How does light affect how paint colors look?



If you've ever painted a room, you know that the paint color you choose doesn't always look the way you intended. That's because, in different lights, the same paint color can look very different. And those lights can be sunlight, artificial light and even candlelight. So, as you embark on your next painting project, knowing this -- and planning accordingly -- is crucial.


Whether you're an interior designer, a commercial painter, a DIYer or simply thinking about painting a room in your house, keep reading to learn how light can affect paint color -- and what you can do to ensure you choose the perfect paint color for your project. Also, be sure to check out the paint color matching tool any home improvement enthusiast needs: COLOR MUSE!


Why do paint colors look different in different lights?


When light and colors interact, the result is that a paint color can look totally different. For example, during the day, when the sunlight is brightest, paint colors look dramatically brighter than when the sun sets. Plus, under certain artificial lights, a light blue may look like a not-so-light blue. But why?

A lot of it has to do with sunlight. As the amount of sunlight and the angle of that light changes throughout the day, paint colors will also appear different. That's why it's so important to consider natural light when picking paint colors for a room.


What paint colors will look best based on sunlight exposure?


Based on how much sunlight each room receives, here's a room-by-room breakdown of what paint colors will look best.

  • North-facing rooms: It's best to use bold colors in these rooms, as lighter colors can become even more muted.

  • South-facing rooms: Go with darker colors in these rooms. Lighter colors don't tend to reflect light as well.

  • East-facing rooms: The best colors for east-facing rooms are reds, oranges and yellows.

  • West-facing rooms: Bright colors can actually appear dull in west-facing rooms, so opt for neutral tones.


What type of light bulbs should you use with each paint color?


Believe it or not, something as simple as the type of light bulb you choose can dramatically change the way paint colors appear. Here's your quick guide to different light bulbs and how they can affect each color.

  • Incandescent light bulbs: Use these bulbs to make red, orange and yellow walls stand out more.

  • Fluorescent light bulbs: These are the best type of bulb for helping blues and greens pop.

  • Halogen light bulbs: You're in luck! Halogen lights are great at making all colors look even more vivid and bright.

  • "Soft white" fluorescent light bulbs: With these bulbs, all colors seem to appear faded.


What type of light fixture should you try?




Did you know that the type of light fixture in each room can really affect how the paint colors appear? It's true. Here are a few types of light fixtures and how they convey light.

  • Lampshades: If your lampshade is a warm color, it will spread that same warm color onto the paint colors in the room. Conversely, light-colored lampshades -- such as white or ivory -- will give off a lot of bright light.

  • Downlights: These lights -- that direct light straight down from the ceiling -- showcase beautiful flooring, but can then cause the paint color on the walls to appear dark.


Final tips to keep in mind


As you choose paint colors for each room, be sure to think about these finishing touches.

  • Glossy vs. flat finishes in paint make a world of difference. Glossy finishes tend to reflect light and change the way paint colors look. In contrast, flat finishes don't reflect light as well and therefore keep colors looking consistent under any light.

  • The carpet you have in each room can change the way the paint color looks. For example, if you have a bright-colored rug in a room with white walls, those white walls might take on some of the bright color from the carpet. So plan accordingly!

  • Before committing to a paint color, it's a good idea to get a sample of all the colors you're considering and then see how they look in different spots in the room throughout the day. Also, turn on artificial lights at different times throughout the day to see how those lights affect your paint colors as well.


Paint on!


Now that you know how paint colors can look different in different lights, you can be sure to choose the colors that'll look absolutely beautiful in your space. Whether you're embarking on a new project or simply considering repainting your home, planning your paint colors accordingly is important. Be sure to use a paint color matching tool, like COLOR MUSE! This device can help you choose the perfect color for your home. Good luck!