Shine On! How Light Affects Colors on Your Home

kate smith - davinci - sensational color - april - 2023
April 27, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.

By Kate Smith, Sensational Color. 

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

Light is one of the many waves found on the electromagnetic spectrum. Other waves on the spectrum include ultraviolet, radio, microwaves and x-rays. What differentiates light from the others is that it is the only one that can be detected by the human eye. (See my story on “Color Lesson: Defining Colors” for more tips)

All of the colors we see are a byproduct 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 colors are produced by a combination of light rays being absorbed and reflected. Grass, for example, absorbs all colors except the ones that make up its color of green. 

The effects of natural light 

Natural light can vary greatly depending on the weather, the season, the time of day and the position of the sun in the sky. It can even vary with the location of your home and where the space is located within your home. Natural light can especially vary based on trees and landscaping surrounding your home, as it tries to reach your house. Understanding these factors can help you to anticipate how natural light will affect a color. 

Northern exposure light 

Light that comes from a northern direction can cast a cool, blue to gray tint on the objects it washes over. Northern light is indirect and can make colors appear darker and less saturated. Keep this in mind as you look at samples of the paint or roofing you are considering. For a home facing north you will want to make sure the color you select comes to life once on your home. 

You may need to compensate for the lighting by considering a roof tile or paint color that is slightly lighter than you first thought to give you the look you are after. For your front door or other accent colors on a home that faces north, you may want to go with a color that is slightly more intense. Inside your home, colors that work best with northern light are light in value and clear or bright rather than grayed or muted. 

One of the nice things about selecting colors for a northern exposure is that it is the most diffused light and remains quite consistent throughout the day. This is why with northern light, your color both inside and out will look basically the same throughout the day. 

Southern exposure light 

On the other hand, homes with a southern exposure will benefit from beautiful warm light. However, midday the light can become very intense or glaring. To solve this problem, on the interior use colors that are muted with a bit of grey to absorb some of the intense light so the room feels more comfortable. 

On the exterior of a southern exposure home choose colors that won’t look washed out in the strong noontime sun. It is extra important to sample your colors and look at them throughout the day (or, better yet, several days) to make sure the colors are not too bright in the early morning or late afternoon light. 

Western exposure light 

Like southern light, western exposure is also warm. It casts a yellowish orange light that changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. This light is softer and more yellow in the morning moving to intense and reddish orange in late afternoon. Colors that are warm and not too muted or grayed can work well. Brown and warm earthy color comes to life in southern light. When using blue and green, the ones that are warmer can also work well both inside and out. 

Eastern exposure light 

Light that comes from eastern exposure is soft. It can be bluish or yellowish depending on your location. It is neither as cool as northern light, nor warm as southern or western light. It enhances lighter colors. 

Look at colors in context

Even when you know the exposure of lighting, a color doesn’t always look exactly as you expect. There are many reasons for this, especially on the outside of a home. Many factors can change how a color appears. There is atmospheric impact, the texture of the surface, and the adjacent colors to name a few. That is why you must make your color decisions while looking at the colors exactly where you plan to use them, and at different times of day.  

For example, if you’re requesting samples of composite roofing from DaVinci Roofscapes, place them on your roof and leave them there for several days. Look at them in the early morning hours, mid-afternoon and in early evening. See how the colors “change” as the sun and exposure change during the day. Make certain you like the colors and how they complement your home exterior at all times of the day and evening. 

The more you know about how factors can change color the better your chances of finding a color you will be pleased with for your home. 

If you’re in the process of choosing a roof color for your home, you can “try on” different colors very easily with the Immersive Experience. This free online tool puts you in control of selecting different types of roofing products and colors to see what types you like. Or, try the DaVinci Color Visualizer to try a boundless array of composite slate and shake color roofs on an image of your own home that you can easily upload! 

Have a question? AskARoofer

Find your local roofing contractor in the RoofersCoffeeShop® Contractor Directory.



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