How Your Light Bulb Color Temperature Affects Paint Color

Dark and moody or light and airy, you decide.

Vintage Light Bulb in Front of Green Wall
Photo: Getty/MirageC

We've all been there. You set out to paint your porch ceiling, your beach house bathroom, or your bedroom, spend hours choosing the exact right shade and preparing your supplies, and putting on the paint. It looks like a job well done, but when you flip on the light, the paint looks different. What's the deal? Turns out that the light bulb color temperature can affect paint color and change the look.

"The way we see color is largely dependent on the light that an object absorbs, the light source, and how that light source works," says Justin Brown, Senior Merchant of Light Bulbs for The Home Depot. If you paint your wall Benjamin Moore's October Mist, it's going to look different in natural light versus artificial light. "Everything in a room is impacted by the light source in that room," notes Brown.

While we can't change the color of sunshine or sky, we can dictate the light bulbs we choose.

"By using the right artificial lighting for your intended effect, you can control the colors and hues of your home at any time of day, regardless of natural light exposure," Brown says.

Typically light bulbs come in three temperatures—cool, warm, or neutral. Those temperatures will make your room paint color shine or look dull. The bulb temperature can also impact the way your furnishings look. "Your home's interior style will determine whether you need cool, warm, or neutral temperatures," says Sarah Fishburne, Director of Trend and Design for The Home Depot. "Cool paint colors such as those in the blue, green, and gray family, pair well with cool or bright lights. Usually, you'll see cool lights in workspaces or kitchens. Standard soft white light bulbs provide warm and natural lighting. These lights will make bright colors such as red, orange, and yellow, slightly more intense; and cooler paints such as green, blue, and gray will appear a little darker and duller."

So how do you know which light bulb will make a room look its best? The secret lies in trial and error. "It's important to keep in mind that natural and artificial lighting work together during certain times of day, especially as days get shorter and darker," says Sarah Fishburne, Director of Trend and Design for The Home Depot. "To check the effect of lighting on a paint color, turn on artificial lights during daylight to see what your colors look like. It is often a great idea to look at color not only on sunny days but on cloudy days also to see how your color will look in all days so you will be happy no matter what."

It can't hurt to do a few trial lighting runs while selecting a color and then placing light fixtures and choosing bulbs before finalizing your paint choices and furnishings. "If you're unsure of what color your room will be or don't want to commit to a paint color long term, consider an EcoSmart light bulb with Selectable Color Temperature," says Brown. The bulb is available exclusively at The Home Depot or

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