Why Color Often Goes Awry

Chapter 2 – Excerpt from “The Keys to Color”

The perception of color is a highly personal experience. It can be influenced by one’s emotional state, the quality of your vision, different types of color blindness, life experiences etc.  Perception of color however, does follow physical laws and that depends completely on the nature of light.

Color has no physical existence. Only under the presence of light can color even exist. Therefore color is influenced by the type of light, the quality and quantity of light and by the light reflected off adjacent surfaces. Rooms with a lot of natural light will look quite different from morning to dusk and then considerably different at night.

The type of light, ambient and artificial, used to illuminate a room is as important as the color(s) chosen for the architectural surfaces of a room.


Why does a chosen color, that seemed so perfect at the paint store, go “off” when applied to the walls of the target room? Or a color that matches perfectly in the studio change considerably at the worksite? Most often it is because the lights are different from where the selection of color is made, to where the color is installed.

This problem is called metamerism.

Metamerism is a phenomenon that occurs where colors change (color shift) when viewed in different light conditions.

The following swatches are the same color

Figure 2.1

Here is a list of various artificial and ambient light sources and the way they can affect colors.

Artificial Light Ambient Light
Incandescent - Warm yellow Early morning/dusk - Warm light
Halogen lights - Slight coolness Late morning - Warm to Neutral
Daylight bulbs - Cool Afternoon - Coolish tones
White fluorescent - Very cool Evening - Artificial light
Full spectrum lights - Neutral to cool      

Fluorescent lights have greatly improved over the years and there are many color temperatures now available. The new CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs are growing in popularity and quality and may soon replace incandescent bulbs. These can be bought in a variety of color temperatures.

Metamerism becomes most apparent when the color is chosen in a paint or hardware store, where the illumination is usually cool fluorescent for reasons of economy. These inexpensive cool/white store lights excel at illumination, but are poor in rendering color especially in the warm spectrum (reds, oranges, yellows).

That perfect beige you picked out in the store will shift to “pinkish” on your wall because of metamerism. You did not see the “pinkish” cast of the beige at the paint store because the cool fluorescent lights cancelled that hue.  The coolish Northern light coming in through a window makes the beige look perfect during the day but as soon as the warm incandescent lights come on… the pink pops out again.

Metamerism also increases with the number of pigments used to color a product. Because of this, most paint companies limit coloring their paints to a maximum of three pigments. Were you to take two colors that look exactly the same under one light, but one color has six different pigments and the other has three, the colors can change considerably when viewed under a different light.

Reflected Light

Be aware of the other colors in a room, as the light reflected off one colored surface will cast itself onto others. We see this most often during the day when the colors in the floor reflect on to the wall surfaces. Red seems to be a predominant color in expensive rugs and the pink cast it reflects will cause no end of problems when one is trying to pick or match a perfect beige or sage color. Natural red oak floors will also cast a pinkish glow to the walls during the day.


  • Check the color near a source of natural light (not direct sunlight).
  • Leave a large sample (at least two square feet) of a color or sample in a room for at least a day so you or the customer can see how it looks as it goes through the complete cycle of lighting conditions.
  • A good, natural Northern light is always best for picking and matching colors. For artificial light, try to use a “full spectrum, daylight balanced” lamp.
  • Look at the colored surface through a tool like an empty paper towel tube. This will help isolate a color from the “noise” of other colors so you can see it more clearly.

Figure 2.5 - Candles 1,850k

Color Temperature and Color Rendering

These are two ways to measure the type of light and the quality that the light has in rendering color accurately.

Color Temperature


Color temperature is a standard way of measuring light color at its source. It is not a measurement of thermal degrees but a measurement along a scale corresponding to a Kelvin rating (K).

Figure 2.6 - Sunlight (Northern Window) 5,500K

Color temperature is the color appearance of the light  by a light bulb and the color appearance of the light bulb itself.

A lamp with a low color temperature will have a “warm” appearance (red, orange or yellow).

Conversely, a lamp with a high color temperature will have a “cool” appearance (blue or blue-white).

Think of the warm glow of a candle flame. It is not a very hot flame so the light it casts is warm or reddish in tone.

The filament of a halogen bulb burns much hotter so the light it casts is coolish in tone.

Figure 2.7 - Color Temperature Chart

2,000 K:                     Low pressure sodium lamps

2,600-2,800 K:         Tungsten (incandescent) lamps (ordinary household bulb whatever the power)

2,700 K:                      Warm white lamps

3,200-3,500 K:         Halogen and “daylight” lamps

4,000 – 4,600 K:      Cool white fluorescents

5,000 – 6,000 K:      Average daylight, electronic flash (can vary between manufacturers)

6,420 K:                       Xenon arc lamp

6,500 – 8,000 K:      Full daylight, blue sky

Warm versus Cool Colors

Color wheels are usually divided in half with warm colors on one side and cool colors on the other. Warm colors start with magenta and go to reds, oranges, primary yellow and everything in-between.

Figure 2.8

Cool colors start with violet and continue with all the blues, greens and up to lime yellow (yellow/green).

Figure 2.9

Warm versus cool is a matter of perceptionbecause, as you can see on the color temperature chart above (Figure 2.7), cool colors are actually hotter than the so-called warm colors. Think of the blue flame on a stove burner versus a yellow/orange candle flame. In northern climates, the perception comes from memories of the cool blue/grays of winter and the warm bright yellow/oranges of Spring and Summer. Closer to the equator, color is again perceived differently because the angle of the sun is more direct and the warm glow of orange diffuses the harshness of cool colors and softens the brightness of warm colors so that almost any mixture of colors reads as harmonious. The profusion of foliage also helps to complement colors. Think of a flower in the middle of dense leaves. People in the desert states, with sparse, dry wide-open spaces, often prefer beiges and neutrals because they blend into the environment without seeming to jar.

Color Rendering

The other part of light quality is color rendering. This is the ability of a lamp to render color accurately and to show color shade variations and contrast more clearly. High color rendition allows us to see objects as we would expect them to appear under natural sunlight.

Color rendition is measured via a complex process on the Color Rendition Index (CRI) scale ranging in value from 0 to 100, with higher values being those closest to natural, indirect sunlight.

You may have noticed in some parking lots at night that it is difficult to tell a blue car from a red car; this is because of the poor CRI of low sodium lamps.

Most old-style fluorescent lamps have a poor color rendering value of 55 – 65 which makes people’s complexions look gray/greenish. A cool white fluorescent may have a color temperature of 4,100K but a CRI of 62. With these lamps, you cannot easily see the difference between deep blue and deep green; reds look more purplish and pinky beiges look taupe.

Newer fluorescent and halogen lamps can have a very good CRI (up to 92) which reveal colors very accurately. The Ott-lite True Color™ line of lamps have a CRI of 90+ and have a very steady light that is restful to the eyes although they are rather low in wattage. Another brighter one is the BlueMax™ 42 watt work station lamp.  This is the one that I use when I work with color at night time.

Be wary of some “Full Spectrum” lighting systems. The term is currently used as a marketing device for expensive and ostensively healthy lights that have little scientifically proven value.

In summary, artificial light cannot be judged by a single number, i.e. color temperature. The ability of a light to show color, the CRI, is just as important, especially in color matching.

Ambient Light (Reflected Light)

The amount and direction of sunlight that enters a room will affect colors dramatically. Strong sunlight through a large window will reflect any color on the floor directly on to the walls and ceiling. This ambient light is probably the explanation for when we hear a client remark that they like a color in the morning but not in the afternoon or vice versa. This ambient light will change a white color to an off-white. The light coming through a sheer curtain will also color the room.

You may want to use a compass to determine the orientation of the room before you start color selection. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Rooms with a northeastern exposure will benefit from warm colors since they receive little direct sunlight.
  • The warm rays of the sun in a room with a southwest exposure may benefit from cool colors.

When the light changes from sunlight to tungsten and mixtures thereof, color will change correspondingly.

The light that comes in through windows will also change according to how high up the room is in a building. A room on the first floor and a room on the twenty-ninth floor will have not only a different quantity of light, but a different quality of light besides.  The first floor room will have a lot of light reflected from the ground and surrounding surfaces which will warm it. An upper level room will have unfiltered daylight that will cast a cool tone on surfaces.

In summary, since color is reflected light; the type, quantity, quality and direction of light used to look at a color is all important: that is how the hue will be perceived. You can pick a lamp bulb to harmonize a color scheme or even correct a wayward color. A warm cast can be made cool by switching from a 2,800K bulb to a 4,000K or higher value. A cool cast can be made warmer by switching to incandescent bulbs (for example). The exact rendering of a color can only be achieved using a light source with a high (85+) color rendering index and no reflecting colors. Because of metamerism, a color should be chosen using the same type of light (or close to it) under which it will be used.

