In the August 2005 issue, Lens Choices examined the increasing popularity of mirror lenses for both high-performance and high-fashion applications. Because color plays an important role in the function and appearance of a mirror lens, it’s important to understand the underlying principles involved in tinting them. The following tips will help you achieve the best tinting results. —Andrew Karp

Ophthalmic mirror densities range from 5 to 15 percent, which can make the mirror hard to see. To make it stand out, a base tint is added to the lens. A good rule of thumb for any given density of mirror is the darker the base tint, the more pronounced the mirror. Metallic mirrors with no base tint have been popular lately, as have flash mirrors. However, if you put a regular mirror over a light, 5 to 20 percent, color (especially a pastel color) the color will turn gray. For this reason, Opticote, an Illinois-based coating laboratory, invented the “Clear Mirror.” It is lighter than a flash, but still adds sparkle to the eyewear and does not change the underlying base tint. However, this treatment is generally not used for sunwear. Though tint colors can stand apart from mirrors, the reasons for choosing them are the same when paired with mirrors. There are two considerations when choosing a tint color. The first is function. The second is fashion.

Brown tints improve contrast but change the way colors are perceived. Brown tints let you see the dips and bumps in the road better. That’s why drivers love them. They are also great for skiers who need to see the moguls. However, the blue sky will look washed out and gray but any green color, like grass, will really pop and stand out. Gray tints preserve the perceived color balance. All colors look the same but everything is just darker. That’s why photographers sometimes refer to gray as a neutral density filter. Gray is ideal for outdoor workers who need accurate color rendition such as artists, police officers and architects. Green and its derivatives like G-15 are a compromise. They improve contrast somewhat and also skew perceived colors somewhat. The amount of change varies depending on if it is more gray/green or green/gray. Dark green makes an excellent all round outdoor base tint.

Tints are also used to complement skin tone. A silver mirror over a brown tint will go better with warm skin tones. The same silver mirror on a gray tint will complement cool skin tones. In fact any color tint can be used to complement the skin or an item of clothing. Most people have more than one outfit and the most fashion conscious want multiple pairs of mirrors to match. Another area where tints affect the mirrors is “attitude.” Cool or harsh colors make a mirror brassier. Silver over dark blue/gray gives a “motorcycle chrome and chain” look. Warmer subdued colors can have a calming effect on the mirror giving it a more classical look. Think Julie Andrews or Princess Diana. With tints and mirrors you are only limited by your imagination. LT Norm Roth is director of sales and marketing for Opticote, a leading coating laboratory located in Franklin Park, Ill.