Why Your Paint Job Sucks (Hint: It May Be Your Lighting)
Horrible painting technique aside, your artificial lighting may be making your paint color look "off"
Did you know that lighting can completely change the way paint colors look? Lighting influences our eyes' perception of color, and a single bulb can make a bigger difference than you may have imagined. We talked to David Gray, sales and training manager for the Lamps Plus Professionals trade division, to see what happens when artificial lighting and paint face off.
To help us better understand of our options, Gray began by talking about the different types of light.
Types of Light
Incandescent: A staple for a century, says Gray, and while it's inexpensive and versatile, it's "terribly inefficient now," and halogen is essentially "a more compact version of incandescent." You can always default to these two lighting choices, he says, because their colors and tones are accurate.
Fluorescent: "It's been the energy-efficient option since the 1960s," Gray says, "and CFL's are just a different-shaped fluorescent bulb." But this technology has become outdated. Fluorescents don't represent colors well, and along with their tendency to flicker, their "environmental impact is questionable."
LEDs: They get a bit tricky, says Gray, because there are so many choices now, from quality and type to price range. The most affordable option will not always have good quality, so "choose wisely and talk to trusted advisors, such as a lighting expert or contractor, or read up on the items in your selection set." If you take a look at the chart, you'll see that LED's last the longest and use the least amount of energy—which, in addition to their versatility, is why Gray prefers LEDs in most cases.
READ MORE: 7 Tips for LED Bulb Buyers
With 10 to 20 year lifespans, LEDs eliminate the need to constantly replace bulbs. They're energy efficient too, emitting the same amount of light for far less electricity used. Plus, they're so compact, they can be used on a wide range of designs.
When shopping for lighting and choosing from the above options, Gray recommends considering the "three important qualities that truly define what we see."
The color and temperature of the light
Together, color and temperature determine the degree to which light differs from white. See the chart to get a better idea. For example, "the common household bulbs we've always used" fall into the warm section, he says, giving off a yellower light, while cool white has a bluer tone and is what we are more used to seeing in an office setting.
The color-rendering index (CRI)
The CRI "is the composition of the light itself," Gray says. Daylight gives us a full CRI of 100, meaning we can see the entire visible spectrum. However, a red 'party' bulb has a CRI of 5 because with it, he says, "you will perceive very few of the 'real' colors in the room"—only about 5 percent of them. Bulbs today typically have a CRI around 80, "and anything over 90 is very good."
Ultimately, "your perceptions of the colors will depend on your lighting choices." But Gray stresses that setting the tone you desire with lighting, regardless of paint color, is most important. The tone of the lighting should be consistent throughout a room no matter the paint color, so it is pertinent that you are pleased with the tone before anything else.
To achieve your desired atmosphere, Gray suggests looking first for lighting in a tone you are comfortable with, then "choosing your paint colors and decor accordingly." Sample them in the lighting you ultimately decided on. In the end, if you work your way through designing a room by beginning with lighting, the end result should be something you are happy with, because you've chosen colors and decor based on their appearance in that lighting. That doesn't make it correct or incorrect—it's simply a matter of opinion and style.