The next two chapters will discuss how to adjust colors with pigments to compensate for this “color-shift”.

153 responses

  1. Diana Shefferd

    Dean, thanks for writing this article, made a lot of things very clear.

  2. Dean your book is absolutely wonderful and inspiring. There is so much information to be obtained from this book by both the novice and the seasoned professional. I will cherish my copy for years to come and know that I will be using it frequently to help in future projects.

  3. Dean Sickler

    Thank you Kathy. High praise indeed coming from a professional with your experiance and talent.

  4. Interesting color & light perspectives. Thanks for sharing.

  5. gary c

    Greetings Dean i just found your site while googling magenta universal pigments I restore luxury leather hand bags and have trained numerous leather colorist over the years. I was trained in munsell theory which has been a great help in my craft.I also have found the solux bulb helpful in evening color matching.Have you had experience with these bulbs? Thanks for efforts in educating others matching color, I found your informaton very well presented.

  6. Dean Sickler

    Hi Gary,
    Thank you for the nice comments.
    I use a whole range of lights because I match and make color for homes and I have to take metamerism into account. I love the solux lamps for accuracy and the steady light they put out. I also like BlueMax lamps.

  7. Hello Dean,
    Intresting article, I just was involved in a situation where the color was a perfect match until the can lights were installed in the new home and everything turned pink, what a headache from there on!!!
    I am expanding our cabinet shop and am installing T5 high output florscent lights, can you recomend a color temp. for thoes bulbs that would be as close to color correct as possible. Thanks.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Roger,
      That’s the rub, color changes under different types of lamps.
      You could put in warm lights (around 1850K) and then the customer could have daylight bulbs which would turn the color cool.
      Better to pick T5 bulbs with a high CRI rating and daylight temperatures (around 5500K) and then have some warm, incandescent bulbs in a lamp to adjust the color. The Best place to check a color is in indirect natural light.

  8. Linda Jordan

    Please help. I faux glazed a dinning room wall using a reddish orange color. My customer keeps complaining that it turns pink and she says she cannot live with pink. The ceiling is painted black and the trim and floor are yellow oak wood. It is a southeast room. I have no clue as to how to make this red orange wall not look pink. Please help me what can I tell her.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Linda,
      You say that it “turns pink”. That implies that it turns pink at a certain time of day. If it is during the morning, you’ll have to overglaze the wall with the same color but add a little green with a strong yellow bias. This will counteract the “magenta” pigment that is causing it to go “pink”.
      If it is in the evening, you may be able to get away with changing the light bulbs to a “warm white” (1850K) instead of what is there.
      Hope this helps,

  9. Kyra Lamb

    I didn’t know what I was experiencing had a name – Metamerism. I have painted my kitchen a color called shell flower which in the daytime (when i was working on my color scheme) is a beautiful golden yellow. It’s a soft hue and blends wonderfully with the room next to it. However at night it turns into a garish neon bright yellow that doesn’t even go with my curtains. Seeing they are doing away w/ incandescent light bulbs how can I fix this?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Kyra,
      You don’t mention what kind of lamp is in the kitchen but I’ll assume it is fluorescent. Right now it is probably a “daylight” or “cool white” lamp. Change the bulb/lamp to a warm or soft white compact fluorescent bulb or regular tube and that should soften down the screaming yellow.

      • Kyra Lamb

        Thanks! All the lighting in my kitchen uses fluorescent bulbs. I don’t know which type – i just got the lowest wattage bulb for over the kitchen table so it wasn’t blinding to sit there. Back to the store…

  10. blaze

    i have a small bathroom that is painted a lovely grey with just a touch of blue. in light from the clear glass heat lamps it is grey. in light from the fluorescents just installed the paint looks blue-purplish. what kind of fluorescent bulbs should i put in to give me the soft grey without the blue-purple?

    • Dean Sickler

      Your fluorescent lamps are cool white or “daylight” lamps which are 4000-5000k range. Replace them with lamps described as “warm white” and the violet blush should go away.

      • blaze

        thank you so much. i can’t wait to finish this project. it has gone from hideous 60′s pink and insipid yellow to calming and peaceful greys and gold. if i have more questions, i certainly know where to turn!!

  11. Marquis

    My cream walls turn gold with the can lights on. I love the true cream color during the day. I tried a natural bulb that is bluish white and it turned the color to pale yellow. Is there any in between bulb to keep my cream color?

    • Dean Sickler

      You probably want a lamp with a color temperature of around 3200. Tungsten halogen lamps are generally around this temperature but you may have to switch to a “warm white” CFL bulb to get the right color temperature. At the least, it will also burn cooler in your can lights.

  12. Kristy

    I just painted my dining room a smokey blue color, with the lights on it looks more green. What kind of bulbs should I get to make it look blue instead of green?

  13. cheryl

    I resently painted my kitchen and sunroom the same color called antique brown (its a taupy beige) it looks like a dusty sage in the kitchen at night and the sunroom at night looks horrible–it looks like an olive. Which light bulbs should I try to get a truer taupe color. The sunroom has one ceiling light and 7 north and northwest facing windows and the kitchen has can lights and a chandelier. Please help I don’t want to repaint!!!!

    • Dean Sickler

      “Antique Brown” has quite a bit of yellow in it and a “bluish” light will cause it to look like olive. Change the ceiling and can light bulbs to a warmer temperature. Try a “warm or soft” bulb. So-called “natural” temperature bulbs are rather bluish and that is probably what you have in there now.

  14. Roushi

    I’m in a bit of fix..please help me..I’ve started to reprints lobby…it was originally orange…I wanted to do it a shade of beige…when I finished it turned out to be grey..I’ve got Helogen lights…the problem is even during the day it looks grey when the lights are off….my windows are really big and they are in north eastern direction …I’ve changed the shade to pebble shore that also looks grey and then third shade and that also looks grey…its like everything goes grey..I’ve got brown flooring….and I don’t want to change my lights…please help….

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi. Northern light coming thru the windows is true but it is a rather cool light. The only color you actually name is “Pebble Shore”. I find a “Pebbled Shore” by Behr paint and it looks like a mauve/taupe and pretty gray. If you would name the other colors you have tried I could probably suggest some colors that would work.

      • Roushi

        I started witha Lauren abd painted a whole wall then I ran a tester for warm beige and then pebble shore was the last one all of them look grey of different shades

  15. Roushi

    And thank you soo much for such a prompt response :) ..I was wondering if i use an undercoat to paint all the walls white and then paint on top of it,would it help or not because rite now I’m directly painting over thaw orange wall…

  16. Dean Sickler

    The orange undertone will not cause your topcoats to look grey. YOu could be comparing the new color to the old orange color and THAT will cause it to look grey. Warm beige in an opinion, not a color but it should work. The only color you specified was the “Pebbled Shore” which IS grey/mauve.

    Northern light is a cool light especially when overcast.

  17. Roushi

    I tried a shade called’ Lauren’ first it was supposed to be a neutral colour lighter than warm beige but it looked grey so I got warm beige itself,it looked very dark grey…so I tried ‘pebble shore’ last which you say is in tones of grey…so I guess you are right that I am comparing the colours with orange…I will paint half of my living room and see if it helps so that I won’t have any orange left…
    And if I won’t work out I know where to come for help…:)
    Thank you soo much I really appreciate it….and I do so hope it works out…

  18. Debbe

    I used the same fabric for drapes throughout my townhouse. On the north side windows they are the nice off white linen that matches my furniture. On the east side of the space the linen is more yellow…ugh. My floors are dark cherry and walls are BM ice cube silver. My cans have halogen bulbs. How can I change the yellow look in the east side. Oh and there are a lot of green foliage outside the east window as well. Thanks

    • Dean Sickler

      Sounds to me that the “yellow” you are seeing in the east side drapes is probably caused by reflected light off the dark cherry floor. A dark cherry stain color is made with burnt sienna, yellow oxide and van dyke brown. The effect will be worse in the late afternoon but should go away at night unless the can lights reflect light directly off the floor. The “perfect” off-white drapes on the North side are being cooled by North light coming through them and the wall color. I have no easy suggestions. You could try a neutral to cool colored rug where the light reflects off the floor.

  19. Amanda

    I have painted my walls grey and light grey. I bought grey carpet (which was grey in the store), installed it is now purple. what do I need to do so it looks the true grey color?
    Thank you!

