission)
A coating must be applied to eyewear lenses to control the amount of light passing through. Visible light may not harm the eyes but can still impact vision. Each lens tint allows a different percentage of VLT through to the eyes.
Know Why Lens Tint Is Important
Lens tint is essential because it helps optimize performance, provides better visibility, and increases eye comfort. In addition, it controls VLT, which can cause discomfort and pain with overexposure.
“The importance of lens tint has to do with visual acuity – your ability to see objects through the lens clearly and with precision. Each lens tint relates to a specific issue the wearer may encounter.” (How Important Is Lens Tint?)
Lens tint affects glare and the ability to see colors and contrasts. Factors such as long hours in varying light conditions and time spent around reflected light off the water, roads, and other surfaces that can reduce performance need to be considered.
The right lens tint enhances depth perception, reduces eye fatigue, minimizes color distortion, and maximizes visual clarity. It also increases contrast and depth perception, protects eyes from Blue Light, and improves vision in low light conditions like fog and haze in early mornings.
Other benefits of the right lens tint include enhanced contrast and neutralized effects of Sodium Vapor lighting, often used along roads and parking spaces. Specific tints also reduce excessively bright or glaring light, and most will contribute to eye health by reducing eye fatigue caused by eyestrain.
The correct lens tints help create the best visibility for your application and environment. The improved visibility means increased safety and performance overall.
Analyze Your Needs & Preferences
The best lens tint is evident for some applications and environments, like welding. However, it’s not always that straightforward, as is the case for many athletes. That’s why analyzing each situation, especially where you spend the most time, is essential to determine the best lens tint for optimum performance and comfort.
Asking the following questions can help with this analysis. Note that each application and environment often requires a different lens tint, especially when conditions vary significantly.
- Are low light conditions often present?
- Do you struggle to fall asleep?
- Does yellow light frequently cause problems with glare?
- Do you spend a lot of time in excessively bright sunlight?
- Do you spend a lot of time on electronics?
- Is artificial light causing glare problems for you?
- Are you mostly outdoors, indoors, or about the same for both?
- Does your day or activity consist of varying lighting conditions?
- Does your activity require good color and object discrimination?
- Do you struggle with glare for any reason?
Experiment with color and shade to determine what works best for you. Sometimes, the lens tint for optimum performance is merely a matter of personal preference. However, as a general rule, stick to choosing a tint based on the lighting conditions that often match those you experience.
Consider All the Choices in Lens Tints
When choosing a tint for your lenses, it is essential to consider all available options. Lens shades vary from clear to dark, and there are different colors of tints, each with its benefits and applications.
The VLT of a tint is also vital to consider. This measures how much light the tint allows through and is expressed as a percentage. Tints with a higher VLT allow more light, while those with a lower VLT allow less.
The benefits of different lens tints vary depending on what you need them for. For example, if you need glasses for reading, you may want a tint with a higher VLT to see better. On the other hand, if you are looking for sunglasses, you may want a darker color with a lower VLT, so it blocks more sunlight.
For most standard working conditions, clear lenses work best. In fact, clear lenses are the normal lens shade for most safety glasses. A clear lens provides good vision for general, indoor applications where impact protection is essential. It also has the highest VLT, 86% to 96%, making it the most common for indoor use.
Lenses with a VLT of 20% to 40% are the best for all-purpose outdoor use. These lenses work well for everyday wear and during most outside activities. In addition, these darker shades help cut through glare and reduce eyestrain in moderate to bright light.
Below 20% VLT includes lenses for bright, sunny conditions and some specialty applications. Between 40% and 86% are lenses best for overcast and low-light conditions.
Concerning lens color, Gray is the most common. It provides the most accurate color visibility. Gray is dark enough for bright, sunny days but not so dark as to impair vision. For general sunglass use, gray is the most common choice.
Outside of the most common lens tints and colors are many additional options. This is where the choices become more activity-specific and increasingly tailored to personal preference.
Lens tint options include:
Amber/yellow/orange: (76-86% VLT) Enhance contrast. Low light conditions. Brighten environments. Block blue light. Applications: shooting, cycling, and indoor courts.
