The Magic of Light - How different light sources impact on colours

Posted by Jac Slaney on

The Magic of Light - How different light sources impact on colours

Here at Utopia we are still amazed at the plethora of effects that different types of light cast on colours, even after so many years of studying the concept.  This enchanting power, that alters one's perception, is a wonderment we want to share with you. Here are a few useful pointers about the basic concept.   

  • Consider the direction of the sun and its relationship to the walls at different times of the day. A north facing room will have a very moody and intense version of the colour, whilst a south facing room will have stark shadows and light moving around the room during the day, changing both the strength of the colours and the mood of the room.
BELOW: the inside of the summer house at Anglesey Abbey beautifully illustrates  the power of sunlight on colours.
  • The type and strength of artificial light is a major factor in colour perception too. The range on offer is vast including: incandescent bulbs, fluorescents, halogen bulbs, neon, light emitting diodes, candles and oil lamps. The possibilities and variations are endless with cool and warm options (see below) colour changing and sequential, and then of course dimmable - all will affect the colours you choose.

BELOW: one of our transformations where an Edwardian brass chandelier is given a contemporary twist with giant globe dimmable LEDs. 

Kelvin Scale

The colour of artificial light has impact too - it is measured on the Kelvin temperature scale where the lower the number the more yellow the light quality and the higher the number the more white or blue the light.

Warm white - 2500K-3000K is the standard colour of incandescent bulbs.


ABOVE: warm white pearl bulb


Bright white/cool white - 3500K-4100K.

Daylight - 5000K-6500K

  • Ambient light is atmospheric and thus creates moods and emphasises the dark tones of a colour.
  • Task lighting creates flashes or spots of intense colour fading out to shadows.

Want to know about light bulbs?

Probably like most of us, you only notice those little but essential parts of our modern lives when they stop working. Here the BBC has a mini broadcast about light bulbs, helping us gain insight into those things that we all rely on to see in the dark!

50 Things That Made the Economy Modern - light bulb

'Once too precious to use, now too cheap to notice - the significance of the lightbulb is profound. Imagine a hard week's work gathering and chopping wood, ten hours a day for six days. Those 60 hours of work would produce light equivalent to one modern bulb shining for just 54 minutes. The invention of tallow candles made life a little easier. If you spent a whole week making them - unpleasant work - you would have enough to burn one for two hours and twenty minutes every evening for a year. Every subsequent technology was expensive, and labour-intensive. And none produced a strong, steady light. Then, as Tim Harford explains, Thomas Edison came along with the lightbulb and changed everything, turning our economy into one where we can work whenever we want to.'

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