    • Dean Sickler

      I’m afraid what you see is what you bought. Gray is an imprecise description of a color that ranges from blue to mauve. The only way to truly “see” gray is to compare it to other grays. What may look like a neutral gray next to brown will look purple next to beige. A warm light bulb at night may soften the purplish gray in the carpet but it will turn the gray walls to taupe. During the day it will go back to purple I’m afraid.

  20. Margaret

    I just moved into a townhome and I have NEVER had paint shift on me like it does in this place! I have painted the living room 4 times and I have a garage full of half used gallons and oodles of samples, and $$$ down the drain. I thought I was nuts until I found your sight!! You are genius – thank you!

    So the layout goes like this – the living/dining/kitchen are all one connected room with the living room at the north entrance. The north wall is all windows – door, window, and bay window, all about 8 or 9′, so it gets a lot of light. The kitchen is on the south wall, which has 2 sets of sliding glass doors, and again, it gets a lot of light (for Chicago anyway).

    The kitchen I painted BM Sweet Vibrations (391), which I love, as I have a chartreuse couch in the living room and wanted to marry the living room with the kitchen.

    I started with beige in the living room and everything went pink (no surprise to you!), so I thought I had to move to a green/beige so it wouldn’t go pink, but the green clashed with the couch. I then decided on gray to compliment the couch and the fireplace, which is tilled in a mix of slate gray and charcoal subway tile. The tiles are absolutely neutral – meaning they look like they are different shades of black and white – and this is how I want my wall color, but everything goes blue. I currently have SW Argos(7065) on the wall and it looks like a baby blue. I chose SW 7067 to paint the wall above the fireplace (it’s on the east wall about 4’ from the bay and protrudes out) and to also use in the up/down stairwells on the west wall, that are open into the living/dining room, to create a darker backdrop for the lighter walls in the living/dinging room.

    Other things of note:

    Couch sits in front of bay.
    The bay has white up/down shades, which I only use at night (wall color is less blue at night but almost disappears).
    Rug is currently beige, but I want to get a gray/black one to ground the room and match the hearth, which is a light neutral gray tile.
    Stairwells don’t get any natural light, so when beige they were more beige than pink.
    Canned lights in ceiling. Ceiling fan in living room with both up and down lights – which I hope to change to a more modern fixture with a down light only. End table lamp. I think all have incandescent bulbs.

    I have half a gallon of the Argos left and a full gallon of 7066 and 7067 left. If I could add something to those to make a more neutral gray that would be best, as this MIGHT make my husband less agitated with me, or I can go with different colors altogether and use the grays to paint my sons room, which is on the fourth floor and only gets southern light (although he wanted a more vibrant blue or ORANGE).

    Please help – you’re our last hope!

    • Dean Sickler

      That range of grays: SW 7065-7067 are cool neutrals. The way to warm them up is to add some of your Husband’s favorite orange paint. Add 1/2 cup of orange paint to the 1/2 gallon of SW 7065 and that should kill the bluish cast of the gray and make everybody happy. There’s a funny life lesson in here somewhere.., I’m just not sure how to phrase it. Cheers

      • Margaret

        Marriage is a compromise might be a possibility?? Maybe we will laugh about all of this after our 5th paint…
        comedy = tragedy + time after all. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have saved our weekend and our marriage! To be on the safe side though, I’m buying your book, as we have 3 more floors to paint ;) .

        For future reference, do you know a gray that would look gray in Northern light?

        Thanks again!!

        • Dean Sickler

          Pick a warm gray that leans towards taupe but is still neutral. Buy a small amount, paint it on a card and live with it in the room for a few days before you commit.

          In the interest of full disclosure, my wife seldom agrees with my color choices either. I’m good with color but I can’t always “sell” the concept. That’s a different set of skills (grin).

          • Margaret

            In my humble opinion paint is like cereal… too many choices. And given the amount of choice, your book should be mandatory reading for paint store employees. Thanks for the taupe advice. If we screw up the mixing of the orange I’ll know where to start all over again. Although “selling” taupe to hubby will be challenging, but having your documentation will certainly help.

  21. Ann Scardaville

    I recently purchase a house full of expensive carpet that looked beige/gold in the sample, but it has a pink hue to it installed under lighting. What type of overhead (cans) would be best to give the carpet a golder tone? The carpet looks much golder in natural light and that’s the color we are looking for.

    • Dean Sickler

      Get rid of the warm white bulbs and replace them with Daylight spectrum or “Reveal” brand bulbs. That should take care of the pink.

  22. Laura

    I work in a long office which we painted tan.The florescent lights make it look puke tan, or pinkish tan, skincolor even.
    We can’t change the bulbs but are ready to paint.
    The ifurniture in the office is browns, the floor carpet tiles are browns.
    What would your suggestion be for this space I can send a photo. thanks Laura

    • Dean Sickler

      It would help if you named the manufacturer paint color, i.e. Benjamin-Moore HC-37, etc. Then I could find you one that would be less objectionable.

      If the color is too pinkish tan under fluorescent lights, you need one that is more taupe.

  23. Laura

    Well we are going to stay away from tan actually … The girls I think are leaning towards greys I think we are probably going with Sherwin Williams brand paint is there anything I should know about grey?

    • Dean Sickler

      Grey under fluorescent lights can very often look blue or green. So pick one with warm undertones, more like a warm taupe. Sherwin Williams 1023 or 1017 are nice, warm greys.

  24. Carol Smith

    What a wonderful resource! Of course I have a problem. I’m trying to achieve a semi-luminous (sunset, sunrise) pink in my living room. The store supposedly color-matched a fabric sample from the sofa, but the resulting color was far, far too harsh. They told me to add white to lighten it up. Well, after cutting it by 1/3 it is still too harsh.

    The fabric I’m working with is a medium scale floral Laura Ashley linen union. It’s traditional and has some texture. The background is creamy; there are several shades of brown, tan and taupe; several shades of green, from light to almost chartreuse; and the various shades of rose have a warm undertone. The sofa is the pink the store tried to match. It’s wool with a woven in trellis pattern for texture. What I’d like is to figure out a glaze or wash to bring the harshness down, so I don’t have to repaint, but I’m willing to do that if I need to. The intensity could come down, too, but I’m not after a pale shade. I have a huge amount of paint left and hope I can figure out a way to work with it.

    Oh! The room is bright, with two large north facing windows and one that faces east. Western light comes through the hall in the afternoon. We live in far northern Michigan, so our north light is intense much of the year.

    Thank you so much!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Carol,
      One of the problems with color is the adjectives we use to describe it. You say that it is not necessarily the intensity of the pink that is bothering you but the “harshness” of the color. Pink, being a mixture of red and white, can swing two ways; one towards orange and the other towards magenta. Since you have primarily a North light (which is cool) I’ll interpret “harshness” as the pink is too magenta.

      You can have the paint store add a small amount (try 4/48′s to start) of Yellow Oxide to a gallon of the Pink paint and then test it out on a card. You do not want a dramatic change, just a small tweak.

      Just adding white paint will not reduce the problem element of the color, it will only lighten it. They should have suggested adding a warm off-white like Benjamin-Moore “Linen White”.

      You can also make a very transparent glaze (12 parts glaze to one part paint) with one part Pink and two parts “Linen White” as the paint color and apply that. I don’t know what kind of glaze you have available but it could dry out with a satin sheen.

      Let me know how it progresses. Good luck

  25. Carol Smith

    Thank you so much! That is EXACTLY the problem. I’ve done a fair amount of glazing and mixing my own colors for that, though all in the yellow family. Is there any reason I shouldn’t tint this myself? I’d try mixing just a bit and then use foam board to try it out.

    Again, thanks so much!


    • Dean Sickler

      Absolutely! It is a good solution for any color that comes out too bright.

      • Carol Smith

        Hi, Dean–

        Your suggestion was EXACTLY right! Fortunately, I had some yellow tints from prior color mixing adventures. It took an astonishing amount of tint, but the yellow took the pink from a purple undertone to a much warmer color that is PERFECT. When the two are right next to one another, you can tell that the new one has a bit of a yellowish cast, but on its own it simply looks warm. I’ve had lots of compliments on it.

        Thank you so very much!