Blue: (68-78% VLT) Reduce yellow light. Indoor/outdoor. Applications: working conditions with sodium vapor lighting and excessive glare.
Indoor/outdoor: (50-65% VLTS) Versatile. Good color visibility. Similar purpose as gray lenses except for allowing more visible light through. Reduces glare from artificial lighting.
Dark amber/copper/brown: (44-68% VLT) Outdoor use where sunlight and glare cause eye fatigue and strain. Block high amounts of blue light. Improve contrast. Applications: baseball, golf, and water sports.
Vermillion: (40-82% VLT) Enhance contrast. Applications: doing indoor inspections.
Red: (28-48% VLT) Enhance detail and depth perception.
Green: (12-21% VLT) Mildly heighten contrast. Preserve color balance. Applications: baseball and golf.
In addition to these lens tint options, each with its own level of VLT, some specialty eyewear options bear additional consideration.
Polarized, mirrored, interchangeable, and photochromic lenses offer unique options beyond a single shade and color choice. While not suitable for everyone, many also consider these options invaluable.
Welding Shades have very specific directives since light radiation from welding can severely and permanently injure the eyes. Therefore, eye protection for welders must have filtered lenses with a shade number providing the necessary protection for the specific task being performed.
Another specialty option is polarized lenses. Light reflected off a smooth, horizontal surface such as a lake, ski slope, or road creates a nasty glare that can cause significant eye fatigue and visibility problems. In addition, the light is often intense and difficult to avoid, such as when driving or boating. People susceptible to glare will find polarized lenses beneficial, as will those who find themselves in constantly changing outdoor lighting conditions.
Note that polarized lenses can react with windshield tints and diminish the visibility of dashboard lights. They also are not the best choice for those who need to see the reflected patches, such as downhill skiers who need to react to icy patches.
Mirrored lenses are actually created by a coating applied to the outside of lenses. Their purpose is to reduce glare by reflecting light. However, they often make objects appear darker, so combining them with lighter tints, such as gold, blue, or silver, can help with visibility.
Interchangeable lenses come with several lenses of different colors. They allow for tailoring of eye protection based on current conditions and activity. Multi-lens eyewear works well for individuals who participate in many activities in various situations.
Photochromic lenses automatically adjust to changing light conditions. As a result, they get lighter in darker conditions and darker in bright light. These lenses take longer to work in cold conditions and may not work when driving since UVB rays do not penetrate windshields. Photochromic Lenses and Safety don’t always mix, so do your research to ensure they are the best choice and consider having another option available.
Realize the Benefits of the Right Lens Tint
We have by no means covered every lens tint possibility in this article. We encourage you to do your research and begin by reviewing this Lens Tint guide and this Guide to Sports Sunglass Lens Tints. Then, peruse the many options available online. Finally, analyze your situation with the questions above and experiment with different lens tints before making your eyewear investment. You won’t regret the time or money spent, especially when you experience enhanced performance and reduced eye fatigue during your most important activities.
It was really useful for me since I used to wear sunglasses for about 17 years.I do really appreciated this information
We are glad it helped. Thank you for reading, Mohsen.
Would you suggest a yellow tint for someone negatively impacted by grey, overcast weather? I find it exhausting. However, Sad lamps use blue light but yellow tints block it!
Natasha, it’s true that Yellow (aka Amber) lenses block some blue light, often around 15-35%. Some lenses, such as Brown, Orange, Bronze and Copper, block even more than Yellow. I’m not sure where the direct tie-in between SAD lamps and overcast days come in to play. The lamps would be used indoors, while attempts to counter a gray sky would be outdoors, and usually indoor and outdoor eyewear is not the same. From what I’ve read about SAD lamps which, admittedly isn’t a lot, not only is it not necessary to wear tinted eyewear, it is not recommended. While you’re not looking directly into the light, the light is intended to enter your pupil while you’re near it. Any tinted lens reduces the light and in turn reduces the effectiveness of the procedure. Regarding tints for overcast days, my preference and suggestion is a light brown/bronze or light copper.
