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  • Lighting changes the colour of your paint
  • Paint colour changes because of lighting

How your light bulbs are wrecking your paint colour

So you’ve finally selected that perfect paint colour. You selected the paint, the finish (flat to gloss) and brought your new addition home to makeover that room.

The can is opened, paint poured into the tray and you dip that new paintbrush.

No matter how many times I go through these steps, it’s just as much fun as that first makeover. I love the way paint colour can transform a space.

But, have you ever gotten to the wall, and stepped back to check that you came home with the right colour? Looking at the name on the can, the name on the paint chip… and realize it doesn’t look as amazing as it did just an hour ago at the store?

It’s happened to almost every DIYer.

No, it’s probably not the person who mixed the paint. (But that has happened to me, too.)

It’s the lighting that makes your paint colour look different.

Colour experts and we designers say the same solution to this frustration over and over. You can ask Mr. Google. We say it a lot.

Look at the paint chip in the same light as you have at home. While my local Sherwin-Williams store has one of those light boxes, where you can put a colour chip and change the light source from fluorescent to daylight and beyond, it’s still not the best way to avoid this frustration.

You have to look at the colour at home, on the exact wall you want to paint. And look at it in the morning, afternoon and evening.


Colour is made up of light. So when we see white, we are actually seeing a full spectrum of light from red to violet. If the light source doesn’t have one of those colours in it, we won’t see that colour reflected.

When I first shared this concept with my son, I said that the object is ‘sharing’ that colour with us. For example, a red apple eats all of the other colours in the visible spectrum, and shares red with us.

The other part of this story is that different kinds of light bulbs share different colours. So if we use a light source that has more blue in it, then the light reflected from the surface will have more blue in it. If it’s a warm light, then the surface colours around the light will have an orangey tint.

And even with natural light, the colour of light changes a bit during the day. In the morning, it’s a warmer light, and towards midday, it gets cooler.

Colour and light are like a design team. And when they work well together, it’s amazing.

And when they aren’t working well, it can be turbulent.

It’s OK to keep the paint, and try different light bulbs. It takes a lot less time to change a light bulb than to paint an entire room again.

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