  26. Alicia

    Hi Dean! Your site is great! We painted our living room/dining room/kitchen (all in one with no wall breaks) Benjamin Moore’s Clay and it looks great during the day, but at night it is really realy dark and against our kitchen cabinets it puts off a pinkish tone. Any way that you know of the 1) lighten the color 2) not make it have such a pinkish tone against the cabinets?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Alicia,
      Sorry for the late reply but somehow I stopped receiving message notices.
      I’m looking at BM’s OC-11 called Clay Beige. I don’t see any pinkish cast to it at all so it must be coming from your lights or reflected off the cabinets. Try a “Reveal” bulb in your lights if incandescent or a “Daylight” spectrum bulb if fluorescent and see if that removes the “pink”.
      To lower the contrast, you would have to add a quart or two of white paint in the same sheen to the paint color. Much cheaper that making the cabinets a darker color.

  27. Darcy Lee

    I just purchased Martha Stewart Ox Hill kitchen cabinets at Home Depot. The color is Ocean Floor. In the store and her catalog they were a beautiful grey-taupe but in my house they are so green. Is there any type of lighting or paint color that will turn them back to the beautiful greige I fell in love with at the store? Please help!

  28. Darcy Lee

    Regarding my last question I meant to mention I have mostly a western and northern exposure although southern facing windows are in living room opposite the kitchen. I painted the ajoining dining room a Sherwin William Virtual Taupe but the walls before that were all white and the new paint has not changed the green hue to the cabinets. I have fluorescent overhead lighting (1 – 12″) and incandescent pendant lighting (2). Getting ready to install new overhead lighting and wondering if incandescent would help change the color of the cabinets back to greige. I would greatly appreciate any advice. Thanks!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Darcy,
      You can still use fluorescent lights but change the bulbs to a WARM white if available for the size. You have some kind of “daylight” or cool spectrum bulb in there now. Look at what kind and size of bulb is used in the new fixture before you buy and make sure it is available in a range of colors. Sorry for being late on the reply. I have to fix my notifications.

  29. lulu

    Just found your wonderful site. Thank you for all of this brilliant information. I wish I would have found you prior to having 25 test patches on my wall. I finally did get the right color, but this likely help me next time. I have a question about paint chips. What is the best way to find the right color before bringing the entire paint store home with you (like I did)? The problem for me, was that I have a ton of light all day so the color changes every hour (which is kind of fun ) BM Titanium is what I ended up with and I am happy…I actually like that it changes b/c my place is super modern with bamboo floors and all white furnishings otherwise. The problem I found, though, was that the pint samples are the not exact proportions that are in a gallon and it is shocking how one more drop of black (or blue?) with nothing to balance it made the paint look 100% blue on the wall!

    If you find the paint chip you like, is it better to have them scan the chip than just mix from the formula? I also learned that if you find a color from one paint company, use that company! I tried to have SW mix my BM color and it was totally off. What is the trick to getting it right the first time? Perhaps fly you in when I buy my next home??? :) Thanks, Lulu

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Lulu,
      At least one major paint company that I know of, (that will remain nameless except that the initials are SW), base all their formulae on gallon sizes of paint. That is why so many of their quart/pint colors are off by a little to a lot.
      Paint stores used to have at least one person in the shop who knew how to mix, match and fix colors by eye and not need a color spectrometer. This was part of the service. That was before the big box stores almost put them out of business with their “off the shelf”, low cost business model. To stay in the race, they had to stop “fixing” paint and just sell more of it. Nobody’s direct fault but kind of a bummer for the environment.
      That’s why I wrote a book about how to fix paint colors…to try to bring the skill back into the painting trade. The major Paint Companies are not interested (I naively tried).
      The only way I know to get the perfect color every time is to have the ability to adjust the color on the spot using the ambient, reflected and artificial light that is in the space.
      My book is not an easy read, but unless you have a colorist on call, it is the best way I know to not waste time and and tons of paint.

  30. Lee

    Hi Dean. I just recently painted my family room a light gray shade: Moonshine by Benjamin Moore. During the day, it is a perfect shade of gray. But at night and once the lights turn on, it turns into a gray-green shade. There are a lot of high celing lights in this room (about 10-12 bulbs) which I think have a mix of different bulbs (it is a new house and I have not changed them since we moved in a week ago). Is there a light bulb you can recommend to use so that the room looks more like a light gray at night? Thank you!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Lee,
      This could be tricky because with all those bulbs, you want to get it right. Logic tells me you have some if not all warm white bulbs which cast a warm, yellowish light. When this mixes with the gray (slightly blue) you get green. You want to change those out to “daylight” spectrum bulbs. Do a test first by turning off the overheads and experiment with a portable lamp and several different bulbs to see what is happening. Good luck.

  31. Hi Dean

    You are so knowledgeable and informative. I have a similar problem as one of the readers above. My carpet which I purchased very expensive in a flooring shop thinking its gray is now purple after installation. I would like to use artificial lighting throughout the day and evening to give it a grey look like I originally hoped for. What options are available to me in this case please?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Prisicilla,
      Thank you for the kind comments.
      Unfortunately, what you bought is the real color of the carpet when cast in natural light in your home. The physical attributes (purplish cast) is a fact that that is hard to work with in natural light.
      If I understand correctly, during the day, it looks purplish, but at night, it can be corrected with the proper light bulb. If that is the case, I would recommend a warm white or yelllowish bulb to counteract the “purplish” cast
      Please let me know if this helps?

  32. Casey

    Hi Dean,

    I just had my kitchen cabinets painted Sherwin Williams Proper Gray. The doors were removed and painted in the living room and I loved the way it looked in there but in the kitchen it looks too purple. The main light in the kitchen is a ceiling fan with an amber globe which we plan on changing soon. What type of lighting will help tone down the purple?
    Also, I have considering applying a glaze to the cabinets. Is there a shade of glaze that I could apply over the proper gray to make it look less purple?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Casey. I had to get back to the Studio so I could look at the color. I don’t see any violet or purple in the color so it must be coming from the light, either reflected or from the lamp. An amber light will bring out the red in the color so that could make it swing towards a magenta. Does it still look purple with the light off? Try both a “daylight” bulb and a “warm white” bulb in any lamp to see which works best. I’m guessing a daylight bulb will wash out any tendency for it to show warm. Do you have a red surface or curtains in the room that is reflecting on the cabinets? See if the bulbs work before thinking about having to glaze the cabinets (which is a lot of work). Good luck

  33. Teresa

    I just finished painting a powder room with no natural light. The color I chose was a soft aqua but when I finished the color turned out bright turquoise. It is way too bright. What bulbs will soften and lighten this room? Thanks!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Teresa,
      Color does become more intense over a large area. That’s why those small paint chips are practically worthless when it comes to choosing a color. Try a warm-white bulb.

  34. Lisa

    I painted my living room SW Netsuke, it looks minty green with the lamps on, what light bulbs should I use to correct this?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Lisa,
      You must have “daylight” or “Reveal” bulbs in there now. Switch to a “warm” bulb between 1700K-2000K in temperature.

  35. Madge

    Awesome explaination of the “wonders” of light, and the concepts for achieving your desired finished product!

    Hairdressers and artists are, (or should be) taught this in class, as it can make all the difference in the world!

    Thank you!!!! Great job!!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Madge,
      Thank you very much. Also dentists (matching tooth color) and and anybody else who has to match colors.

  36. Katie

    I just painted my living room and foyer Silver Drop from Behr. Acadia White from Benjamin Moore for trim, and I have medium shade wood flooring (bronzed birch) Mt problem is, the walls look a bit too blue for me in some lights, what kind of light bulbs do I need to get on order to bring back the grey. Also, I have an accent wall, is there a color that would go well with silver drop that will make it look more grey. Thank you for any of your help, this is my first home I hope I didnt ruin it!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Katie,
      I don’t see much blue in the color; “Silver Drop”. The lamps you have must be “daylight” bulbs. Try a “warm white” bulb. Also, for the accent wall, try for a warmer grey color. Example include Benjamin-Moore 2109-40 or HC-82. Good luck

  37. Tammy

    White trim/doors/bathroom fixtures. N window. Florescent down cast light above mirror. Walls- lime glowing fluorescent green. What kind of light to town down color and “glow”

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Tammy,
      A “warm white” fluorescent bulb should help. Lime-green or any green is not usually recommended for bathrooms because the reflected color will cast a green pallor to your skin.

  38. Hilary

    Hi, I just moved into a new home and painted Sherwin Williams “grayish.” It turned out lighter than we wished, but regardless what we cannot get over is the purple tint. Comparing it to other grays it seemed to have some beige undertones, which I liked. I hung painted poster board on the walls for a day and did not notice any purple hue. However, it now appears lavender to me all day. We have recessed lighting and a large chandelier, but don’t know what kind of bulbs. What type of bulbs should we try? It is a 2 story foyer with a large window and also a hallway, but time of day doesn’t seem to matter. Also, is there a color to decorate with that may also take away from the purple tint? Any suggestions greatly appreciated – THANK YOU!!!

