The Effects of Light on Color

Daylight coming in a kitchen window

You may think once you’ve selected your paint color that your work is done. Not quite! Light has the power to literally change a color’s intensity and tone from room to room. The light source, quality, and direction can combine to make your paint color look different from one room to the next.

But don’t worry! If you take a little extra time to study your paint selections under your unique lighting conditions, you’ll be able to choose color and lighting combinations to create just the right atmosphere.

Natural light is the easiest source to gauge the best qualities of a color. While natural light isn’t perfect, it is still your best option for studying the balance between the warm and cool tones in your colors.

Direction of the light is also important to note. Cooler tones may peek out with northern light that trickles in the least, while bright southern exposure tends to offer warmer hues.

Even times of day can affect the colors in your space. For example, morning daylight will makes cool colors seem to glow warmer, whereas a strong midday light tends to wash out a color and make it seem lighter.

Lamps, sconces, ceiling fixtures, and recessed lighting also have the power to change your color’s overall intensity. Depending on the direction of the fixture or shade, your color may become brighter or more muted. A sconce will create shadows on the wall, warming up and darkening a color, whereas recessed lighting will brighten up the tones creating a more brilliant finish to your selection.

Surprisingly, even a choice as simple as a light bulb can affect color consistency.

  • Use incandescent bulbs and you will find a more vivid intensity to red or oranges and a more muted blue or green.
  • Halogens create more vivid intensity as they mimic natural light.
  • Fluorescent lighting will flatten a color, enriching its intensity.
  • Popular CFL light bulbs will produce a warmer tone in your color’s intensity, while an LED bulb will offer the option of brightening or toning down the color depending on the white or bluish tones in the hue you select.

While lighting and color may seem complicated, focusing on all the variables in your space and getting to know the lighting in your home will allow you to make educated design choices seamlessly and effortlessly. Happy painting!

Guest post by color Expert Kate SmithSensational Color

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