How Can Lighting Affect Paint Color? 

February 24, 2021

Ever seen a paint color in a friend’s home and try to recreate the palette in your home? Many times the color will look distinctly different due to several factors, including the sheen used and lighting in the room. Both natural light and artificial light can make a major difference in the way a color appears on your surfaces. 

Color can be perplexing to the human eye. Many white rooms take on the colors of the natural environment around them. For example, yellows in the morning and more pink or orange in the evening. In addition, many rooms with lots of natural light coming in windows look different depending upon the time of day. As for artificial light, it can make some colors look darker or even more washed out. Let’s take a closer look at what homeowners should think about in regards to artificial and natural light when choosing a paint color. 

Natural Light 

artificial lightNatural light, meaning the light coming in from the outdoors through your windows, can change the overall look of a space dramatically. Depending upon the direction of the sun your paint can take on a different hue at different times of the day. 

For instance, if the room you are painting is north-facing, the light that will enter any windows  will be softer and will produce a warmer effect. This may mean that darker hues will be darker-looking and light colors will be more subdued. If the room you’re painting has a southern exposure, it will receive the most intense light. Darker colors will be somewhat brightened and light colors have the potential to leave the room washed out. In the evening, a room on the west side of your home will have warmth from the orange colors added and can leave rooms that are orange, red, or yellow saturated. Eastern exposure adds a bit of green to your room’s walls. You can brighten this room up with soft cheerful yellows. (Source: True Value Hardware Stores

Artificial Light 

Task lighting, accent lighting, and general lighting within your home is considered artificial lighting and it too, can change the look of the paint on your walls. Interior residential lighting is usually from a combination of incandescent, fluorescent, and sometimes, halogen bulbs.  According to True Value online, “Incandescent light bulbs provide warm light with a touch of yellow or amber and are warmer than fluorescent bulbs. Bright and warm colors like red, yellow or orange will appear more intense if incandescent bulbs light your room.” 

Fluorescent lights, conversely, give off a cool, slightly bluish light and work well with cool colors like blues or greens. Halogen lights are closest when it comes to replicating natural light. Halogen light is mostly white and bright and doesn’t distort color as much as other artificial light sources.

Are you thinking about painting any of your interior rooms and worry about how your artificial or natural light may change the appearance of the color. We suggest trying several samples on each wall and monitoring it at different times of the day. Our color specialists can work with you  on what colors may look like under different lighting conditions. 


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