  39. Hilary

    Adding to my last comment about the SW “grayish”… I wouldn’t even mind if it had a green tone if there was something we did to the area that would do that. I just really dislike purple! Thanks again.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Hilary,
      Try SW 7064. Most of SW grays seem to have a bit of red oxide or violet in them. SW 7064 (Passive) just has a touch of orange in it to keep it from becoming too cool.

  40. Jan

    Thanks very much for the very informative article. It explains why a colour I saw and loved as a guest in a private home just doesn’t look the same in my salon.

    I will make of point of revisiting and noting what types of lighting they have.

  41. Sandy

    Help!! We recently painted our kitchen cabinets in a colored lacquer mixed to match BM Linen White. After the fact we added a new dishwasher with cabinet panels to be painted to match the rest of the cabinets. Our painters are having a devil of a time achieving the match. Whether mixed by eyeball or by computer, any of the new color matches are noticeably gray next to the existing cabinets in most lights. The room receives very little direct sunlight, but when it does the difference in color is less apparent. The other lights in the room are warm white incandescent can lights and warm white under cabinet fluorescents. (I am told that the lacquer being used is only available in a very few places here in LA and is very costly.) Any ideas for a fix?? Thanks so much!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi. You don’t mention what kind of paint you are using to match the cabinets and how it is being applied. Lacquer is difficult to match with house paint because the resins hold color differently. Lacquer is always sprayed.

      The problem here is that you are trying to match a color that is already a match. They matched the lacquer “Linen White” under one kind of light (probably halogen) and you are viewing it under different types of light. Unless you use exactly the same pigments that they used to match the lacquer color, it will always look a little different under certain lights.

      If you are working with a quart of paint, I would recommend that you add 25% white paint to the mixture to lighten it up, then add 5 drops of yellow oxide and a drop of red oxide to warm it up. If it becomes too warm, add some raw umber. I’ll bet that this will at least get the color closer.

  42. Sandy

    Thank you, Dean. We will suggest that to the painter. Just to be sure I understand, when you say a quart of paint, do you mean the current Linen White lacquer mix? Would the white paint you suggest adding also be lacquer?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Sandy,
      Yes. The paint you are using to paint the panels. Use the same kind of paint to lighten it. You don’t want to just use white pigment to lighten it because that could overload the chemical balance of the paint. Be sure the colorants or pigments you use are compatible with the lacquer.

  43. Dave

    Another one here who fell into the metamerism trap. Remodeling the house (split entry) and wanted to get away from all the beige walls, so the long wall was painted in BM Raging Sea (750F-4) and the other living room and dining room walls are in the process of being painted in BM Pewter Mug (770E-3). The dining room is finished… the window faces NE but gets very little light due to a covered porch which was added after the house was built. I’ve been using CFL bulbs for several years and lean towards ones with a 3500K color temperature but the (5) Sylvania CF13EL Micro 13W 3500K bulbs in the dining room chandelier seem to add a tinge of purple to the Pewter Mug walls. I set up a lamp with one double ended 300 watt, 6000 lumens, 2,950K, CRI 100 halogen bulb and it seems to look better. I could just use some input before I start spending even more money on bulbs, especially now with LED bulbs adding to the confusion. Thanks for your time.

  44. Laura

    Hi Dean, here it is a week before Christmas and I decided it would be smart to start painting my open concept living area. The current color is BM Lenox Tan I have painted a few walls so far BM Edgecomb Grey. The room has 11ft cathedral ceilings with a NorthEastern exposure I’m still unsure about the color so have not gone any furthur. The color is nice (a bit light though) until early afternoon then turns cool grey I’m assuming this has to do with the NE exposure. I was thinking of sticking to the same color but having it darkened, any suggestions would be greatly appeciated.

  45. Jody

    Please help! After struggling to find a carpet color to compliment our Crisp Khaki walls with white millwork/doors, our carpet (almond butter) looks perfect in our closet (slight gold tone a shade darker than the walls) but pinkish and too dark in the master bedroom. We have a lot of large windows in that room and I am wating to see how it looks in the daylight, the carpet was just installed today and it was night time by the time I saw it installed. What color light bulbs will cancel out the pink and enhance the gold? I suspect the closet may have an irredescent bulb… thank you!

  46. Jody

    Sorry, I had a typo in my last comment! Meant to say I suspect the lighting in the closet is flourescent, I have yet to take apart the fixture and look at the bulbs… thanks again!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Jody,
      I would suspect you have day-light fluorescent bulbs in your closet. In you Mstr bdrm, try the “Reveal” bulbs that are sold everywhere. THey have a slight bluish cast that may give you what you want without using fluorescents.

  47. Amy

    Hi Dean —

    Thank you for the article! This is just what I was looking for…. if you don’t mind, I have a question — I recently painted my walls SW Alpaca, which looked like a pale greige on the sample blocks I painted on the walls… however, now that it is on the walls, it has a light purple appearance. I am about to install new carpet. Can you suggest a shade of carpet to bring back the gray color? Thanks!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Amy,
      Looking for a carpet that will de-emphasize the violet cast of the paint may not be the way you want to go. Paint is a lot cheaper. Otherwise you would want to find a carpet that already has a bit of a violet cast to it. That is how you de-emphasize a color cast. A warm white lightbulb would also help.

  48. Betty

    Dean, Thank you for your information about light affecting color. I have painted my 6 by5 laundry room SW 7028 Incredible White which looked too purple on the wall so it was manually change adding “New Green”. My lighting is a fluorescent light which has now made the walls pink even with the warm bulb. I don’t know what to do. The floor is tile that is a mixture or Taupe color. I hate the walls, I want them to be a white grey or greige this purple/pink is discouraging me, I don’t know which way to go for paint color or do I replace the fluorescent light with some other fixture? Please help. Thank you very much

  49. Betty

    I should also state my sundry room has no window. Thank you

  50. Carol H.

    Thanks for a wonderful article. I have am having major problems selecting carpet or wood for a sunny, west-facing apartment on the sixth floor of highrise building. I have wall to wall windows. Light beiges/ivory look terrible until the sun comes out (murky and dirty) and then go a pink shade; slightly darker beiges/ivory look lovely but then go red; lovely light golds/pale butterscotch go garishly gold in the sunlight. Blonde woods go orange. Brown woods go burgundy. Complicating matters is the other “wing” of my pink/red bricked building which casts a pinkish glow into my room. So far, the best solution seems to be a dark charcoal/black wood…which will be very difficult to manage with the bright sunlight but seems to stay fairly true in colour. I’d like white or off white walls..any suggestions here for a white/off white which wouldn’t go to bright in sunlight or look too clinical in low light. Help!!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Carol,
      You have so many things going on I don’t know where to start. You have to realize that when you paint with white or off-white, what you will really see are various shades of gray where areas fall into shadow. Only the brightest areas with direct light will look white and even then, it is only in relation to other colors. In other words, if the walls are a light beige, you will only see that when compared to a white ceiling or white trim. If everything is painted with the same light beige, it will look like an off-white in the bright areas, and a gray/taupe in the shaded areas.
      You are going to have to buy a variety of off-whites in pints and paint them on the walls to see which way to go.

      • Carol H.

        Thanks for your timely reply which is much appreciated. The paint colours I’ve just found (after much testing as you suggested) that work are ones that surprised me as they look quite different on the walls than on the chips: BM Collector’s Item, BM Capitol White, and surprisingly to me, BM Decorator’s White for trim. They each work well with the various levels of daylight, sunlight, and artificial light. I found a carpet in a shade that really works with the first two colours (hard to describe the colour but it works..light but not ivory, not gold or red, and not taupe). Thanks for clarifying the ‘grey/beige/taupe’ appearances of whites/offwhites. I had a terrible time with a soft green paint a few years ago that has looked like mud on the walls ever since (similar to one of your pictured examples in your article). Your explanations and knowledge are very, very useful. Thanks once again for your reply.

  51. Betsy Ferrari

    Hi Dean,

    I AM TERRIFIED!! We are building an open floor plan ranch and the contractor is asking me for paint colors for the living, kitchen, dining area. Obviously, I want to keep the main components of this area neutral, so I’d like to go with an off white/beige. Problem is, the floors are unstained red oak. I’m afraid the walls will end up looking pinkish. The kitchen cabinets are white with chocolate truffle quartz countertops and a zillion windows. HELP!!

