Think About Light When Choosing A Paint Color

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A Brief Refresher

Color, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary

flickr photo credit: lily_nymph
Flickr photo credit: lily_nymph


noun, often attributive \ˈkə-lər\

Definition of COLOR

a :  a phenomenon of light (as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objectsb (1) :  the aspect of the appearance of objects and light sources that may be described in terms of hue, lightness, and saturation for objects and hue, brightness, and saturation for light sources <the changing color of the sky>; also :  a specific combination of hue, saturation, and lightness or brightness <comes in six colors>
So we see color because of light. Without light there is no color. The type of light also affects color and is always changing. When you’re choosing a paint color for your home you will do well to take note of the light that will be effecting your room before making your choice. Once you learn the variables of light and how color responds you’ll be painting with confidence.
flickr photo credit: Mazaletel
Flickr photo credit: Mazaletel
You can contact me, John Conca, at 530-306-3494, if you are searching for a home anywhere in El Dorado county, or if you are ready to sell your home. I’d be happy to discuss your options with you. You can find new Placerville listings here.


The direction the windows in the room you’re going to paint plays an important role in the light that comes in through the window onto your walls.


  • Go with: Since the light is cooler and more diffused through the day in north-facing rooms you have two choices; warm it up by painting it warmer colors or play it up by painting it a darker, cozier color and using the room as a study or den.
  • Avoid:  Whites in north-facing rooms can appear dingy.


  • Go with: Softer, cooler colors offset the extra light and warmth that flood south-facing rooms.
  • Avoid: If you want a soothing room then avoid adding warm colors to the room as they’ll compound the warm light coming in through the windows.


flickr photo credit: Michael Leenheer
Flickr photo credit: Michael Leenheer
  • Go with: With most of the light coming in during the morning paint your east-facing room warmer colors to brighten up the room if you use it during the afternoons or evenings.
  • Avoid: The light coming in will be a yellow hue so avoid darker tones which have a yellow tone or it may look dirty.


  • Go with: Choose colors which won’t look too dull without natural light during most of the day, but which won’t become overbearing when the sunset lights hit in the evening.
  • Avoid: If you work the night shift and you are in a west-facing bedroom then choose cooler shades which will tone down the light in the evening hours.

James Martin suggests what you can do,“if you really like white,” is to choose a warm white for walls in a flat sheen, then high-gloss trim the same color. 

The Hour Makes A Difference

flickr photo credit: Nosha
flickr photo credit: Nosha

Colors look different as the sun moves across the sky and varies in its intensity and direction. When the sun is rising and setting it is warmer making colors appear luminous. In the afternoon the sun is most intense and can wash out colors. Consider the time of day you most often use the room you’ll be painting and choose your color accordingly.

Tip: Buy a paint sample and paint a piece of poster board then hang it on the wall and look at it during different parts of the day. You’ll find out if you can live with the effects the changing light has on your chosen color.

 Consider A Different Light Bulb

flickr photo credit: Mark Nordgren
flickr photo credit: Mark Nordgren

If you buy the perfect paint color and bring it home and find out it looks completely different in your home, the answer may be as simple as changing out your light bulbs.

  • Incandescent bulbs produce a warmer light that enhance red, yellows, and oranges. Use this if you want to downplay cooler tones.
  • Fluorescent bulbs produce a cooler light which enhances blue and green tones while diminishing warmer hues.
  • LED’s produce a flexible light and look good with almost all paint colors.
  • CFL’s full spectrum bulb mimic daylight, but other CFL’s light color depends on the bulb. The lower the Kelvin rating on the box, the warmer the light.
  • Halogen closely resembles daylight, and makes colors appear more vivid.


Thanks for stopping by! Give me, John Conca, a call at 530-306-3494, if you want to discuss your real estate options or if you have any questions. Follow my blog for updates on local events, real estate news, timely home maintenance suggestions and tips for buyers and sellers. Have a nice day.


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