How Light Changes Colors Part Two: Natural Light

Jun 15, 2016

In part one of this article we discussed how incandescent, fluorescent, halogen and LED lights can change the way colors look in a home. But we didn’t explain natural light. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to change a light bulb. Natural light is something we have very little control over, especially once a home is built.

Weather patterns, time of day and position of your home all influence how natural light appears. Since being able to decided exactly how your home will sit on your property is an opportunity many homeowners don’t get, let’s talk about the exposures that are possible.

North: Rooms that are north facing receive natural light that has a blue-ish tone to it. Bold colors are especially striking in these rooms.

South: Light colors look like they glow in south facing rooms and dark colors look brighter. The options in south facing rooms have a huge range. The natural light can go a long way to help set the tone for the room.

East: East facing rooms see the biggest change in light throughout the day. In the morning the light is warm, or yellow and gets more blue as the day progresses. Oranges and yellow tones look especially nice in east facing rooms.

West: West facing rooms look their best in the evening, when the natural light is warm. In the morning these rooms are in shadow and many colors can seem dull. Picking a light, bright color may be your best bet in these rooms.

This is where natural light and light bulbs work together. Picking a light bulb that gives off a similar tone to the natural light you get can make it easy to select a color that looks great all day and night.

Here are a few other things to consider before committing to paint colors:

  • Natural light changes with the seasons. After living in a space for a full year, you may have a different opinion on what colors you want to use, maybe bolder, or softer, based on how the light changes.
  • Walls painted light colors reflect the colors around them. If you paint the walls white and fill the room with bright red furniture, your white walls will look like they have a pink cast to them.
  • The sheen of the paint can impact how the color looks. Glossy paint will reflect bright light and give the paint even more of the tone of the light source. Flat paint lets colors look truer under bright light.

Now that you’ve gotten the primer on color and light, how will this influence your color choices? The next time you walk into a room and love the color, find out what direction the room is facing and what kind of light bulbs are in the space. Then you can use that information to inspire a striking color scheme in your space.

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