    • Dean Sickler

      The best advice I can give is for you to not to look at the major paint company’s color decks. Look at the off-whites in the C2 color line, esp. the Barry Dixon recommendations. Donald Kaufmann Colors, Farrow and Ball, Devine, etc. These color fanatics design colors that are complex and do not have a tendency to “wing off” in other directions.

  52. Tiffany K.

    This is SO helpful! Here’s a new one: we recently moved into an historic home which has a faux skylight over the dining room table. The “skylight” is actually a 48″ fluorescent fixture under an art deco stained glass piece in primarily yellows and greens, but when the fixture is on it sheds an awful, sickly glow over the room. (There are also similar windows that don’t make the room look ill in natural light.) We’ve resigned ourselves to just leaving it off and using an alternate light source, but would a “daylight” or cooler bulb likely help? In this situation, should we focus more on finding a higher Kelvin rating or a better CRI? Many thanks!!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Tiffany,
      I’m afraid that the light being cast is mainly from the yellows and greens in the stained glass. The fluorescent light is probably already a cool white or daylight bulb. Try a warm white bulb in there and see if it might “mellow out” the colors some. Look for a bulb rated at 3200K and preferably lower.

  53. Carol H.

    An update from me: After testing numerous pots of white and off-white paints, I decided to go with BM White Dove on the walls and BM Decorator’s White on the trim and ceilings. It works perfectly for me in every room with every light…artificial and natural. The colour in my two bedrooms almost looks like two different colours at certain times of day (one room quite light; the other darker due to shadows), but the overall look is one of “flow” and everything ties in nicely. My floors are a wide plank, semi-rustic look, light colour with a very slight gray undertone although the main impression is of a light blondish/taupe. The floors and the walls/trim all work together. I’m actually amazed at how well this has pulled together and am very, very pleased. Thanks for all the good tips from you and your readers in the above posts.

  54. Kelli

    Dean, thank you so much for this blog! We just painted a wall in our baby’s room Sparrow Gray but it looks horribly purple. The room is small and only has one window that faces northeast. One of the walls is a beautiful turquoise. We’re hoping a light bulb change might take the purple away and bring back the true gray. Any suggestions?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Kelli,
      Try a “warm white” bulb which will help. The NE exposure will contribute towards the “purplish” during the day. I’m afraid it is just the wrong color esp. set against the turquoise.

  55. Dan

    We just painted our home with Muralo Michelle Winick MW-15 Morning Fog (grey) and the accent is 600% of that formula. That accent looks green at night and in shadow. I have only overhead can lighting, with sylvania 60W flood lamps in them (not sure of the temp, but appear to be a warm light. What can I replace these with to get the true grey tone out of the accent? Thank you!!

    • Dean Sickler

      600% of a formula is asking for trouble. You rarely know what pigment can come to the surface and predominate. In this case, it could actually be a bluish cast in the paint made green by using a warm-white (yellowish) bulb. Does that make sense? You throw a yellow light on a blue wall and it will look green.

      You’ll have to experiment but I really can’t guess which bulbs will work without seeing the 600% color. Good luck.

  56. Debbie

    I just used Benjamin Moore Philadelphia Cream HC-30
    In a clients bedroom. She loves the yellow during the day but says it turns an awful green at night. There are recessed ceiling lights. what bulb can I use to prevent the green.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Debbie,
      She must have “Daylight” color temperature bulbs in the top hats. Try switching to “warm color” bulbs and that should solve the problem.

  57. Debbie

    Hi Dean, Wow, I had no idea what I was getting into when I wanted to paint my living room a nice soft beachy beige. I just want a color that ends up actually looking like soft beachy beige on the wall instead of gray! They all end up looking gray. I live in Southern California, Orange County and the room has windows all the way around it and a sky light. The floor is a medium color brown faux wood. I would guess that the undertone of the wood is very slightly red but I’m not really sure. The latest color I tried was Sherwin Williams Natural Choice 7011, which looked like exactly what I wanted on the paint chip and also when I looked at the paint chip hanging on the wall and I was so sure it would look right when I painted but…it looks GRAY! I’m ready to give up but I found your site so decided I would give it one last shot and see if you could help me? Is there a way to find a paint color that will actually look beachy beige when I put it on my walls? Thank you for this amazing resource!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Debbie,
      SW 7011 is a very neutral off-white that is grayish. This is such a light color that I’ll bet the only way you can really see it is because the trim and ceiling are pure white. It would not look so gray if these were painted the same color as the walls.
      The off-white above it, 7010, is warmer but may have a pinkish cast. Beachy Beige is a subjective color. I see it as SW 6148 or possibly as SW 6140 as examples.

  58. Rosemary

    Help! We repainted our house upstairs from white to Sherwin williams “lightweight beige”. While the color was beautiful in the paint store, once we got it on the walls it turned pinkish. The upstairs doesn’t get a lot of natural light….. the main window faces east. It gets some light out of our daughters room…. but her room is done in bright pinks and has burgundy carpet…. so a pink glow is coming out of her room. Even when I close her bedroom door, the walls still have a pinkish cast. I just can’t get over the pink!

    I’m wondering if part of the problem is the miles and miles of blue carpeting we have. It is scheduled to be replaced next week with a carpet that has a nice mixture of tans and browns, so I’m hoping that helps. I guess if worst comes to worst, I can sponge another beige/tan on top with more yellow undertones, but I’m worried that will look terrible in the end.

    I spent a bunch of money on paint and simply can’t afford to redo it all. Maybe changing the bulbs in the light fixtures might help? But should I choose a cool or a warm bulb?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Rosemary,
      I love the idea of a pink glow penetrating the door and suffusing all with a pink cast. It sounds positively evil. That illusion actually has a name: color saturation or color constancy. I know it well. I just saw this post so I take it the blue carpet is now gone and replaced with tans and browns. Hopefully that took care of the problem. If not, you could try some cool white or daylight bulbs to get rid of the pinkish. Daughters do grow up and move out so maybe you just need some patience and a can of paint on layaway.

  59. Vanessa

    Dean, I really appreciate your site! I am trying to decide on a bedroom color for a room without a lot of natural sunlight. I want it to feel cool and relaxing, but I don’t really want a shade of blue. There is only one ceiling light (fan) and it’s a vaulted ceiling. I’m not afraid to use bold colors, either. Any suggestions on color or light bulb selections?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Vanessa,
      A warmish gray is a very “in” neutral color right now and looks very sophisticated in bedrooms juxtaposed with darker grays/browns and metallic hues. Use bold colors in the accents like bed covers, pillows, etc. Look at Benjamin Moore 1458-1460 colors.

  60. karen lindsay

    what a great resource here! Id like to add my question. I purchased grey carpeting for two rooms in my home. The rooms are small with very limited natural light. The carpet reads VERY blue instead. Do you have suggestions for lighting to bring the carpet back to grey? Also, looking for the right shade of cream or white for the walls. The baseboards, moulding and trim are a lovely
    glossy white.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Karen,
      Try a warm white bulb (1850k or lower) with all others turned off. I think that should take care of the blue. At least at night. If that works, then replace all the other lights in the room with a warmer bulb.

  61. Louise

    I love the warm grays painted on the walls of the Restoration Hardware stores. However, the slate color which appears a medium taupey gray on their walls is a dark, muddy olive in my home.I did notice a subtle green undertone at the store, but it was a soft bluish green. In my home it has more of a gold hue. I have cherry hardwood floors. My home is small with little natural light as I am surrounded by woods. My living room, dining room and kitchen are combined. My cabinets are white. The color I am trying to achieve is a slate gray, hence the name. How can I reduce the gold with artificial lighting?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Louise,
      They have cooler (fluorescent) lights at the store and you probably have warmer incandescent bulbs. Try “daylight” bulbs or ones rated to 5000K.

  62. duJapon

    Hi there, this post has been really helpful. Just wanted to share my problem and see if there might be some good solutions for it>>>

    My apartment is a typical sort of “long and narrow” style layout in Japan: bedroom faces East/Southeast with lots of natural light; kitchen/dining area is in the middle (with one tiny window above the sink); and then a small window on the far wall near the bathroom, facing West, which allows a little light to trickle into the kitchen.

    The coat I just put on recently throughout the whole apartment (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) is on the warmer side, which I thought would be good to balance the dark kitchen cave. The test looked good in natural light, but once the sun went down it started to show a really strong pink hue. It feels like I’m in a hospital!

    I’m wondering what kind of white would be good to use throughout the whole space– considering the differences in natural light from bedroom to kitchen/bath. Any advice would be wonderful!

