How Light Impacts Paint Color

October 10, 2022

In our blog, we often discuss how challenging choosing an interior or exterior color can be. Choosing a color that you will enjoy for a long while can be a pressure-filled chore that may seem overwhelming. In past blogs, we have discussed using your personality, the mood you want to create, and your own furnishings as inspirations for color choices. 

Today, let’s explore how light may impact that choice of color and how you may want to consider what direction your home faces and the type of natural and artificial light your room receives before you make your final choice. 

The Power of Light 

At certain times of the day, paint color on the walls can seem like one color and then shift as the day progresses making the room take on a different mood and vibe. This is usually caused by natural light coming in the windows, doors, or skylights, but can also be caused by artificial lighting such as lamps, pendants, and task lighting. 

We often tell our clients who are choosing a color palette to put samples on several walls to see what it might look like in varying degrees of light as well as to examine the color several times of the day to see how the natural light may impact the hue. 

outdoor kitchen

Natural Lighting 

Light coming in from outdoors is considered natural lightning. This lighting can differ greatly depending upon the direction your home faces. 

For instance, southern-facing windows typically provide the most intense natural light, which can be harsh on sunny afternoons. This type of lighting may make your lighter tones such as pastels and lighter colors seem washed out and faded. Conversely, dark colors will appear brighter and more vibrant in this southern exposure scenario. 

Homes with northern exposure tend to let in less light with a softer appearance creating a glow in a room. This type of light will make darker colors often appear darker and light colors may be slightly muted. 

Western-facing rooms may appear darker in the mornings and grow lighter as the day continues, while east-facing rooms are flooded with light in the mornings and grow darker as the day progresses. 

laundry room cabinets

Artificial Light 

While we normally can not control the amount of natural light in each room or the direction that our homes face unless we specially build them in a certain direction. We can, however, control the amount and types of artificial light in a room. 

The type of lighting and the type of lightbulb can impact the amount of illumination in a room and the type of color glow that will be reflected off the walls and ceiling. 

According to TrueValue online, homeowners should consider that “interior residential lighting is usually from a combination of bulbs with different warmth and brightness. Depending on the kind of light you’re using in a particular room, the effect it will have on paint color will vary. Check your sample colors with the light on in the room to see how the colors look under that particular light.” explains further by noting that standard soft white incandescent or LED light bulbs provide warm, natural lighting. These lights will make bright colors (red/orange/yellow) appear slightly more intense, and cooler paints (green/blue/gray) will appear a little duller. Vintage bulbs (Edison bulbs) are known to add a warm, sometimes yellow, and occasionally amber hue to a room. On the other hand, fluorescent lights are known for giving off a blueish, cooler light.

Consider these factors before making a final choice on your paint color and color palette for your interior rooms. 


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