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Edition 09

Colour effects

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The taste of colour speaks and there is always a way on how natural and artificial light affects it so don’t be on the dark side of colour, writes Kate SMITH.

To understand how different types of light affect colour you have to know a little about what light is, how it “works”, and its relationship to colour. 

All of the colours we see are a by-product of spectrum light, as it is reflected off or absorbed into an object. An object that reflects back all of the rays of light will appear white; an object that absorbs all of the rays, black. All of the millions of other colours are produced by a combination of light rays being absorbed and reflected. Grass, for example, absorbs all colours except the ones that make up its colour of green.

The Effects of Natural light

Natural light can vary greatly depending on the weather, the season, the time of day, the position of the sun in the sky, the location of the building and where the space is located within the building. Understanding these factors can help you to anticipate how natural light will affect a colour.

Light that enters a room from the north casts a cool, bluish tint on the objects it washes over. Northern light is indirect and can make colours appear darker and less saturated, so you may want to compensate by considering a paint colour that is a bit lighter or slightly more intense.

Rooms with southern exposure benefit from beautiful warm light but at times it can be too much light that is too intense or glaring. To solve this problem use colours that are muted with a bit of grey to absorb a bit of the light so the room feels more comfortable.

Light that comes from an eastern or western exposure is also warm. It cast a yellow to orange-yellow or red-orange tint that will change throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. Light is softer and yellowish in the morning moving to intense and orange or reddish in late afternoon. Using colours that are warmer and less muted will help the colour to work even when the sun is not streaming in.

The Effects of Artificial light

Artificial light supplements natural light so it is important for you to know how a space will be lit when selecting colours. The type of artificial lighting in a space influences how a colour looks. Some of the most common sources are fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, halogen bulbs, and LED lighting.

Halogen lighting is nearly white and the closest to natural light on a clear day around noon. Fluorescent lighting is more bluish although now some fluorescent bulbs produce a light band that is close to daylight. Incandescent lighting produces a yellowish light.

How Lightening and Colours Work Together

Consider that warm, yellowish light can intensify warm colours and mute cooler hues, while cool bluish light does the opposite. For example, incandescent lighting casts warm light that can enhance reds, oranges and yellows; Cool fluorescent light works best with blues, violets and greens.

The value and intensity of a colour are affected by the amount of light, too. In lower light, colours appear darker and less intense. As you increase the amount of light, the value lightens and the intensity increases until you reach its true colour. Just keep in mind that too much light can make a colour appear less saturated or washed out.

While you can understand how light affects colour, choosing colours that will work in a particular lighting situation is still not an exact science. The best way to find the right colour is to view a sample of the actual colour and material in the space where you plan to use it and look at it in the actual lighting conditions of the space during different times of the day. By doing this you can see how the colour is affected by the light and make the perfect colour choice.

Kate Smith is Chief Colour Maven and President of Sensational Color, a company that develops colour information to help you confidently select colours for your home. As an internationally recognisedcolour expert, author and speaker, Kate has been regularly quoted in major media outlets and is a favorite as an on-air guest and speaker at top design conferences and trade shows worldwide. Together with Duracoat, Kate has been working in East Africa to provide guidance on how to create colour harmony in your home.

How it works

All of the colours we see are a by-product of spectrum light, as it is reflected off or absorbed into an object.  An object that reflects back all of the rays of light will appear white; an object that absorbs all of the rays, black.

All of the millions of other colours are produced by a combination of light rays being absorbed and reflected.  Grass, for example, absorbs all colours except the ones that make up its colour of green.

Colour Effects

The colour of the wavelengths and amount of each reflected off the surface into your eye determines the colour you see.

To illustrate this idea: When thinking about how your lightening and colours will work together, consider that warm, yellowish light can intensify warm colours and mute cooler hues, while cool bluish light does the opposite. For example, incandescent lighting cast warm light that can enhance reds, oranges and yellows; Cool fluorescent light works best with blues, violets and greens.

 

Colour Effects

Warm yellowish light can intensely warm colours and mute cooler hues,while cool bluish light has the opposite effect.

To illustrate this idea: Light that enters a room from the north casts a cool, bluish tint on the objects is washes over. Using clear hues rather than ones that are muted or greyed. Northern light is indirect and can make colours appear darker and less saturated so you may want to compensate by considering a paint colour that is a bit lighter or slightly more intense.

 

Colour Fanguide

Colour Fanguide to show three sets of colour swatches in popular paint colours 

Colour Fanguide to show three sets of colour swatches in popular paint colours.

* Colours that work best with northern light are light value, bright and clean.

* Colours best for rooms with southern exposure are medium value, toned, muted or greyed colours.

* Colours for rooms with either eastern or western exposures are warmer and less muted than those for southern exposure.