    Lost in Japan, please help if you can ;)

    • Dean Sickler

      You want to use a cooler temperature bulb in the lights. Try a “cool white” bulb or one with a color temperature greater than 4200K

  63. We have a beautiful vase painted in gold paint with other colors.
    We have it in a small bath room. Recently we painted the walls of the bathroom with a dark gold metalic paint. We, at first used regular light bulbs but the walls looked green! We then switched over to two 75 watt
    small fluorescents and that helped. What can we do to enhace the gold coloring of the wall and vase? Thank you.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Ron,
      Either change the glass fixture to a warm (goldish color) shade or buy warm temperature fluorescent bulbs under 3200K.

  64. Amy

    Dean, your knowledge is remarkable and you are providing an invaluable service–thank you!

    I have a large open floor plan (great room, dining, kitchen) that face north. I have a ton of windows. I have Benjamin Moore’s Grant Beige on my walls. I expected it to be a very taupey tan/gray but they’re casting a green hue. Next to it I have creamy kitchen cabinets–Kwall’s Apple Peel. The cabinets cast a slight pink hue in certain lights. I have incandescent can lights in this room. From all the comments made above I know that I need to switch to a cool light to get rid of the pink cast on my cabinet, but won’t this make my green tinted walls look more green? How can I restore the tan/gray without making my cabinets look more pink? In another room I basically have the same problem–I have BM Grant Beige on the walls but my beige carpets look peachy. What would you recommend?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Amy,
      Thank you for the kind comments.

      HC-43 is a popular neutral that does indeed have a greenish cast. A slightly warmer neutral would be HC-80 or HC-81.

      You could also try a light bulb with more of a mid-range color temperature like 3200k-3600K (neither cool nor warm).

  65. Terri

    Hi Dean,
    I’m so glad I found your website. My kitchen cabinets have an orange tone that I want to change. The cabinets are a honey oak and the floor is newly finished with Provincial stain. I discovered that the lighting was causing the orange tone when I removed one of the cabinet doors and looked at it in another room. We have fluorescent lighting and we tried changing the bulbs, but are still getting the orange tones. The kitchen gets natural light from large windows in nearby rooms. The windows face west. What temperature bulb would you recommend to cut down on the orange tones? My walls are a sage color. I have also thought about replacing the fluorescent fixture with and LED fixture. Do you think this would make a difference or should I just paint or re stain my cabinets? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Dean Sickler

      I’m afraid it is the sage color walls that is the culprit in accentuating the orange hue in the cabinets. Your best recourse it to glaze the cabinets with a colored varnish (cool walnut or jacobean) or paint. Good luck!

  66. Annetta

    We purchased a 20+ yr old house with blue tub & toilet in the guest bathroom. We can’t fund a replacement tub/toilet, but need to paint because we tore off wallpaper which used to be in the whole bath.

    What color can we use to minimize the blue tub/toilet?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Annetta,
      Anytime you want to minimize the impact of a color, you want to use the same color all over. Just use either a lighter or darker version of the porcelain color on the walls and trim. To make the blue wall color more attractive, you could also stencil an all-over pattern (like damask) in a muted metallic silver.

  67. Rebecca

    Hello! This is a great article on lights and colour for interiors. I need help! I’ve chose. Dulux rose petal to paint my new flat. On the colour chart it looked like and off white beige colour with the tinest barley there tint of rose. However on the walls in my flat it look PINK! Like a young child’s room pink! The base colour is white but it only comes up white sometimes. What kind of light bulbs and colour lamp shades should I use to ensure that the pink is near eliminated and the walls look more beige white than pink. Thanks!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Rebecca,
      Any color with the word “rose” in it would have to be pink so you will be fighting a strong tendency for the color to read pink. Your best bet is to use a lamp bulb with the highest temperature you can find. That would be anything higher than 4500K. Also a cheap fluorescent bulb would be better than an incandescent or LED bulb. You may have to try a couple to find the right balance.

      A lamp shade should be like a taupe that leans towards green rather than beige. The best color would be a greenish yellow but I can’t picture that as an attractive lampshade. Good luck!

  68. Kim

    Hi Dean, I’m so glad I found you! I’ve painted my guest room three times now, desperately trying to achieve a medium valued, smoky blue/gray color on my walls. The first coat was SW Pure White over the old ‘pea green’. Second was 75% BM Nimbus Gray color matched with Behr Paint. That was actually a beautiful color but too ‘icy’ and/or bright for what I want for this room. BM James River Gray (this time BM Regal Select paint) is what is there now (the third coat). This is a small room, 10 1/2′ x 12′, with two windows, one facing SW, the other SE. The problem is that it is a bit too dark and a little more than a bit too blue in intensity. What kind of bulbs should I try? If you can help, I would be ever so grateful, I’m just too worn out to paint again, especially since I’d have no guarantee I’d pick the right color next time either. The room is bare now with an old black tile floor which will be carpeted, color not decided yet, furniture and window covering plans are mostly white. Accent decor will have some green.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Kim,
      Try a warm white bulb in your fixture first although that will only help out in the evening. You seem to have pretty good light coming in from the windows and that could be reflecting off the black tile in the floor. Covering that with a white sheet or something should help you read the paint color more accurately. Other than that, I could suggest B.M-2127 as a lighter and more neutral gray. Good luck

      • Kim

        Thank you so much for your advice! Very valuable and much appreciated, thank you! Btw, my daughter-in-law is ordering your book for me, can’t wait to get it:).

  69. Kim

    By the way, I can’t wait to get your book, it’s at the top of my Christmas list!

  70. alison collins

    we’ve just painted our kitchen joa’s white – a beautiful (expensive) farrow and ball colour which looks lovely and beige by day with the northern light coming in but by night the room is all pink with the warm white led’s we have. what bulbs should I go for – I like the idea of led’s as i’m rubbish at changing bulbs – HELP!!!!!

  71. tmf

    Hi Dean,
    After searching the web and looking for color experts information, I found your awesome site. I will definately be getting your book!! I can’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, I just wished I would have found you… prior to having sampled 16 gray test colors on my hallway walls. I do realize that Gray is a very tricky color to use and it’s been driving me nuts in trying to find the right gray, therefore, it’s been quite a process.
    This is where Gray got me.. as I wanted a great transitional warm gray color.. that would flow with the rooms off the hallway. Bedroom1 is painted BM Revere Pewter (East and North windows) Luv it Beautiful..leans to the gray but is still rich and warm. Bedroom 2 (East and South windows) adjacent to BR 1 is painted: BM Ozark Shadows. Looks great.. juxtaposed from the hall.
    The other rooms off the hall are primed white .. The hall opens into the living/dining room that has (3 West windows and 1 East window). There is a rectangular cut out in the wall..between the kitchen and dining/living room…. typical in midwest bungalows. In addition, the kitchen window faces south with lots of direct light. All trim and doors are BM white dove. We have not primed the kitchen walls.. from the previous owner it’s a mustard gold and living room color looks like Behrs studio taupe. We did this approach as the kitchen needs some updates.. i.e. backsplash.. paint cabinets..new countertops; new sink/faucet.. before getting painted.
    After researching with much praise and following advice of many design/color blogs.. for “the best grays”. We finally choose BM edgecomb gray.. It reads like a light warm gray..what we wanted off the 4 rooms until… it gets closer to the living room and kitchen… where it turns pinky..beige..Ugggh. The one area we didn’t sample paint!! The Hallway walls that are exposed to North windows do read gray… what we are after, since we will be continuing the gray color palette into the living room and kitchen. My gut told me to try Revere pewter lightened.. but we chose edgecomb on the same strip as it was lighter. Please…How can we correct this??
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Buying paint again is not an option as every dime matters right now with all the updates we have to do.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Tracy,
      HC 173 or Revere Pewter does indeed have a touch of magenta in it.

      Benny Moore seems to make a LOT of their grays with Black and Yellow (dull green) and a touch of red as the complementary pigment to make it neutral. That is where the pink comes from.

      What you need is a touch of green to neutralize the pink. Unfortunately, all the paint colors you have also lean towards pink If the paint store is unwilling or unable to tint it to your liking, you can buy a paint sampler of a green like Citrus green (BM-2032-40) and mix some of that into the Revere Pewter. That should be enough to kill the pink. Good luck!

  72. Dawn

    Trying to find the perfect creamy color for my kitchen and downstairs living areas. I have seen bone white by SW and it’s exactly what I want. Sampled it on my walls and it looks basic white, no rich creamy color to it. I have tried 8 different aight colors from stone off whites to creams and taupes. The light colors turn chalky white and the taupe colors turn grey on my walls. I have reprinted my walls 4 times in 3 weeks and the color completely changes on my walls. House faces the west with morning sun from the east on the back side. Lots of windows and doors. Any suggestions on how to get that good rich cream color?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Dawn,
      You’ll have to try a much “richer” color. Off-whites become 40% lighter over a large surface especially in a sun-saturated space like yours. I don’t have an SW fan deck in front of me, only a Benjamin-Moore deck. Look at a color such as AC-4 (Yosemite Sand ) or BM-2152-50 (Golden Straw) as examples.

