In this article we will be shedding light (not the Eskom kind…too soon?) on the issue of how light affects how your paint colour looks. Since light affects paint colours, it’s actually impossible for a paint colour to look the same in all lighting conditions. This phenomenon is called Illuminant metamerism – where colours are different hues under different lighting. Some colours are more metameristic than others such as greys, taupes, grey-blues, grey-greens, lavenders and mauves and are particularly affected by lighting conditions.


Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins and measures the warmness or the coldness of the white light spectrum. Different light bulb colours have different functions and different colour temperatures. A light bulb’s temperature either adds a coldness or warmness to the paint colour featured in a room. Here’s a quick guide on warm light bulbs vs cool light bulbs thanks to https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/should-you-buy-warm-or-cool-lights/

Soft white (2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin) is warm and yellow, the typical colour range you get from incandescent bulbs. This light gives a pleasant warm feeling and is often best for living rooms, the study and bedrooms as it gives a more natural effect.

Warm white (3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin) is more yellowish white. These bulbs are best suited for kitchens and bathrooms.

Bright white (4,000 to 5,000 Kelvin) is between white and blue tones. With a less cosy and more energetic feel, bulbs with this colour range are best for workspaces (such as a home office or garage) and kitchens with chrome fixtures.

Daylight (5,000 to 6,500 Kelvin) has a bluish tone. As the name indicates it is comparable to natural daylight and therefore makes it ideal for working, reading or applying makeup.


Natural sunlight is the truest representation of colour as it provides the neutral balance between warm (yellow) and cool (blue) ends of the light spectrum but even natural sunlight isn’t consistent.  It changes throughout the day and depends on cloudy or clear skies so the shadows created by an overcast day impact how the wall colour looks. Rooms with north-facing windows receive the most sunlight so pale colours and whites may seem dull but bold colours will seem brighter. South-facing receives indirect natural light and therefore infuses the space with a warm soft tone so dark colours appear darker.

Windows facing east will let in a lot of natural light in the mornings, but later in the day the room will become dimmer. Dark colours will appear brighter in the early morning light, but they could end up looking dull as the light fades. While darker in the morning, west-facing rooms are bathed in warm golden or yellow tones by late afternoon. On sunny days, red or yellow colours may appear very intense and bold.

How to test colour with different lighting:

In a few places on each wall, paint swatches to help select your desired paint colour. (These can easily be painted over once you decide).An even better option is to paint a small square of drywall, which you can place throughout the room to see how the paint colour changes in different areas.

Choose a time when you can spend an entire day at home viewing the swatches in varying lighting conditions, preferably a sunny day so you can see how it affects the colour.

Tip: Experts recommend that you paint your swatches the night before so that they’ll be fully dry first thing in the morning for ideal viewing the next day.

If you like a colour, but there are certain times of the day when it’s a little off, you can then think about ways to change the lighting. For natural lighting from windows, you can consider adjusting light flow through the use of curtains or blinds. For indoor lighting, experiment with different types of bulbs to see how they change the hue. Tips courtesy of https://www.fivestarpainting.com/blog/2020/october/how-lighting-affects-paint-color-and-why-it-matt/

How Light Affects Color
Thank you to Kate Smith, an internationally recognized color expert, consultant, and designer.

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