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Paint Colors for Different Lighting

After thoughtfully deliberating, you feel like you have found the perfect color and come home loaded with cans of paint. But, once you start painting your homes interior, you notice that the color doesn’t look the same on your walls as it did on the swatch. You hope a second coat will make all the difference. Instead, it looks just as bad. If this has ever happened to you, you aren’t alone. The reason why the paint color you choose looks different on your walls is because the lighting in the room affects how the color looks.

Interior painters in Simsbury CT

How your eyes perceive color is affected by the way that color absorbs light and the type of lighting that illuminates it. For example: Black absorbs light, and white reflects light. Natural light from the sun changes throughout the day making the color look different from morning to night whereas artificial light doesn’t change but can affect how the color looks depending on the type of bulb you use. A color swatch that you loved in the store can look drab on your walls while a shade that you weren’t in love with as a swatch may be perfect depending on the lighting in the room. Knowing more about how different lighting affects color can help you choose the right shade for your room.


How Sunlight Affects Wall Colors

The type of sun exposure that a room or hallway plays a big role in how a wall color will look.

East Facing Windows

When you choose a color for a space with east facing windows, it’s important to realize that it will look very different throughout the day. Rooms with eastern exposure will glow with warm light in the morning and get brighter throughout the day until dusk. Then, as the sun moves farther away, the light will change from white to gray.

It is a good idea to choose the color based on when you will be in the room more. If you will spend the most time in the room in the morning, you may want to choose a cool tone such as a green, blue or purple that will contrast beautifully with the warm morning light. If you will spend most of the time in the room during the evening, you may want to choose a warm tone such as a red, yellow or orange that will make the room feel cozy even bathed in gray light.

West Facing Windows

Spaces with west facing windows are the exact opposite of rooms with east facing windows. In the morning, only dim gray light will shine into the room casting dark shadows. As the sun moves higher in the sky, the room will become brighter. It will be filled with warm light as the sunsets. Reds, yellows and oranges will look the best in the morning while greens, blues and purples will look the best in the evening. Neutral tones can be a great choice for west or east facing rooms because they can look elegant at anytime of day.

South Facing Windows

Spaces with south facing windows are filled with light nearly all day. Any color you choose will look radiant from morning to evening. If you have been thinking about painting a room with a rich dark tone, a room with southern exposure is an excellent choice. The high, consistent sunlight will make the color look brighter. In contrast, a light color will practically make the room glow.

Interior painting in Glastonbury CTNorth Facing Windows

Spaces with north facing windows will be the darkest all day. Since only dim, cool light will shine through the windows, a cool color can make the room look drab. Warm tones, from creamy whites to bright reds, will make the space feel more welcoming. Bold dark tones can make the room feel larger and sophisticated instead of dreary.

How Artificial Lighting Affects Wall Colors

Sun exposure isn’t the only lighting to take into consideration. The type of light bulbs that you use will also affect how the color looks. Artificial light 
has different tones depending on what kind you use.

Incandescent Lights

Incandescent light bulbs are becoming more difficult to find but they used to be the standard. These blubs give off a warm, amber light that makes yellows, oranges and reds look more brilliant and greens, blues and purples look duller.

Halogen Lights

Halogen light bulbs have a bright, white light that is similar to natural light when the sun is at its peak. Much like rooms with southern exposure, any color will look excellent in halogen light.

LED (Light-Emitting Diodes) Lights

LED lights can be warm or cool depending on the type that you choose. Keep in mind that cool LEDs will complement greens, purples and blues best while warm LEDs will complement reds, yellows and oranges best.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights are known for the greenish-blue light that they emit. This lighting tends to flatten rich warm colors and make warm neutrals look eerily drab. Blues, greens and cool neutrals look the best under fluorescent lightening.

How to Test Colors in a Room

The best way to find the perfect paint color for a space is to pick up a few samples of different shades of the color that you like. Then, paint 2” by 2” squares on the wall in the colors. Be sure to paint two coats. After the paint colors have dried, look at them at different times of the day and under different lightening to decide which one you like best.

Keep in the mind that the sheen you choose will affect how it looks as well. Flat finishes tend to look truer to the swatch while glossy finishes reflect more light. If you would like help choosing the perfect color for your room, give us a call! We offer a free color consultation to help you find the right color and shade for your space.


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