How natural light affects paint colors. Here's how to understand the light in your space so you pick the right color.

The #1 Secret to Choosing a Paint Color

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When it comes to picking a paint color, the natural light in your space is key. Believe it or not, natural light has the biggest impact on how paint colors are perceived in your home. The amount of light your space receives, the direction the light is coming from, and even how the light plays with other colors in your room (think fabrics, furniture, etc) can impact the way colors may appear, so it’s important to understand the interplay of color and light in your space when choosing paint colors. Here’s how to get it right.

Natural light is king

Clean, bright, natural light will show color in its truest form but when it comes to whites and neutrals, things can get tricky. That’s because white and light, neutral paint colors tend to reflect other colors around it which is why they’re often so hard to get right. A white living room with a view overlooking a row of red brick buildings may take on a red-ish tint, for instance, while a white main bedroom facing a pool is destined to look a little blue at some point during the day. What’s inside matters, too, so if you place a purple rug inside a bright room with white paint, it could cast a purple glow over the room. With so many contextual factors dictating how color is perceived, it’s important to sample a color in your home before you commit. If you're deciding on the perfect color, here are some general guidelines to follow to help you choose the best color based on the natural light in your space.

Fresh Kicks - bright white paint color by Clare
Fresh Kicks - a bright white paint color by Clare
Fresh Kicks

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Best paint colors for south-facing rooms

Southern light tends to be consistently bright throughout the day with warm yellow, golden tones that you’ll want to play up to keep the room from feeling cold and sterile. Balance out the warm, south-facing light with cooler tones so if you’re looking for a white paint, opt for one with clean, neutral undertones like Fresh Kicks, the brightest of our whites or Snow Day, our coolest white, which has just enough warmth to keep it from looking too pristine.

Snow Day - a cool white paint color by Clare

Snow Day

Like a serene winter wonderland the morning after a first snowfall. This is our coolest white, with just a touch of warmth to liven it up.

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Best paint colors for north-facing rooms

North-facing rooms don’t get any direct sunlight, so the light you do see tends to be soft and even, but less bright. It’s also a lot cooler with a bluer cast than southern light, which is why you’ll want to consider incorporating warmer colors into your space to balance it out.

The best white paints for north facing rooms are Whipped, our warmest white, and Timeless, the perfect off-white with creamy undertones that reflects light beautifully.

Whipped - a warm white paint color by Clare


Dreamy and whisked-to-perfection, this is the warmest of our whites with a soft, delicate feel. Our best white for north-facing rooms but versatile enough to work in any space.

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"A nice, warm white. I used Whipped to warm up a north-facing room. The paint went on smooth and covered well." - Cynthia O

Timeless - warm off-white paint color by Clare
Timeless - a warm off-white paint color by Clare

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Best paint colors for east-facing rooms

East and west facing light changes the most throughout the day with more intensity as the sun peaks and sets. The sun rises in the east, so the east-facing rooms have a beautiful bright glow in the morning but cools down during the day. If you want to play up the color in the daylight almost anything will look good, but if you want to warm up your room during the evening, a warm neutral like Neutral Territory is a great choice.

Neutral Territory - warm beige wall paint color by Clare
Neutral Territory - a light beige - neutral paint color by Clare
Neutral Territory

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Best paint colors for west-facing rooms

The sun sets in the west so in the mornings west-facing rooms tend to get indirect, neutral light while warming up as the day progresses. Closer to dusk, as the sun starts to set, west-facing rooms takes on an intense, golden glow. If you want to balance out that fiery warm light, opt for a neutral white like Fresh Kicks or a cool hue such as a blue or green.

"Fresh Kicks is just beautiful. I wanted a white with no yellow undertones, and this hue delivered. My west-facing room went from drab to fab, and looks absolutely fantastic in the afternoon sun!" - Patricia H

Fresh Kicks - a bright white paint color by Clare

Fresh Kicks

Think of your favorite white pair, straight out the box. That’s the feeling of this one. Fresh and modern, this is our cleanest, brightest white, with no undertones. *Fresh Kicks is a pure, untinted white and may require 2+ coats for optimal coverage.

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Paint colors for rooms with little natural light

Interior rooms with minimal light or without windows, such as a bath or powder room, rely on artificial light which can vary greatly depending on your bulb choice. Fake the effect of natural light with a light bulb that mimics the outdoors like a Daylight D65 bulb. Its 6500 kelvin temperature proved most flattering with our paint in lab tests, making the paint color feel the truest. To make a dark space feel larger, go for a very bright and airy color choice like white or one of our lighter shades of greige.

No matter where you find your light, let it bring your room to life. And when light is scarce, here are a handful of ways to use paint to brighten even the darkest room.

#1. Paint the ceiling. A white ceiling will reflect the most light and ensure that everything else in the room looks brighter, too.

Ceiling Paint - flat white ceiling paint - Clare

Ceiling Paint

The perfect flat white paint for ceilings. Designed for the easiest above-your-head application with minimal splatter, our premium, Zero VOC ceiling paint delivers smooth, uniform coverage and high-hiding power to conceal surface imperfections. Similar color to Snow Day.

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#2. Mind your trims. Love the idea a deep-color but don’t want to darken and already dim space? A saturated Trim Paint, like Deep Dive or Blackest, along your baseboards and crown moldings will provide a nice pop of color without compromising any of the sunlight the room receives.

Deep Dive - a dark blue paint color by Clare

Deep Dive

Plunge 100 feet down into the deep blue sea. This bold, sophisticated blue hue features a hint of green undertones.

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#3. Choose the right color to enhance your light In general, the lighter a paint color — think: crisp whites, creams, and pale greys — the more it’s going to reflect the room’s natural light, so choose the right color to enhance the light in your space.

Need help finding the perfect paint color?

Try Clare Color Genius – our two minute quiz that will recommend a personalized paint color for your space with just a few quick questions. It’s like having an interior designer to guide you!

Ready to paint a home you love? Explore our expertly curated colors.

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