In Advice, Interior Painting, Paint, Paint Colours, Painting Tips

After choosing the perfect paint colour  and rushed home to start painting or hired the expertise of Ottawa painters to do it for you only to suddenly realize that the colour is not exactly the same as the one from the paint swatches but shows up either darker or lighter.

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It’s a common issue faced by DIY painters and there are a few reasons why the paint colours you painted on the walls or ceilings don’t look exactly like the ones you picked from a colour chip sample.


Why Paint Colours Look Different After Painting

It’s frustrating when home owners and DIY painters experience the  phenomenon of the colours not looking like the paint samples they thought they were getting.  This is technically called metamerism.

Metamerism is a term used to describe why the dyes or pigments in paint colours might match the paint sample you chose in daylight or natural lighting but yet do not match exactly what you were expecting under artificial lighting such as incandescent or fluorescent lighting.

To put it simply this means that colors may take on different hues when viewed under different lights. 

Understanding how lighting affects paint colour can help ensure a happy ending to that annoying question of “why does the paint colour look different than the one I picked?”

It’s a frustrating question that even the best painters from reliable painting companies near you often get asked.

The undertones of the colour itself will affect how different the paint colour will look as well since most paint colours are made by mixing two or more colours together it then creates an undertone.  

As an example taking a beige and adding a blue tint to it creates the blueish undertone that will appear from the paint once it’s on the walls.  Adding a green tint to a beige will give it a green undertone, adding brown makes a brown undertone.  Whatever colour of tint is added will be the undertone that come through the paint colour after it’s applied to the walls. 

Even if choosing a white paint colour that you might think is the most absolute of a neutral it actually is not as there is always a tint added to any white paint colour.  

Keep in mind that furniture and flooring will also affect how the undertone will make the room feel whether that’s colder or warmer.  This is why it’s always good to talk to the professionals whether that be at your local paint store you are purchasing the paint from or the painting professionals you decide to hire.  

Lighting is also a key role player in why paint colours look different after painting.  Paint colours will look different once they are dried and the lighting in the area will make it appear lighter or darker than what you were expecting even though the paint swatch should should be a pretty good indication of what the colour will look like when it’s dry it will be somewhat different under artificial or natural lighting.


What Affects Paint Colours

Things like choosing the wrong undertone, or not realizing that having gone with the darkest shade just wasn’t the right choice, or that the colour simply does not fit the atmosphere you wanted to create are a few of the common reasons why your paint colour is not working for you.

    Dark colours absorb light therefore making them appear richer and darker, while lighter colours reflect light, giving them the appearance of looking brighter or paler than what was intended.

    Here are a few other things that will affect the way paint colours will look on the walls or ceilings.

    Direction – The direction of the natural lighting will impact how the colour will look in the end.

    North facing rooms are the most difficult to work with as they tend to be the darkest rooms in the house.  The lack exposure to much sunlight and daylight creates a cooler and duller feel to paint colours in northern facing rooms.  Warm undertones such as off-white, creams and warm earth tone paint colours can work well.  The lack of bright sun and day light can make dark paint colours appear more intense in the brighter morning to mid afternoon light but seem faded or dull by the late afternoon.  The bonus to dark colours is that they can make a room look bigger.

    East facing rooms get some natural light typically in the late morning making any paint colour appear darker.  Cool or warm undertones tend to do ok in this type of lighting.

    West facing rooms are typically darker in the morning.  As the sun shifts throughout the day the lighting in the room will change to fill the room with warmth.  Choosing bright colours such as reds or yellows can be cheery but can also feel overwhelming on bright sunny days.

    South facing rooms are filled with the most intense natural light from morning to late afternoon which can make pale or white paint colours look faded or dull.  The intensity of the natural light in a south facing room can make darker colours appear brighter.  Typically any paint colour can work well in these natural light filled rooms.  Accent a focal wall or paint the entire space with a dark colour to take advantage of the amplified effect natural lighting gives.

    It is always a good idea to get the advice of professional painters if you don’t feel sure.

    Time of Day –  When trying to decide on what paint colours to use in any room give some thought to what the purpose of the room is.

    Busy rooms that are used all day such as kitchens, family rooms or living rooms should have paint colours that work best with the time that is most spent in them.  Since most of these rooms are typically an open concept space and are the central hub to every home choosing paint colours that work with the natural daylight and sunlight will be good choices.

    Types of Artificial Lighting

    Choosing paint colours that will look as close to exactly as you want can also be affected by the type of bulbs used.  Since not all bulbs are created the same and each give off different glows, here is a breakdown of the different types of light bulbs and the undertone glow they give.

    different light bulbs affect paint colours

    LED light bulbs tend to make colours seem cooler or colder due to the blue hue reflection.   They give off a whiter light than most other light bulbs. LED lights are available in warm and cool and depending on what you choose can reflect a softer warmer paint colour or a cooler darker shade.

    Halogen light bulbs reflect a whiter light making them the closest thing to natural light.  This tends to make halogen bulbs work well with either warm or cool paint colours without changing the appearance of the colour as much as other light bulbs do.  Halogen bulbs could be your best option to use in basements or bathrooms.

    Incandescent light bulbs will make paint colours seem warmer from the yellowish hue the bulb reflects.  Warm colours such as reds, burgundies or yellows can help make a room seem brighter, while blues and greens may give a more muted or cooler effect.

    Fluorescent light bulbs work best with colours like blues and greens due to the tinted blue glow emanating from the bulb.  Fluorescent bulbs tend to give a duller appearance to paint colours so going with lighter, softer and brighter paint colours could your best option.

    Test Paint Colours Before Painting

    Before you paint the entire room with the colour you have chosen try these tips first so that you’re not left wondering why that perfect shade of gray looks lighter on one wall and darker on the other.

    Tip 1:  The best way to get a really good idea of what the paint colour will look like is to paint the colour you want on a small area of each of the four walls in the room.  Let’s just say for sample sake a 2 X 2 square of drywall should be enough.

    Tip 2:  It doesn’t really matter what time of day you paint the samples, but your best bet is to paint it and forget it until the following morning.

    Tip 3:  Look at it first thing in the morning when the sun is beaming through the windows, look again at mid day when the sun is moving onto another area and look at the paint colour sample again in the evening when you have the indoor lights turned on.  When you look at each of the four walls where you added the paint colour you will notice that it may look different on each of the walls.

    Get Help From The Experts

    Now that all the lighting issues and how they can affect the paint colour appearance have been covered, there is one more thing not to forget and that’s the paint finish.

    To get the perfect finished result attention should be paid to the different paint finishes you chose as they play a role in how the lighting affects paint colours as well.

    Different paint finishes have different gloss effects that when choosing a high gloss paint finish it will reflect everything off the walls.  From tiny to big imperfections in the drywall to nail holes and bumps, high gloss paints are very shiny.  While painting with an egg-shell or matte paint finish will absorb light and hide most imperfections.

    Finding that perfect paint colour that goes with all the different types of lighting around your home does not need to be difficult if you follow some of the tips and advice mentioned and if you need any assistance connect with painters in Ottawa to help guide you.