How Lighting Affects Interior House Paint

Posted by Sam Sundeleaf on Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Color is one of the most amazing features of our world, with its infinity of variations and combinations that never cease to amaze us. Even colors that seem like they should remain constant, such as the paint on a wall, can change and shift. How does this happen? And how can you account for it when you plan your painting?

We can only perceive color because of the way light reflects off of surfaces at a specific wavelength and enters our eyes. This means that as the light source changes, our perception of the color changes as well. That is why the exact same paint can look so different in different rooms, or at various times of day. 

The more you understand about how light reflects off of paint, the better you can plan for it, ensuring a spectacular interior paint job!

More Sheen Means More Reflection

The reflectiveness of paint is referred to as its sheen. Paints with a higher sheen, such as gloss and semigloss, reflect a great deal of light, while flat and eggshell paints reflect very little. Satin paint is right in the middle of the spectrum.

Interior house paints with a greater sheen will naturally reflect more light. This means that they will be more affected by changes in lighting as the angle of sun shifts each day. Also, they will tend to be more affected by the type of lighting in your room, and by other nearby colors. On the other hand, a flat or eggshell paint is much more likely to appear the same at any time of day or night. 

This characteristic does not make either option better or worse. It simply means that if you want your walls to always be consistent in hue, use a flatter paint. If you use interior paints with higher sheen, different walls will appear to have different colors, even though they are actually identical. This effect can be pleasing and intriguing; it will not clash or look poorly coordinated. Also, the changing light can give a room different moods based on the season and time of day. It just depends what you are looking for in your room!

Darker Colors Are Affected More by Lighting

Think of a glossy black car next to an equally glossy white car. Though they have the same finish on them, the light reflecting off the black car will stand out more in contrast, while the white car looks bright everywhere. A similar effect happens with interior house paint. If you paint a wall with a rich brown semi-gloss, the light will play on the surface much more than if you have a buttercup yellow semi-gloss on that same wall. The reflections will be more noticeable, and the apparent color of the wall will seem to shift more throughout the day.

Consider the Lighting

Walking down the lighbulb aisle at the nearest store can be puzzling. Not only are there LED, fluorescent, incandescent, halogen, and other styles, but there are also various "temperatures" of light! Light bulb manufacturers tend to classify lights as "warm (or soft) white" and "cool white." The warm bulbs tend to cast a light that is farther towards the red/yellow end of the spectrum, while cool white bulbs have a distinctly bluish tone. 

When you use warm white lights in a room with warm colored paint on the walls (red, yellow, orange, or even tan), the color is intensified, and can even feel overwhelming. A cool white bulb has a more neutral effect in a room like this. On the other hand, when you use cool white bulbs in a room with blue walls, it can feel harsh. Warm white softens this effect.

Work with an Experienced House Painting Company

As you plan your next interior house painting project, don't let sheens and lighting get you confused. By working with an experienced painting contractor, you gain the benefit of firsthand experience in thousands of homes. Your painters can help you evaluate your color choices and advise you as to how the lighting in your rooms will interact with the paint sheen. With expert advice, your house painting is sure to be fantastic!

For homeowners in the Portland area, Sundeleaf Painting is the name you can trust for premium house painting services. For over 90 years, we have been painting homes here in Portland, providing unbeatable craftsmanship and customer service. Call us for a free painting estimate today!

Sundeleaf Painting, Inc.
2037 SE Ochoco Street
Portland, Oregon 97222
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(503) 236-9797


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