I need a tint to help depth perception and help indoors . I must have better illuminated inside.
Joanne, the need for depth perception and/or contrast usually calls for a yellow/amber, bronze or brown, and occasionally a copper or pink/rose/vermillion. It all can depend what you’re doing and where you’re doing it, but these are the known tints for improving depth perception and/or contrast. Since you need better illumination, you’ll want to eliminate the darker of those options, being copper and brown. A pale yellow or amber will “brighten” up your view the most among these, and it’s not all that close. A very pale bronze or pink/rose/vermillion could also work. Keep in mind that any tint technically (and mathematically) reduces the light transmission of your lenses. But at least yellow gives the “appearance” of being brighter.
I would like to ask as a surgeon who needs both depth perception and wants a decrease in the glare for the operating room light. What color tint is the most suitable?
Wael, We often recommend a tint in the brown family for depth perception, such as amber, bronze, copper or brown, but that’s usually for outdoor applications. For more controlled lighting conditions where you require a clear, detailed view, I might suggest a light Vermillion or Pink. This will provide some glare blocking from the bright lights, but will also offer good contrast enhancement. This is the #1 recommended tint for parts inspection. Because of its adjustability for fit and comfort, as well as the wrap, overall view and color, my top choice is the Uvex Genesis.
I am looking for the best tint for farming. This includes driving tractors and working on equipment in sunny conditions.
Leslie, I would not say that there is one best tint for farming. Many will do, and it can depend on factors like background color, such as trees at the perimeter of your land; your land itself and/or any crops you may be growing (and their plants or leaves); what you’re doing and where’s you’re looking at any given time with any given task; and light conditions. On overcast days a light brown, bronze or copper lens is usually ideal. On sunny days, a darker lens is typical. The darker lens could be smoke/gray, brown/bronze, copper, smoke/green, or a blend of these or other colors. If glare is a problem, you might consider a polarized lens. If you happen to be looking down while working on equipment, even if it’s sunny, a dark lens might be too dark for detailed work.
My doctor recommended a light tint after my most recent exam. I have photophobia because of an ischemia in one eye. I am a teacher so I mostly work indoors with computer screens projectors and I am looking for the right color. When I was at the office she recommended a darker grey for my new sunglass, but did not give me a tint color recommendation for my new every day wear glasses. She did give a shade recommendation so I would not be too dark indoors. I have no idea where to start for color so I though I would ask what to look for.
Robyn, you might consider a light brown or bronze lens. This will not only be soothing, but will block some of the blue light that’s emitted by your indoor lights, computer screens and mobile devices. This will improve contrast over many other tints and help prevent or at least delay eye fatigue after a long day. Of all the blue-blocking tints available, this is the most color-neutral. In other words, the color distortion is very minimal.
I like brown polarised lenses but not so dark as the high category lenses usually found in the shops. Can you advise on best combination, esp for driving?
Rick, I agree with you, brown polarized is a great lens. This link will take you to our polarized sunglasses, filtered results to show you Bronze-Brown and Copper-Rose lenses. Copper is another good driving lens. The Haven brand are over-prescription glasses and the ONOS are bifocals. If you don’t need those, you can ignore those brands. Be aware that even though some of the images vary in color, all of the lens tints within a specific brand will be the same. That is, all copper from Edge are the same; all Brown from Smith are the same, etc. The browns are all fairly close in color and lightness, so I hesitate to recommend any one style, but there are many great ones from which to choose.
Hi I recently had surgery for a macular hole followed very quickly by surgery for a post surgical cataract. I am now left with a flickering light sensation in that eye and a dislike of bright and artificial lighting. Is there a colour tint that you would recommend?
Karen, I’m sorry to learn of your condition. My thought would be a soothing brown or bronze for everyday use, but I’m not sure how light-sensitive your eye is now. Thus, I hesitate to suggest any tint, as it may be too light, too dark, or the wrong color altogether per your doctor. I would recommend first getting the opinion of your doctor who is more familiar with your eye and symptoms.
