Indoor Lighting and Interior Painting

When you’re considering a new color for a room in your home, you’ll want to consider that room’s illumination. A room’s lighting levels and type of lighting have a tremendous impact on how a color is going to look. A color that seems great in theory, and looks great on the swatch at the hardware store, might end up looking entirely different on your walls depending on how the room is lit. The way a color absorbs light, as well as the wavelengths emitted by light sources in a room, are a big part of determining how our brains perceive a color. Sunlight and artificial light differ in the light they emit, which will impact what wavelengths are available for a color to reflect or absorb and, thus, what the color is going to look like to the human eye.

Sunlight and Paint Color

When you’re choosing a color for an interior painting project in a room that’s often illuminated by ample natural sunlight during the day, keep in mind that the color will change with the time of day. The direction that the room’s windows are facing will also impact the color’s appearance.

  • North-facing rooms let in light that tends to be comparatively “cool,” dominated by bluer wavelengths of light. Although this can wash out lighter or more muted colors, a room with north-facing windows is a great space to use bolder, stronger colors.
  • South-facing rooms can make darker colors look brighter than they would look elsewhere, as well as lending an almost luminescent quality to lighter colors.
  • East-facing rooms change over the course of the day. Generally, the lighting early in the day will tend to be warmer and dominated by yellow tones, whereas after noon it will grow increasingly cool and blue. This can often work well with warmer colors.
  • West-facing rooms receive comparatively little light earlier in the day, but become washed in warm golden light in the later afternoon.

Artificial Lighting and Interior Painting

Different types of light bulbs emit different colors of light, which alters the appearance of colors within the room. You may want to consider either picking colors that work well with existing lighting, or selecting lights based on what will help to showcase the colors in your paint.

  • Incandescent lighting emits warm yellowish light. This can mute blue and green paint colors, although it enhances redder and yellower tones.
  • Halogen lightbulbs are decidedly close to natural light, appearing mostly white. Using these bulbs at night in rooms with ample sunlight can help minimize jarring changes in a room’s appearance as the lighting shifts.
  • Compact fluorescent lights can vary in color from purer white to more bluish wavelengths.
  • Fluorescent lights are cool and flat, and work better with blues and greens than with warm colors.

When choosing the best interior painting color for a room, it’s often a good idea to paint a patch of the wall as a sample, and observe how it looks throughout the day on the wall. Most colors will look different in your home than they do on a swatch in the store. Remember, color is an effect created in the human brain based in input of light into the eye, rather than something that’s fixed or constant. Taking a room’s natural and artificial lighting into consideration can help you choose a color you love that looks great throughout the day and night.