Yup, that’s the exact same room, lit the same way, but the bulbs are adjusted to different temperatures. Benjamin Moore’s 2020 Color of the Year, First Light—a pale, ballet-slipper pink—is on the wall, but in each photo, you’d swear it was a different shade. As the Kelvin temperature of the bulbs changes from left to right, the color shifts from having yellowy undertones to appearing like a neutral white to giving off a bluish tint.
"The first image (far left) is an example of the bright white light you'd see at midday (about 5,000 degrees Kelvin), which highlights the paint's cooler, more blue undertones," says Liana Frey, Ketra's VP of marketing. "The second demonstrates a warmer, afternoon light (about 3,200 degrees Kelvin), which lets the natural pink shine." The third image shows the lighting adjusted to a warmer tone, about 2,400 degrees Kelvin, which makes the paint look rosier.
Seeing the three side by side makes a strong case for actually following that old rule of looking at paint swatches on the wall to see how they appear throughout the day as the light changes, but designer Young Huh would take things one step further and consider the direction your windows face before choosing your swatches.
“Northern light tends to be more blue, while southern light is more yellow, which can significantly impact the paint color in different settings,” she says. “A light pink can wash out near a southern window or look too bright in northern light.”
It also explains why a color you loved in aisle three of Home Depot suddenly seems garish on your walls. Often, commercial stores use a higher color temperature (think 3,500 Kelvin and above) than most people use in their homes.