Can you tell me what’s a good color tint for prolonged computer use daily? I work in a office with little to no sunlight.
Thank you for your question, Khalilah.
I would recommend you wear some form of blue light blocking eyewear due to long hours of screen time and artificial light exposure. Gunnar Eyewear offers several models of computer eyewear designed to block blue light, and they have both Amber and Crystalline(clear) lenses. If you need both blue light and ANSI Z87+ rated impact protection Crews offers the VL2 Safety Glasses with MAXBLUE Lens.
What is a good lens tint color to improve night vision while driving? Also while driving in dark and rainy conditions?
Thank you for your question, Susan.
There is no specific lens tint that’s proven to help night vision. Keep in mind, tinted lenses actually reduce the amount of light your eye receives. So, wearing tinted lenses at night can actually reduce your night vision instead of improving it. With that said, you may notice a subtle improvement with lenses that feature an anti-reflective coating. Some people report AR lenses to help with oncoming headlight glare.
Can you please recommend the best tint for eye glasses that are bothered by the brightness of TV and electronics after a days work on the computer . When I come home after working all day my eyes do not tolerate bright light or the TV . My eyes actually hurt in sunlight and the light of TV and iPad . I have astigmatism and wear glasses daily Please advise thank you
Thank you for your question, Carol.
I recommend you see an eye doctor in your area. It’s very possible, due to your high level of screen exposure, that you’re suffering from CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome). I recommend wearing eyewear that’s designed to reduce blue light exposure, computer glasses for example, and finding ways to reduce your daily screen time.
Wondering your thoughts on the best tint for police work. Being outside all day in mostly sunny, Miami weather, I’ve noticed some tightness in my head. I’m pretty sure it’s due to eye fatigue. I’ve used blue polarized lenses in the past, but I’ve read that a brown color might be better suited for the outdoor work/driving. Thoughts?
Thank you for your service and question, David.
I agree that a brown lens may be the best-suited lens color for your situation. A brown lens will significantly reduce blue light exposure, around 80-96% depending on the brand, which will improve visual contrast, depth perception, and reduce eye fatigue. Plus, the color brown is very soothing and highlights the color red. So, tail/brake lights and stop lights will really “pop.”
Let me know if you have additional questions or comments.
I am sunglasses shopping and want to get a darker tint? I am thinking of going with the 85% tint density, will I harm anything or myself by doing so?
Thank you for your question, Natasha. No, you will not harm anything with a “tint density of 85%”. In fact, most dark sunglasses allow 10-18% visible light transmission.
I am neasighted and astigmatic. And i am a singer/performer. I use a daily pair of glasses for my condition. But when i am on stage, surrounded by many powerful light sources at night, i feel blinded.. I am looking for a pair of tinted/sunglasses. Which color would suit my needs best? Wish I could both be free from the paralyzing effects of those bright lights and focused on my audience.
Looking forward for your reply..
Thank you for your question, Ayca.
I’m not familiar with stage lighting, but I will take a stab at answering your question.
I would recommend trying either a light vermillion, light blue, or 50% gray lens tint. The light vermillion will help block blue light, which is known to cause eye strain and fatigue. A light blue lens will reduce the strain from yellow light sources. And, the 50% gray lens will soften the harshness of the stage lights without effecting color recognition or being too dark for indoor use.
Hi…I need to know what is the best prescription tint for a night driving passenger job that requires constant stare into a smartphone app, then back into the dark night conditions. Really having great difficulty focusing.
Thank you for your question, Dennis.
Recommending a lens tint for nighttime activity is difficult because everyone’s light sensitivity and tolerance are different. And keep in mind the task of continually altering your focal point from short to long distances may not be solved by lens color. This process gets even more challenging as your age increases and your eye’s muscles weaken!
With all that said, you may have some minor improvement with a light yellow or light orange lens tint. Both yellow and orange do a decent job of blocking the blue light coming from your devices screen. Keep in mind these lens colors may slightly alter some color recognition.
Another tip would be to reduce the brightness of your screen and surrounding light sources as much as possible. This will help your eyes adjust faster since the amount of light your eyes are processing will be less dramatic.
