Don’t Make Color Decisions at Sunset

Color decisions at sunset

Don’t Make Color Decisions at Sunset

Here’s a painting tip: never select a paint color in the early morning or early evening hours.  As a professional Northern Virginia painter, we know that it is very important to look at paint colors at various times throughout the day, but not in the early morning or around dusk when the human eye’s color perception is at its worst!

Color Perception:
A recent article in Sherwin William’s online magazine, Stir, discussed the complexities of color perception and how the human brain interprets color. As you might imagine, it’s not a simple explanation.
  • Human eyes are meant to see better during the day when there’s plenty of natural light rather than at night under limited lighting.
  • The eye will perceive color differently throughout the day. The same color viewed in the morning, noon, or at night can appear like three different colors.
  • The most difficult time of day for accurate color perception is the transition from dawn to early morning and then twilight/dusk to dark.
The Stir article cites Bevil Conway an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Conway says that the brain’s ability to accurately assess color is compromised during the early morning and evening hours because it is trying to compensate for the rapidly changing light. Conway does note, however, that experience can make a difference. The brain uses what it sees in combination with stored data (experience) to arrive at a color perception – which might not be entirely accurate during those hours of the day.
Tips for Accurate Color Selection:
– For the best representation of a color, look at it in the middle of the day under indirect and natural sunlight. If there’s too much light, the color will appear more muted while early morning and evening lights will darken them. Reds and oranges will be more intense as the day progresses while darker colors will become harder to distinguish with less light.
– Although the middle of the day is the best time to look at a color,  we recommend also looking at a paint sample on the wall at mid-morning, midday and evening. It allows you to see the color variations, so there aren’t any surprises later.
– Keep in mind that other things in a room can affect your perception of a wall color. A painted wall in a room with no furnishings will look very different when you add furniture.  The light will reflect differently throughout the room and can influence your color perception. Even the color of the furnishings can affect how you perceive the wall color.
– Artificial light from lamps and other light sources also influence color perception. Incandescent bulbs cast a warm orange while fluorescent casts a cooler blue. LED lighting is typically a more neutral white. Programmable LED lighting can be ideal for indoor lighting when it comes to providing the most neutral environment for color.
If you are thinking about doing a new color in your home and need painters, we would be happy to meet with you in your Northern Virginia home. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
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