Without light, we have no colour; light needs to shine on the surface of an object, and get reflected in order for us to see the object itself. Different materials absorb and reflect light in different ratios, which gives them their unique colour and perceived texture.

We have taken the time to explore the effects of different sets of light on the colour and perceived textures of a set of common samples shared in interior design. The set of samples include:

  1. Light Fabric – Smooth Texture
  2. Dark Fabric – Textured
  3. Stone Tile – Smooth
  4. Stone Tile – Textured
  5. Plastic
  6. Wood

The set of samples mentioned above were exposed to the following lighting conditions. (See below for images).

  1. Outdoor, Direct Sunlight, No Shade, Light beam perpendicular to the set
  2. Outdoor, Direct Sunlight, Shade, Light beam perpendicular to the set
  3. Indoor, Incandescent Light, Light beam perpendicular to the set,
  4. Indoor, Incandescent Light, Light beam parallel to the set
  5. Indoor, Fluorescent Light, Light beam perpendicular to the set

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

Sample 4

Sample 5

In all cases, when lit by a perpendicular light beam the material is better defined than when lit by a parallel beam. Parallel beams are great for showing the protruding edges and shapes in a texture while also playing with shadow and light.

Natural sunlight is the best at showing the true colours and the subtle nuances of texture of all the materials. However, it is very bright and the white under sunlight is too bright to be considered calming.  

The shaded sunlight was not as good at showing the materials true colours, but the textures were much more palpable with this type of lighting. This can be resting place for the eye due to the light not being as bright and the white reflecting enough light to be illuminating.

The indoor incandescent light was similar in the way it lit the sample board, but not nearly as strong. It is more successful than natural sunlight at showing shadows in the texture. The natural light is so strong that they even illuminate the shadow areas and wash out the texture of the material. Incandescent light is not as strong and doesn’t penetrate into the nooks and crannies.

The fluorescent light was the least successful at properly displaying the qualities of the sample board. The sample board in general is more dull and dark. The warm tones in the wood are turned to a cool, dark grey. The white sample swatch almost looks like light blue. It creates a very dreary atmosphere and ambiance. You don’t want to adjust your make up to this light and walk into the sunlight. Yikes! It is also not appropriate for use in the bedrooms as research now suggests that blue lights disturb our sleeping patterns.

The mixing of different types of artificial lighting together may require a better understanding of light temperatures and their interplays. Depending on the size of a space it may not be advisable to mix incandescent and fluorescent lighting together.

However, in commercial and institutional spaces these sources of artificial light are often combined with natural sunlight. In these cases, the different types of light are layered upon each other to create a more specific lit field as they get closer to the user and they are often meant for specific tasks and purposes. However, in spaces where the appearance of materials and textures is of significance, incandescent and warm lights with a high CRI are recommended. The higher the CRI is, the more the beam of light will behave like natural sunlight.