Hey Guys, nice topic, I am looking forward to buy new glasses but I’m being overexposed with options and without any prior knowledge to this I am really confused. This post help me understood about the difference of this lens, but still confused.
My use case is mostly to be at Computer, as I work as software developer and I spent 7-11 hours per day in from of a computer, what kind of lens you would recommend to me?
My local shop is offering me a solution from Essilor, I don’t know the model exactly, but they said it blocks blue light, reduces eye fatigue and protects agrainst reflections + UV.
Do you think it’s good solution for me?
Looking to hear back from you, many thanks!
Thank you for your question, Tiago.
I’m sure the Essilor solution will meet your needs. Another option would be Gunnar Eyewear, which is specifically designed for extended computer use and blocking blue light.
What color would be a good tint for mainly indoors?,I’ve tired gray,and brown tints..Im looking for a light tint….What would you suggest??
Thank you for your question, Hiram. Depending on the type of indoor lighting, light blue and pink #1 are popular lens colors. Bolle also makes a CSP lens that’s very popular due to its blue light blocking properties.
Morning, my 7 year son has had an eye test and they have said his sight is fine. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes medication. He has been complaining of extreme sensitivity to natural light but mainly artificial light in the classroom, he shields his eyes, says his eyes water and squints. He doesn’t need a prescription but I wondered if you could recommend a tint that might help him.
Thank you for your question, Stacey.
To find the right lens tint would require some experimenting on your end. However, I think a subtle Amber/Yellow or Light Gray tints combined with an anti-reflective lens coating would help your son. I believe the easiest solution is to visit your optician and try on several different lens colors to see what your son prefers. It’s not uncommon for opticians to order Rx frames with non-Rx lenses.
I wish you and your son the best of luck. Let me know if you have any other questions.
I too, work on computer and read a lot offline — do you have clip on lens in different tints to accpomodate different conditions? Thank you.
Thank you for your question, Mistigri.
Since we specialize in protective eyewear, we don’t stock clip-on lenses. However, a quick Google search listed several brands of clip-on computer lenses available online.
I work in a factory with a lot of overhead led lighting and have to inspect parts in these conditions. What tiny would recommend for me?
Thank you for your question, Mike.
This can be a tough question to answer because each person’s light sensitivity is different. However, here are some popular lens colors used for inspection. Vermilion, Amber, and Light Blue. You may also want to consider Bolle’s Contrast, ESP, and HD-High Definition lenses.
I struggle with white light at night , like from head torches, even if I’m not looking directly at it it still gives me pain behind my eyes.
So am looking for glasses that could be worn at night.
Thank you for your question, Lisa.
I definitely understand your pain. The older I get, the more problems I have with bright headlights from oncoming traffic. The problem is there is no easy answer for this issue. And the solutions that currently exist have mixed results depending on your circumstances, etc. I wrote a two-part article for night driving that you should review. I offer several suggestions to help with night driving that you may find useful.
Which colour tint lens best for all conditions among drak green,blue, brown and grey
Thank you for your question. In my opinion, the best all-around lens tint is standard gray.
Since my husband had lens replacement he finds light that seems normal to others, too bright and so often wears his sunglasses even indoors. I like to see someone’s eyes when conversing. What tint would cut glare for him but still allow eye contact?
Thank you for your question, Margot.
In my opinion, an indoor-outdoor mirror or Bolle’s CSP lens would work well. This lens has a light tint combined with a subtle mirrored coating, reducing glare. However, you can still see the wearer’s eyes at conversation distances. Here’s a link to our large selection of safety eyewear with indoor-outdoor mirrored lenses.
We had a patient that drag races professionally. His races are in the day time. What tint of lens would help him see the colors better on the racing Christmas tree? The yellow light would probably be the most important.Thank you
Thank you for your question.
Yellow light is surprisingly tricky to “highlight” with lens tints. And, there is remarkably little information available to support which lens color does the best job. In my opinion, you may want to try a light blue or vermillion lens color. But ultimately, this may boil down to the user’s preferences.