Best Paint Colors for Rooms With Little Natural Light

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 06/07/24 •  6 min read

You have probably heard that paint colors appear different in the daytime on your wall than they do at night. And this is true, all paints will look different in natural light than they will in different types of artificial light (that you use at night).

It follows then that if you’re choosing paint colors for your home, you should consider the source and quality of light ⁠— or lack of it ⁠— in a given room.

Some rooms in our homes get little or no natural light due to their positioning in the home, or the number of windows and doors. A home’s powder room, hallway, and basement, for example, have less natural light than other rooms.

Though there are ways you can bring natural light into a room without windows, choosing a paint color that works with little natural light is crucial for these spaces to obtain a fresh and welcoming space.

Below, I’ll tell you which paint colors work best in rooms with little natural light, but first, we’ll quickly go over how the type of light in your room will change the paint color you ultimately choose.

How Natural Sunlight Affects Colors in Different Areas of Your Home 

As mentioned above, light from both the sun and artificial sources can affect the way paint colors look on your walls. From dawn to dusk, the sun’s movement across the sky also changes the amount of natural light streaming into your house, and the time of day it hits a particular room can play a big role in how your paint looks. 

Any given room in your home will look different as the angle of the sun changes throughout the day, for example:

How Artificial Lighting Affects the Paint Color of Your Room

Unless you live in one of the few places with 24-hour sunshine a few months a year, you’re almost certain to be using artificial light in your home for at least part of the day. 

The type of artificial lighting you use can also change how your paint colors will look, for example:

A Bright Off-White Basement that Has No Natural Light.
An Off-White Basement that Gets No Natural Light but Still Appears Bright.

What Color of Paint Reflects Light the Best?

Now that you know a bit more about ⁠how the type of light in your room will change the paint color you ultimately choose, let’s dive into which colors reflect the light best, making them perfect for rooms with little natural light.

Light is reflected by all colors except black. It makes sense then that white is the best paint for indirect lighting because it is the opposite of black and therefore the most reflective. Every other color will absorb at least some of the spectrum, but neutrals will absorb the least amount of light.

But white is not your only option. Paint colors that are cooler, such as light shades of blue or gray, help make rooms appear lighter and more spacious. Some of my favorite colors for rooms with little natural light are:

Using LRV to Choose Paint Colors for Rooms With Low Natural Light

If none of the paint colors I listed above sound good to you that’s ok, there’s a scale you can use to choose a paint that will reflect light well, the LRV scale. 

LRV, or light reflectance value, refers to the percentage of light a paint color reflects light. 

Building and design professionals also need to know how light and dark paint colors will look on the walls they are working on. To predict how light or dark a color will appear, these experts use its LRV.

The LRV scale measures the percentage of light that is reflected off of a color. Zero percent LRV is black, which absorbs all light and heat, and a 100% LRV is pure white, which is the most reflective. 

Here’s a quick video from The Paint People that explains LRV basics if you’re intrested in all the details:

In a nutshell, colors with an LRV above 60 are lighter and will bounce back more light than they absorb. Adding these shades to your home creates an impression of spaciousness and creates a daytime feel.

Colors with an LRV lower than 60 will soak up almost as much or more light than they reflect. Using these darker shades will of course darken the room and swallow much of the natural light within it.

It’s worth noting that knowing a color’s LRV not only helps you choose a color that will reflect lots of light in your room, brightening it, but it will also help you make energy-efficient decisions. A color with a higher LRV won’t require as much air conditioning or lighting as a shade that warms quickly and soaks up light.

Conclusion: What are the Best Paint Colors for Rooms With Little Natural Light?

So, what are the best paint colors for rooms with little natural light? Bright, cool, and neutral paint tones, with an LRV value of 60 or higher make the best choices in rooms with low natural light.

When choosing a color make sure to take into account the type of sunlight the room gets as well as the artificial light you’re using as these can also affect how your color ultimately looks, and if you get the bright, fresh space you’re hoping for.


At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.