Interior paint color ideas can be a challenge for any homeowner. Coordinating the paint with furniture, the purpose of the room, and personal color preferences can be hard enough, but there is another factor that should not be overlooked: light. Natural light, artificial light, and the shadows they create can change the look and feel of a room. Before the paint color is decided, consider the light factors below as well as some tips for choosing the right paint color. 

Four Ways Room Lighting Can Impact Your Paint Choices

Four Ways Room Lighting Can Impact Your Paint Choices
  1. Time of day. Throughout the day, sunlight can have different effects on the look of the paint. Morning sunlight casts a yellow light on the walls; around noon, the light becomes more of a mellow, blue color; and in the evening, the light is redder and warmer.

  2. Sunlight exposure. The location of the painted room can also impact how it looks. North-facing rooms get indirect sunlight, which can look blue or gray—this makes for a cooler space. All day long, south-facing rooms tend to have warm, natural light with a pale, orange hue. In the morning, east-facing rooms get warm sunlight as well, but it is more of a yellow color. West-facing rooms get warm sunlight in the afternoon that is almost red in color.

  3. Artificial lighting. Each type of lightbulb is unique and can alter how the paint appears. Fluorescent and LED lights cast a bluish color on the walls while incandescent and halogen bulbs produce a warm, yellowish color.

  4. Type of paint. Paints come in a variety of finishes that interact with lighting to create different looks within rooms. Glossy finishes reflect light and attract the eye, and matte paint (also known as “flat”) absorbs light for a smoother, consistent look.

Tips for a Harmonious Space

Tips for a Harmonious Space
  1. Test the lighting conditions. A small swatch of paint can only tell a person so much. Homeowners should paint a sizable sample patch of wall space with two coats to truly determine how the color will look in the actual room throughout the day. It is also beneficial to test the paint under natural light, general lighting, and accent lighting. More information on lighting options for your home.

  2. Test the whole space. Light casts shadows, so the same color can look lighter or darker on different walls within the same space. Test the color by painting sample patches on multiple walls of the room, including spaces across from windows and in dark corners. Homeowners may be surprised by how the paint color changes.

  3. Choose a paint color that correlates with the light in the room. Blues will look cooler in north-facing rooms with fluorescent lights. Bright yellow walls will really pop in east-facing rooms with halogen lights. More about different types of interior paint.

Taking lighting into account when making paint choices can be illuminating. The way paint appears to a homeowner on a paint chip or in a store can be radically different from how it looks once it’s on the wall and under specific lighting conditions. To get the most pleasing color, don’t forget to consider the room’s lighting.

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Sources: Apartment Therapy; Benjamin Moore; Farrow & Ball; HGTV; Sherwin-Williams.