How Light Affects Color

iPaint and Contract, Inc. | Glen Cove, New York |

Choosing a paint color often proves difficult for people. You can spend hours in the paint store brooding over tiny color cards for that perfect shade of robin’s egg blue. The paint is bought and applied. In the morning light you marvel your perfectly painted wall, but come evening that cheery color has darkened into a grayish hue. Or, perhaps, the color that looked so warm and inviting in the evening is cold and harsh in the daylight hours.
Color varies depending on the type of light, the time of day, year, and even by the room’s location on the compass. Consider the atmosphere you want to create and pick your color choices with that in mind.

Natural vs Artificial Light.
Sunlight is the purest light and will show the purest color. Be mindful that natural light is not consistent but varies greatly by directional changes and time of day. The morning sunlight streaming in your windows will have a yellower cast than the mid-afternoon sun, which casts a bluish hue.
Artificial light can supplement or replace natural light. The type of artificial light can determine a painted walls final look.

  • Incandescent bulbs throw a yellow light that intensifies warm colors and dulls cool colors. Choose this type of lighting if you want to give some warmth to colors with reds and yellow tones. If you already have existing lighting of this type and want to paint your room a cool color choose one with warm undertones, such as indigo, which is a blue with a red undertone.
  • Fluorescent bulbs have the opposite effect, generating a cooler blue light which mutes warm tones and brightening cool ones. Rooms painted in blue or green colors tend to look better and brighter.
  • Halogen light is a white light and mimics sunlight and it effects. It has the least change on paint colors.

Room Location (based on Northern Hemisphere)
North facing rooms have a bluer tint with a cool sunlight that lasts all day. These rooms tend to feel more gloomy. Light colors may actually make these rooms feel smaller and darker so watch shades like gray and beige colors with cool undertones. White paint can look sad. Paint walls shades that evoke light and warmth. Conversely, you could just go with it and create drama by using darker colors (but stick to those with warm tones such as browns and purples).
South facing rooms cast an orange-yellow glow that lasts all day. They are the sunniest of rooms, tend to intensify color, and can be energetic. Any color can work in these rooms. If you would like to make this room feel larger choose a soft pale tone.
For East and West facing rooms, you should consider the time of day you use them the most. These rooms catch the sunlight at either morning(East) or afternoon (West). If you use them all day long have a good mix of both warm and cool colors in your décor to compliment the changes in the light.
East facing rooms cast a yellow morning light but are cool in the afternoon. It is best just to work with this and choose blues and greens, especially if the room is not used in the morning hours.
West facing rooms are cooler earlier and sun-filled in the afternoon with a warm orange-red light. The rooms glow when painted warm shades. If your red west facing bedroom is too much for you, the walls can be toned down with cooler paint colors.
Before you choose your color its best to try a few shades with different undertones on each wall. Pick some lighter shades and some darker as well. Paint a few sample boards that you can pin temporarily to the walls and move around at will. This way you can try out the color on different areas and see how it changes in shadowy areas as well as near light sources. Turn on and off the lights to get a good feel of how the color is affected.

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