How Light Affects Colour
An extraordinary response to light is our paint’s most distinctive asset, but while we – and you – love the beautiful, unexpected results of different light sources meeting our colours, this can add an extra layer of complexity when choosing how to redecorate.
Our brief guide will give you some options for making the most of different light, whether that means embracing it wholeheartedly, or offsetting it with a few clever tricks.
The quality of the light, the time of day, and even the time of year can change how we perceive colour under natural light. This means it can be difficult to pin down every element that might play tricks with your paint colour, but we do have a top tip for outwitting unfavourable light conditions. It all comes down to considering the aspect of the room you’re painting – whether it faces east, west, north, or south.
North Facing Rooms
Northern light tends to bring out the cooler tones within a colour, so if you’re using a lighter tone, avoid anything with a green or grey base. Yellow based colours like Yellow Ground, New White and White Tie will help to bounce as much light as possible around the room. If you have the space, hanging a mirror to reflect the light will do the trick, too.
Another approach is not to fight nature, but to embrace the cooler light that comes into your north facing room with darker wall colours such as Railings or Down Pipe, which create a cosy, cocooning feel.
South Facing Rooms
In fine weather, south facing rooms can be filled with warm light from dawn until dusk, making them among the easiest rooms to choose a palette for.
Using soft, pale tones on the walls of a south facing room is a great way to maximise the feeling of light and space. Blues, such as Pavilion Blue and Borrowed Light, create a calming aquatic feel, while red based neutrals like Joa’s White will create a warmer feel. For a crisp, fresh look no matter your wall colour, try a bright white on woodwork.
South Facing Bedroom
Painted in White Tie No. 2002 | Estate Emulsion
East & West Facing Rooms
When decorating an east or west facing room, it’s useful to consider when you’ll be using it most. Light in west facing spaces is cooler in the morning and brighter in the afternoon, while the opposite is true for east facing rooms.
In east facing rooms, embracing the cooler evening light with light blues and greens can have a beautifully soft and calming effect – try Pale Powder or Teresa’s Green, which retain some warmth into the evening.
In west facing rooms, the warm tones of Middleton Pink or Smoked Trout are excellent options for making the most of strong late afternoon light, while Slipper Satin or Shadow White will look cool in the morning but neutralise the warmer light later in the day.
Just like natural light, artificial lighting can affect how colours appear. Halogen and incandescent bulbs emit yellow light, which makes wall colours appear warmer, while cool white bulbs tend to give off a bluer light, giving paint a cooler cast. For the truest representation of your chosen wall colour, you may want to try a neutral white bulb, which most accurately replicates daylight.