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June 28th, 2018 How to Use Color to Offset Light

Are you stuck on the shady side of the street? Or maybe you can’t seem to find blackout curtains effective enough to block out all of your natural sunlight? As painters and color specialists, we know how much lighting affects your overall paint color. And your mood. Brighter spaces tend to create more positive feelings, so social rooms with natural sunlight are generally the preference. However, in spaces for relaxation such as bedrooms, the overabundance of natural light may hinder your activities. In this case, darker rooms generally promote relaxation and restful sleep.  Instead of drilling through your walls to create new windows, or hiding your natural light through thick curtains, try repainting! The clever use of color can actually help mitigate the effects of difficult lighting. Did you know that use of paint color can actually help brighten your dark spaces or cool down your sunny ones? 

Beautiful room

Add Light to A Dark Space

There are several ways to lighten a dark space starting with the paint color you choose, not only for the walls, but for all surfaces of the room. 

Don’t be Afraid of White 

all white room

Whether through decor, furniture, or paint, using white will bring light into the darkest spaces. On the ceiling, consider repainting in a bright shade. Most ceilings come painted white because white makes them look the highest. However, your choice of white matters. In order to bring necessary brightness into dark spaces, choose pure white. Off-whites can make spaces feel darker, so choosing the cleanest, crispest white will add extra light into your dark space. On the walls, white paint doesn’t absorb color allowing for maximum sunlight to filter through your space. You can even bring elements of white into your decor using an area rug or furniture covers. 

Paint your Wood Surfaces 

Although natural wood can be beautiful, it can darken a room. Although not advisable to paint wood flooring, consider using a lighter-colored natural wood floor to brighten a room. Also other light-colored materials work well on flooring in dark spaces such as tile or a light-colored area rug. In spaces with exposed wood beyond the floor, painting your trim, ceiling beams, cabinetry, staircases, or railings, painting can add newness. With this newness comes a brighter overall feeling. We love painted cabinets in kitchens especially, if you are looking for a sunny welcoming space!

White painted cabinets

Use Cool Colors

Contrary to popular thought, adding slightly warm colors to walls does not necessarily create a sunny effect in dingy spaces. Especially since natural sunlight generally has a cooler tone, adding too much warmth can make the space actually appear duller and the lighting fake. In a space that already suffers from poor lighting, warm colors may wash out the space and make it actually appear smaller. Painting with cool colors can help walls recede and make the space feel bigger which will help air it out. Light greys work well for drawing attention away from the size or darkness of the room. Sky blues create an appearance of natural sunlight from the outdoors.

Use Accent Colors and Shine

black and white accent

Using black as an accent color seems counterintuitive, but paired with a light shade, it will make areas of brightness pop. Using too many dark colors will darken your space, but used as an accent it will create beautiful shadows. In order to have a dynamic space, these shadows are necessary. Adding shine can also brighten your space. Matte finishes do not reflect sunlight like gloss or reflective paint. Using an eggshell or satin finish maximizes the brightness of both natural and artificial light. We especially love the high gloss Fine Paints of Europe for this task! When using high gloss colors, be cautious of glare in spaces with more light. 

Go Sunny

If you want to truly warm up a space, don’t be afraid to be bold. Using bright yellows to reflect light warmly. If you’re going for a warmer, sunnier feeling to your space, a bright yellow will create this. However, be mindful of your choice of shade, because some yellows in dark spaces can look dingy. Natural light usually falls on the cooler end of the color spectrum, so a sunny yellow tone creates brightness and a sunshiny feel, but doesn’t mimic real natural light. 

Cool Down a Sunny Space

It is much easier to cool down a sunny space than add light to a dark space, so if you’re struggling with brightness, there is a fix! If you find yourself with abundant natural sunlight, consider yourself very lucky! With the right paint shade, you can have a beautiful space that doesn’t overwhelm you with brightness. 

Use a Matte Paint Shade

In sunnier spaces, high-gloss paints might create a glare on your walls that will hurt both your decor and your eyes. Sticking to matte shades still allows light to naturally reflect around the room when you want brightness in your space, but doesn’t create that intense glare when you are trying to relax. During the night time, the matte shade will help stop the reflection of outside light coming from electronic devices or streetlights. 

Jewel Tones are your Friend

In a brightly lit space, you can afford to go bold with color. While a space that doesn’t receive enough natural light may feel dark and heavy with a jewel-tone, bright spaces make these shades pop. If you are trying to maintain relaxation with deepness of pigmentation, dark greens and blues mimic nature and create relaxation without using pastel shades. Painting with bold, cooler toned colors will look especially beautiful during the day. The warm undertone of your natural sunlight will create a beautiful contrast to illuminate these shades without excessive brightness. These darker tones will work beautifully with your natural sunlight during the day, while preventing glare. The darkness of these shades will help guide you to sleep at night.

blue room

Balance out Warm and Cool Tones


In rooms with lots of warm natural sunlight, adding cool colors to your walls can create balance. In light, medium, and deep shades, cooler tones will help to mitigate the warmth of natural sunlight. If you choose to paint with a lighter shade on your walls, be mindful of washout. Going too light on walls that receive abundant natural sunlight can lead to brightness and whitewashing. Softer cool colors create a beautiful balance, and in addition to warm natural sunlight, become true neutral in your space. With more natural light, you truly have the freedom to explore different shades. Seeking balance in your design will make your room beautiful. 


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