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How to choose the right paint colors: Why is it so hard?!?!

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Painting interior walls
The affect of lighting on paint colors

Selecting the perfect color for your living space is dependent on many factors. Gone are the days of grabbing a can of Navajo White and slapping it on the wall. Today’s lighting options can change the most neutral color. LEDS, fluorescent, Edison and natural light will all impact the paint applied to the walls.

Natural light from windows can vary in tone depending on which direction the window faces. A north facing window will let in softer light and can be perceived as having a warm tone. A darker wall color will be darker than expected and light tone will not have as much impact. Southern exposure is more intense. Colors will appear bright but white tones may not hold up to the intensity and wash out. With East and West exposure, you are dealing with strong, intense light as well as shadows. Colors that seem perfect at one time of day may seem warmer than needed or grayed out in other times.

This is all natural. Speaking of natural, let’s talk about trees. The trees in close proximity of the windows will bleed color into the home. Any other building with strong tones will also affect the interior color. Don’t forget about snow! Winter is the most neutral time to choose a color. Don’t be surprised when spring arrives and the leaves return, that lovely shade of gray that was so perfect before now has a tinge of green to it!

Next remember artificial light. Today’s choices seem to be endless. LEDS, Fluorescents and Eddison bulbs can greatly influence the colors around them. has a wonderful chart explaining which type of bulb compliments the type of color palette. Fluorescent intensifies warm tones and dulls cool tones. Eddison bulbs enhance warm tones and LEDS compliment cool tones. LEDS are available in several “light colors” Daylight, Warm, and Cool. The color bulb should be chosen to support the color palette and the true tone of the paint. On an interesting note, if you have a paint color that is not behaving, try the opposite color of light. For example, if a gray paint color appears too blue try a warm light bulb.

Now that we have the knowledge of how to choose the right paint color, how do we apply it? Select your paint color at the time when you would be using the room the most. Take note of the existing furniture, flooring and window treatments. What is the goal of the color? Are you trying to cozy the room up or make it feel spacious? Does the room have a lot of natural light or are you going to the use several light fixtures? Order samples of the color or paint a small sample on a sheet of card board. Place the cardboard in the room and watch how the room changes at different times of the day. Try a few different light bulb tones to see how that impacts the color tone.

Happy painting!


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