Color Contact Lenses

Color and Cosmetic Contact Lenses

About 12% of contact lenses are worn for the purpose of changing eye color and appearance. These contact lenses are called color contact lenses or cosmetic contact lenses. After manufacturing a traditional or customs soft contact lens, these lenses undergo as second step to tint, dye, print or hand paint the lens to create nearly any appearance from a natural eye color to imaginative eye colors.

A hand painted cosmetic contact lens to create a natural appearance. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Typical color and cosmetic contact lenses use color palettes made to mimic natural iris colors. There are 2 main color types; opaque colors for a dramatic color change effect or translucent colors for a subtle color enhancement.

Prosthetic Contact Lenses

Prosthetic contact lenses help restore the appearance of patients who have disfigured eyes resulting from trauma or congenital conditions. A soft prosthetic lens is designed to cover the disfigured eye in order to mask the eye. These lenses not only have a cosmetic effect, but also provide other benefits. Many patients experience psychological benefits, often increasing quality of life. In addition to improving cosmetic appearance, in some patients, the lenses also have therapeutic benefits. 


Custom hand painted prosthetic contact lens with extremely detailed features to create a ultra realistic appearance. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Certain designs can help block light and eliminate problems with light sensitivity or double vision. For individuals with iris damage from trauma, surgery, or congenital disease, these lenses can create an artificial pupil to reduce glare and improve vision.

Tinted Contact Lenses

Tinted lenses are generally used to enhance or reduce contrast in specific lighting conditions. This is especially helpful for athletes. On sunny days a neutral grey tinted lens aids in reducing light intensity. On overcast days a yellow/amber tinted lens will brighten the environment. Photochromic lenses will darken in bright outdoor environments and return to clear once indoor. These lenses can also be helpful in those sensitive to bright light associated with light induced migraines.

Custom amber tinted soft contact lens. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Decorative and Theatrical Contact Lenses

These are referred to as Halloween, stage, theater, film, cosplay, comic-con, costume or decorative contact lenses. These lens designs are more imaginative than color and cosmetic lenses. These lenses can be designed in nearly every color and design imaginable. These lenses are most commonly seen on stage and screen, completing a costume for an actor or actress. These are particularly popular in sci-fi, fantasy, action, and horror movies.

Simple designs, such as a limbal ring or circle contact lenses, can make the iris look bigger and more defined. More adventurous designs, such as sclera contact lenses or character contact lenses, can be used to make the whole eye appear another color, such as all black, or give a cat eye pupil.

Color options and designs are only limited by the artists ability to paint the desired effect and Dr. Gelles ability to design a well fitting and healthy lens. As Dr. Gelles works with the best contact lens artists in the industry and only offers custom hand painted designs you must provide examples (images or drawings) or detailed instructions of your desired lens design. The final lens will be an artistic representation of the lens design, not an exact duplicate. To ensure we meet your deadline, we must begin the process 12 weeks, at minimum, prior to your event.

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