  73. Ruth

    I am glad I found your site. We are almost at paint stage in our new house build. We have a beautiful wall of north facing windows in the living/kitchen/great room. I am wanting an airy light filled house. I have heathered Hickory floors (medium dark). I am looking for the perfect soft neutral grey for the upper walls and a “white” trim color for the 6′ wainscot and trim. I have pre-purchased all my paints from BM but have yet to pick the colors. Do you have BM neutral gray and “white” to recommend? (I am planning on using the same colors through-out the house. I love that color changes in different light so that won’t be an issue.)
    Thank You

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Ruth,
      Weathered hickory floors (medium dark) is not a color although I can imagine it is a warm greige. I usually solve problems rather than start at the beginning. That being said, let’s go at it! The Guantlet has been passed!
      There is no “perfect” grey/beige color from Benny-Moore. Most major paint manufacturers are limited to 3 pigments to achieve a color. To achieve this, you need at least 6 pigments in a perfect balance. That is the rub.
      That being said: try HC-84 (Elmira white) as the major neutral with “Atrium Trim” as the trim color.

      Let me know…

      • Ruth

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. What do you know of the Benny Moore CSP line? They have a color called “whisper” that I was told had 6 differnt pigments in it with no black or gray. Not sure if this is true or not. Just seems to be a soft gray, not sure how the color will look in all the different lights/rooms. Do you know this color?

        • Dean Sickler

          Hi Ruth,
          I have always been a big believer in complex colors with 6 or more pigments. I believe that complex colors stay true in varied lighting, at least more so than a simple (2 or 3) pigment formula. The whole “no black” theory was started by Donald Kaufmann and it seems that BM is now trying to market with it. They say that black is the absence of light and so the use of black will deaden any color. I think it is a lot of nonsense, black is just another pigment, a very dark, dull blue. JMOHO.

  74. Terry

    Hi Dean. We just installed beige glass subway tiles on our kitchen backsplash. Prior to installation, one or two glass tiles when laying flat on the granite counter in an area with a lot of natural (but not direct) light, were beige and a PERFECT match to the granite, perfect. After installation is an entirely different story. The field of glass tiles have a grayish/greenish hue and they clash terribly with my granite which has a cream base color. I cannot afford to redo the backsplash anytime soon. I am hoping to fix the problem with installation of undercabinet lighting, but I am not sure what type to get. Our original plan (before the tile installation) was to install warm LED strip lighting, but I don’t want to make another costly (and frustrating) mistake. Any suggestions you could give would be much appreciated.

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Terry,
      Color WILL appear different at different angles. That is a problem that bedevils the best Decorators. It is all on account of reflected light and the type, quality and quantity of light.

      Your instinct to install warm LED light is correct. You can enhance this by painting the underside of the cabinets in a warm, pinkish beige (reflected light). This will not help during the day but should help at nighttime.

      Glass tile is a very cool and fashionable way to decorate today with backsplashes for kitchens and even showers. I advised my own daughter on this in her kitchen re-do. The downside is that you really need to see it in the space where it will be installed and in the orientation where it will be installed. I congratulate you on being upscale and think that you are probably being a little to picky about it being the “perfect” color. Relax, I’m sure it looks great.

      • Terry

        Thanks so much for your reply. We appreciate it. I will definitely go with the warm LEDs and paint the underside of the cabinets the color you suggest. I do enjoy the look/style of the glass tile and if we can get the color problem squared away, I will be a happy woman. Thanks again so much for your advice.

  75. Elizabeth

    We are turning our basement into a family/media room. We bought a sectional sofa that looked like a beautiful deep chocolate brown in the store. When we opened it in the basement, it looked almost burgundy to me. These tones were not there in the store.
    The room has a neutral tan carpet that we are keeping for now, and the room has S-W “decorators white” trim which we’re also keeping for now.
    We took a swatch of the carpet and the sectional ottoman to the paint store, who recommended Ben Moore Revere Pewter. The swatch looked like a nice beigey/taupe in the store that blended great, but looks blue/gray in the basement. I don’t mind the color (I prefer gray to tan) but it looks much cooler gray than I expected next to the carpet and couch, and even looks blue-gray in one spot under a can light.
    Which reminds me, we have generic can lights in the ceiling (which we are also keeping for now) currently with 65w Sylvania flood bulbs.
    Could the lighting be causing the issue? There’s no outside light in this basement room. Is it worth trying to find different flood bulbs vs a new paint?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Elizabeth,
      You probably have “daylight” or cool bulbs in the cans now. You could try switching to a “warm” bulb.

  76. Dean,
    I just painted a work office. I took it from a light gold to what I was hoping was a neutral taupe (Valspar Wool Coat). I looked neutral to me, the Lowes site actually shows it in the Orange family. On the wall it is looking pink. I have a west window and a brown/taupe patterned commercial carpet. My flourescent bulbs are mixed…do you suggest I go to a warmer bulb to eliminate the pink…or more daylight/broad spectrum? ( BTW… Oddly, a contrast wall—two shades darker on the swatch doesn’t show a bit of cool color or pink. It’s very neutral!) thank you for your thoughts.

  77. Rebecca

    Hi Dean. I am amazed at the scope of your understanding of color!
    We recently got daring and painted our bathroom med/dark brown. I like the concept, but I think we missed with our choice of brown. Instead of the stylish brown/gray we were aiming for, in our interior bathroom with no natural lighting what I see is ‘muddy earth beige’ with pink/red overtones.
    We may repaint sometime or another, but for now, can you suggest what lighting will tone down the pinkish tones?
    We have a 4 light vanity light and an overhead 1 bulb fan/light. The vanity is medium oak with a cream colored top.
    Thanks so much!

  78. Deb

    Hi Dean,

    For the second time in two weeks, we have had our main living, dining, entrance areas of our north (and slightly west) facing condo painted with what we thought was warm grey (CSP 370 – Picket Fence this time) to have it look purply grey in most areas. We don’t want to repaint the whole area a third time and are needing some advice on what type of paint we could paint adjoining walls and/or accessory colours to bring back the warmth to the wall colour. Thanks so much!

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Deb,
      Any color with a bit of yellow or gold in it will help cancel the “purplish”. I suspect that it is the floor that is throwing the cast. Try putting down a bedsheet over the floor in front of an offending wall and see if the purple goes away. Use warm light bulbs.

  79. Deb

    I forgot to mention, our floors are a medium to dark brown laminate. Thanks!

  80. Teri Burgan

    Hi. Thank you for your wonderful article! Sad to say, I’m still confused. My daughter has the smallest bedroom in the house with one window which lets in very little light. She has her heart set on a soft grey paint color (with no pink or blue tones) for her room. We have tried so many shades of gray I have lost count. I know the issue is the lighting. The ceiling light from the ceiling fan makes gray look beige and the natural daylight just dulls the color. How can I work with lighting to make gray stay gray?.

    • Dean Sickler

      Gray is like beige in that it will change with every lighting change. Morning, afternoon and evening (artificial) light will change the hue. I suspect that the ceiling bulb is a “warm” or “soft” light which throws a yellow cast on the walls. Try changing it to a “daylight” bulb or try a “Reveal” bulb from G.E..

  81. Rhonda

    Hi Dean. My issue is that I have beige tiles in my master bathroom. The tile on the floor and shower wall is the same and I have a beige-toned quartz countertop on the vanity. In the morning, everything looks true to color. The windows in the bathroom are on the north facing wall and west facing wall. Around noon, the tile and countertop starts to turn pink. I have noticed this since we had a glass shower installed. It is all glass and has the greenish hue that is typical of thick glass. There are times of the day when the tile inside of the shower looks true to color, but the outside tile looks pink. At night, when the lights are on the same phenomenon happens. I am using LED daylight bulbs throughout the whole bathrroom. Is there anything I can do to stop this pink cast from descending on my bathroom?

    • Dean Sickler

      Hi Rhonda,
      You could try replacing the LED bulbs with cheap daylight CFL’s (the spiral kind). The LED bulbs are showing the true color as is the Western sun in the afternoon. At least this should help at night. I should mention that this will also make your skin tone look a bit sallow. You may have to live with the pinky beige.

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