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Light and Color

Light and Color
Light and Color
Light and Color

Light Reflectance Value

Have you ever noticed how the color of your house can look different at different times of the day? Or how the walls of a room may seem warmer on a sunny morning and cooler at night when the lights are turned on? The way that the human eye perceives color involves several factors, but the primary factor is the Light Reflectance Value (LRV).
The LRV for a paint color can be found on color chips and fan decks at your local paint store. It’s a two-digit number that corresponds to the percentage of light reflected. Think of it this way, white reflects light and black absorbs light. A bright white paint will have an LRV of 85% and a pure black paint will have an LRV of 5%. A higher LRV means a higher amount of light reflected.
LRV is used by designers, color consultants and painters in the design of both interior and exterior spaces. Certain colors enhance the quality of lighting and others reduce the intensity. In a warm climate such as the Outer Banks, higher LRV colors might be used on the exterior to reflect sunlight and reduce energy costs. Conversely, in cold climates darker colors may be used to absorb sunlight.

The Impact of Sunlight

The way that sunlight changes through the course of a day is self-evident. Photographers are particularly aware of this. Morning sunlight is warmer from the perspective of color. It is more yellow. My mid-day, the sunlight develops a bluish cast. By late afternoon the sunlight is warm again, favoring red. Seasonally, Winter sun is cooler/bluer than it is in Summer.

Artificial Light

Most indoor spaces rely on artificial light to supplement or replace natural light. The three types of artificial light found in most homes are incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent. Incandescent and halogen lighting are warmer. They enhance reds and yellows, so if you want a blue wall in a room with incandescent lighting, for example, you would tone the paint with a little red. Fluorescent lighting is cooler and enhances blues and greens.


With most interiors, there are multiple combinations of light in play. The numberof windows in a room affect how much natural and artificial light are present at certain times, but you also need to consider which direction the windows face. In a room with southern exposure, you get more direct light. If the windows provide eastern exposure, you have more morning sun, while western exposure provides more afternoon sun. Northern and western exposures provide cooler, bluish tones and southern/eastern exposures provide warmer, yellower tones.

Other Considerations

Other elements in a room can also affect your color perception by reflecting additional tones. Flooring, drapes, mirrors and area rugs can reflect a different color cast in certain lighting. For example, a red oak hardwood floor with direct sunlight through a window will enhance the warmth of a yellow wall. Sheen is normally chosen for its durability and hiding power, but it can also impact the perception of color by reflecting additional light. Higher gloss paints are typically used to draw your attention to detail on trim. Walls use flatter sheens because you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to a wall.


The LRV of a color lets you know how much light will be reflected on a painted surface. Colors and sheens can be selected or modified to reflect the quantity and quality of a room’s light sources. The objects and décor of your room can also influence how your eyes perceive a color. When selecting paint for your next project, try painting a 12” x 12” piece of cardboard or drywall. View the painted sample in different lighting conditions and in different areas of the room.


To avoid confusion, you may want to familiarize yourself with these color terms.
Tint: a color that has been lightened by adding white
Shade: a color that has been darkened by adding black
Tone: a color that has been modified by adding black and white
Chroma: brightness or dullness based on the purity of the color
Warm Colors: reds, oranges, yellows
Cool Colors: greens, blues, violets

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Why Customers Choose Beach Painting

  • Expertise - we have the experience and versatility to take on the most demanding painting and residential construction projects.
  • Integrity - we only use the highest grade materials and take the time to do the job correctly.
  • Dependability - our employees are directly employed (not subcontractors) and covered under our liability and workers' compensation policies.
  • Professionalism - we carefully measure all components of the work and provide a detailed scope in our estimates and proposals.
  • Longevity - with over 20 years of steady growth, we have become the largest full-service painting contractor on the Outer Banks.
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