Color can make a space feel smaller or bigger. But when it comes to painting a light color to lighten a dark room…that’s another story. I love light colors in well lit rooms where you can see the lightness of the color and the brightness of the walls. But in rooms with little or no direct light, a gray cast can quickly overshadow a light color making it anemic, sallow, and sickly.
CAN LIGHT COLORS BRIGHTEN UP A DARK ROOM?
The answer is no. A light color can never brighten up a dark room. Light and dark colors can make the space appear bigger or smaller, but they cannot make it lighter if it is a dim room. This is a common color mistake. Instead think of it this way: the amount of light in a room should be balanced with the strength of a wall color. That way you have great, colorful environments without fear of the dark. Here is how you do it!
HOW DIM IS YOUR ROOM WITH THE LIGHTS ON?
In the middle of the day, turn on all the lights in the room you are planning to paint—that will be about the brightest your room will ever be. Then decide on a scale of 1-100 percent, how bright is the room now? A 100 would be the brightest it could be: a sunroom that gets direct sunlight, with all the lights on. Or, is it very dark with no direct sun, like a basement bathroom with one dim bulb? That would be maybe 30 or 40 percent. Completely dark would be 0 percent. Just do your best to come up with a number.
NOW GIVE YOUR WALL COLOR A SATURATION NUMBER
0% is the most subtle and 100% is richest and most robust color you can find. So a zero would be a can of white paint with just the tiniest hint of lavender. 100 percent is the deepest plum. So choose a color you want to paint on the wall and give it a percentage rating. A light green like Devine Fescue would be 15 percent saturated, while a deep red like Devine Cabernet would be 80 percent?
NOW SLICE UP THE WALLS
Look at the walls and visually deduct windows, doorways, cabinets and ceiling surfaces. How much wall surface is really left to paint after you visually imagine this? Give that a rough percentage. Is there 60% paintable wall surface? 80%?
DO THE MATH
This means that if a room is “fully lit” but is truly _ “at 50% brightness”_ and the wall color has 10% saturation strength, you can assume before you go through the hassle of painting, that the light color won’t be strong enough to be seen in such dim light—let alone to lighten up the room! A color with 50 percent saturation strength would probably look better.
Then think about this: If the room’s paintable wall surfaces are 50% or less, they cannot cloak a room in darkness because the walls are not all solid. So at this point you can feel free to choose a rich, “dark” color, at maybe 80 percent saturation, without fear that you will darken the room. The math here may be a little complicated, but look at the photos below and you’ll see what I mean.
Here is a perfect example of a room with lots of beautiful wood, and indirect light. With all the lights on, in the middle of the day, the room looks to be about 45% bright. The home owner is struggling with the wall color because it seems like a light color would help the room be light. You can see there are two paint samples on the wall.
Others believe yellow is the answer to brighten up a dark room. You can see that the yellow does warm up the walls but again the room barely changes lightness.
Now watch how I apply my own Devine Math!
After visually deducting all the windows, cabinets, and doorways, the walls are less than 40% of the room. So, based on my Devine math, I choose colors that are at least 65% saturated to contrast the wood color and paint over the small amounts of wall space. You only really have one solid wall opposite to all the windows. This wall gets the most light.
There is amazing color in the wood. Devine Color is all about WOOD! Our colors are specifically created to never overpower, but to enhance the NATURAL colors in wood. Now look and see when I add a the neutral on the ceiling to really warm up the space.
You get the picture! As you know, Devine Color has a legendary process with that lets you choose colors confidently with paint palettes that reveal perfect colors in minutes. We have lots of beautiful colors that are strong and saturated. Our Delicate and Breathable Wall Finishes add luminosity to dark colors.