Let's Learn About LRV!

Have you and your partner ever held up two different paint chips side by side against the wall--say, a grayish-beige one and a beigeish-gray one for example-- and argued about which paint color is "lighter" and which is "darker"?

If so, let me introduce you to the concept of LRV, which will forever end these debates...freeing you up to argue about TV placement instead!

Learning about LRV can revolutionize your paint color selection process. My clients who are engineers or accountants always tend to perk up when I explain LRV because it offers objective and measurable information. Numbers: yay!

LRV Stands for "Light Reflectance Value"

A paint color's LRV (which stands for Light Reflectance Value and which Sherwin Willams calls Light Reflective Value) represents the percentage of available light (both natural and artificial) bounced back by that particular paint color.

LRV is Described on a Scale

LRV is described on a scale from 0 to 100. Paint colors with a higher LRV will bounce back a larger percentage of the light that hits them, while those with a lower LRV will bounce back a smaller percentage of the light.

With an LRV of 90.67, Benjamin Moore's "Cotton Balls" 2145-70, which is pictured on the wall in the photo above, will bounce back 84.37% more light than "Hale Navy" HC-154, a navy blue paint color which only has an LRV of 6.3

Where Can You Find a Paint Color's LRV?

Sherwin Williams will note each paint color's LRV on the back of the paint chip (pictured above: "Moody Blue" 6221 by Sherwin Williams) or on the back of the paint strip. Benjamin Moore includes LRVs for each paint color in the index of the paint fan deck. If you can't locate a paint color's LRV on the paint chip or in the index of the fan deck, you can also check the manufacturer's website, or just Google "[name of paint color] LRV".

When the paint manufacturer and/or paint color name is unknown (for example, when a room was painted by the previous homeowners), I will generally find a close color match in a fan deck to assess the color's LRV.

LRV Organization in the Paint Fan Deck

In general, paint colors at the bottom of the paint strip tend to have lower LRVs, while those at the top of the strip tend to have higher LRVs. As you can see in the photo above, paint colors found in the same row or "tier" of the fan deck often have similar (but not identical) LRVs, but there are plenty of exceptions to this rule (for example, the "historic" section of most fan decks is a jumble), so it's always good to make a point of confirming the LRV for a paint color that you're considering.

Why Does LRV Matter?

When you're considering repainting, knowing the LRV of your current paint color can help you better predict whether a new prospective paint color will bounce back more or less light than your current paint color. It also gives you another data point to assess when you're comparing two paint colors. (Pictured above: "Revere Pewter" HC-172 by Benjamin Moore.)

Some factors that can limit the amount of natural light in your home include: a heavily wooded lot, windows covered by a front porch, windows covered by a screened porch, close proximity to neighboring buildings, and north-facing windows.

In spaces where natural light is limited, selecting a paint color with a higher LRV can maximize the available natural and artificial light (though of course, LRV is only one piece of the paint color selection puzzle, and a higher LRV paint color won't in and of itself make a dark room "feel better").

As discussed below, knowing the LRVs of prospective paint colors can also help you to create a cohesive paint color plan that flows from room to room. It's also important to note that contrary to popular belief, wall paint colors should not be the first selection that you make for a space, but instead should be chosen after you have selected the area rug, fabrics, and fixed elements such as countertops, cabinets, tile, and flooring.

LRV Preferences are Personal

Just as color preferences are personal, I've noticed that LRV preferences tend to vary from person to person as well. Each of my clients tends to gravitate to a particular "level" on the paint strip. Understanding where you're most comfortable (bearing in mind your home's natural and artificial light) can help you make more informed decisions when you choose your paint colors. Even in a home with limited natural light, higher LRV colors aren't necessarily "better" (they just reflect more light) and lower LRV colors aren't necessarily "worse" (they just reflect less light). (Pictured above: Sunroom "Window Pane" 6210 by Sherwin Williams dining room "Revere Pewter" HC-172 by Benjamin Moore)

Some People Feel Most at Home with Higher LRV Wall Paint Colors

If you've ever found yourself trying to color match snow, you may just be a person who is drawn to higher LRV colors!

When I'm helping my clients select paint colors, I always disclose what I call my "California bias" toward higher LRV paint colors, as my childhood home in California had white walls, white tile floors, and white furniture! I share this with my clients recognizing that not everyone has the same positive association with high LRV colors that I have.

Some People Prefer Lower LRV Paint Colors

I have worked with many clients who prefer paint colors with LRVs in the 60s, while others will always yearn for the cozy-cavey paint colors down closer to the basement of the paint strip with even lower LRVs. One such client was a video game designer who preferred to work in a dark home office, There weren't many paint colors with low enough LRVs to achieve the feeling that he wanted in his workspace!

Creating a Cohesive Paint Color Plan

Clients often ask, "How can I make my home feel more cohesive and consistent?" While paint color is just one piece of the overall color picture, in general, your home will feel more cohesive if the wall paint colors in adjacent rooms have similar LRVs. Selecting colors from one "tier" of the fan deck is one way to approach this (though there are some exceptions as described above).

If one room's wall paint has an LRV of 90, and the next room's paint has an LRV of 5, and the next is 55, and the next is 8, the house can start to feel disjointed. Laying out all of your paint chips in the same sequence as your rooms can help you confirm that your paint colors will flow from room to room.

Testing 1,2,3!

LRV is only one small piece of the paint color selection puzzle--there's so much more that I'd love to share with you! If you live within my service area, I'd love to bring over my collection of large, 8.5" x 11" paint swatches to help you select and coordinate your paint colors.

If you're selecting paint colors on your own, my best advice is to test, test, test your colors before you paint! You can either purchase small sample jars of paint and paint two coats of sample paint onto a piece of foam core poster board, or you can order large, 12"x 12" peel & stick samples from Samplize. If you opt to order from Samplize, my advice would be to keep the backing on the samples--rather than adhering them to the wall--so that you can move the samples around to see them on different walls, in different rooms, and next to different fixed elements such as your cabinets, countertops, tile, flooring, etc.

I've been helping my clients nationwide create feel-good homes for over 16 years, and I would love to collaborate with you! Drop me a line and we can schedule an affordable, hourly consultation.