This section is dedicated to the interaction between different types of lighting and colour.

Lighting and colours

You have likely noticed that lighting substantially alters the appearance of colours, making them lighter or darker. For example, a wall will look darker at night under incandescent lighting than during the day in bright sunlight. Lighting also affects colour saturation e.g. a hue will appear more saturated under natural light from the south. Finally, lighting has an effect on hues themselves. You may have lived the experience yourself if you have bought a piece of clothing under the fluorescent lighting of a shop only to find it looks green when you take it home. This phenomenon is called metamerism.

Whether you are dealing in clothing or in paint, you must take into account the different influences lighting can have on particular colours before making your choices.

Compensating for the effects of different types of lighting

Artificial lighting :

Artificial lighting interacts differently with colours. In fact, it is the colour of light that influences the colours of decorative objects and walls. You need to consider that interaction if you are to take advantage of it or compensate for it, depending on the situation.

Halogen lighting = nearly white light
(closest to natural light at noon)
Fluorescent lighting = bluish light
(some fluorescent lighting gives off a light band that is closer to daylight)
Incandescent lighting = yellowish light

Natural lighting :

Two factors affect daylight. The positioning of windows determines the origin (orientation) of light that enters a room, while the position of the sun determines its intensity depending on the time of day and the season. Thus, a room that faces west will only get indirect light in the morning but will bask in orange beams in the late afternoon in winter, or early evening in summer.

Southern light

Light from the south is the strongest.

Generally, colours that are exposed to the intensity of southern light seem lighter and more saturated.

Warm, light and saturated colours draw extra life out of southern light and create a stimulating effect.

Dark and unsaturated colours absorb more light and can help balance the effect of light in rooms that enjoy a lot of sunlight. Such colours can be used on walls that face windows.

Cold colours, as long as they are not too light, soften the effects of intense lighting.

Very light colours appear to be nearly white in intense lighting. To compensate for this, choose a hue a touch darker on the colour chart (1 or 2 degrees).

Northern light

Northern light is the most diffused.

Warm colours can confer north-facing rooms a warmer ambience.

Warm, light and saturated colours reflect light and can help compensate for shortages of light, especially when used on the wall that faces the windows.

Dark and unsaturated colours absorb light. If you use them in a north-facing room, you should use them on window walls where they will have less effect on light.

In general, colours that are exposed to indirect northern light seem darker and/or more unsaturated. You can compensate for this by choosing a hue that is a touch lighter or a touch more saturated on the colour chart. (1 or 2 degrees).

Choosing the final hue

Before making your choice, the least you can do is to bring home some colour swatches and look at them carefully in the lighting of the room you are planning to paint and this, during a complete day/night cycle.

The best way to ensure your satisfaction is to buy a small quantity of the paint you want and test it over different areas of the room you wish to paint. More so if the lighting in the room comes from different sources. Again, be sure to look at the swatches during a complete day/night cycle. This is a lot of work, but it guarantees your final choice will be the best.