Color & Light: The Love Letter
Dear Color,You spark such a debate. Some colors elicit such strong feelings (I’m looking at you purple) and some colors are just neutral (pun intended). As a designer, there is no design element more feared and revered than you, color.
…And light, don’t even get me started! You are a nearly impossible partner for color. Color cannot live without you, but yet you put so many demands on her! One day, when you’re all bright and sunny, you make her look her best! Then, the next, when you’re dark and brooding, color gets all weird and depressed.
Color, sometimes you let light turn you into something entirely different! From the paint chip to the wall you can change so much. Even in the same space you can look different from wall to wall because you let light change you!
Oh dear color, I wish you’d just stop being so darn fickle.
All the Best,
Color & Light: The Scoop
Okay, so maybe you don’t wax poetic over the relationship between light and color, but I can guarantee that you too have felt the frustration and pain from the effect light has on color.
What is the deal between light and color? Here are a few facts you should know
- Color cannot exist without light.
- Remember, white is the complete reflection of light and black is the complete absorption
- Natural light changes throughout the day in your home
- Window orientation and time of day can effect your paint color
- Color intensifies when it is painted on all of your walls
North, South, East, West… Which Way Is Best?
You have probably heard about how the directional orientation of the windows in your home can effect the energy efficiency in your home. However, the direction your windows face will also effect the way your paint looks.
You’ve probably experienced this when you notice a color difference between two walls painted the same color. Depending on location and direction of the windows in the room, the way the color looks may be slightly different from wall to wall.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how your windows can effect paint color and some tips on how to work with this phenomena:
**note: when I use the terms cool and warm, I am referring to the color temperature of the light, not the heating and cooling of the air in the room**
North facing windows provide the coolest or bluest light of the day. North facing windows will provide the brightest light in the morning hours, but provide diffuse light throughout the day. If you paint a room with north facing room blue or gray, the blue in these colors will be intensified, especially in the morning hours. For rooms with north only or north and east facing windows, you might consider using a slightly warmer color. Or you can just be prepared for cool undertones to really pop in these rooms.
Great creamy or warm white paints include:
And a few warm grays or warmer neutrals are:
East facing windows provide bright, white light in the morning hours. The overall effect is a little more neutral in color temperature than north facing windows, but the light is only bright during the morning hours.
South facing windows are brightest in the afternoon. You will have a slightly warmer light in rooms with south facing windows. You can also expect the light to be a little brighter than the light from north facing windows, but still diffuse.
West facing windows give you the brightest and warmest, most golden light. They provide the most light in the afternoon hours. If you have a room with south and west facing windows, you will definitely want to use a cooler color to help balance out the golden sunlight. For example, if you want to paint a room white, select a cool white or a white with some green undertone.
A few great “cool” white options are:
A few great “cool” grays are:
Intensification of Color
I mentioned the phenomena of color intensification once the entire room is painted. This is an actual phenomena in which the light that is reflected from a colored surface the light itself becomes colored, thus creating an intensification of the wall color.
For this reason, I always recommend going lighter and more muted than you think you should. For example, this fabric might be my inspiration piece for my home’s color palette:
I really want to paint the walls in my great room a soft robin’s egg blue like the background in the fabric. If I pull out my paint deck and select a color that matches it, I would get a color like these:
… which is a VERY bright blue and would probably result in the most important room in your home looking like a nursery or a Caribbean beach resort. However, if I look for something a little lighter and a little more muted, I would find a few colors that would give a blue look without the nursery effect. Here are a few examples:
These colors are more subtle, but when applied to your walls, the color will intensify giving you the overall effect of light blue walls.
I’ll admit, I’m no Shakespeare, but I hope you enjoyed my little love story anyway. How do you think you’ll apply the color & light love story to your next project? If you feel like you need some help with your paint colors, check out our 100% virtual paint color consultation! In 45 minutes I can take away the headache of spending hours in the paint store and buying dozens of paint samples!