How paint effects brightness?

I had an email a while back from a homeowner, regarding the effectiveness of light & space emulsion at reflecting more light into a dark room. Do ultra flat paints for ceilings, such as Benjamin Moore ceiling paint, actually make rooms darker by absorbing ambient light?

First off I should say that having used Dulux light & space, I do not personally feel it makes any noticeable difference to using a normal emulsion. It's just an expensive gimmick.

But I’ll go into a little more detail about light reflectiveness, and then you can decide for yourself.

When it comes to choosing colours, light shades absorb less light than darker ones, which can make a room appear brighter.

Image taken from Wikipedia

Image taken from Wikipedia

The more sheen, or the glossier a paint is, the less the light is scattered. The technical term for this is ‘specular’ reflection.

Matt paints actually scatter or ‘diffuse’ the light in more directions, making them appear duller. One of the big benefits to matte paints is they help to hide imperfections on a surface, whereas a gloss will only highlight them. This is particularly noticeable on a ceiling, which is why an ultra flat finish, like Benjamin Moore ceiling paint, is most suitable.

So when it comes to the sheen, the amount of light coming into the area is still the same, its just being reflected differently.

One thing to bare in mind is that the sheen level of a paint can affect the final colour of the product, due to this light diffusing effect. I have used the same colour in two products next to each other and they do appear different. Yet when dabbed on the colour card they look identical.

While we talk about colour it is worth mentioning that the light in a room will effect its final appearance. Artificial lights tend to be blue or yellow in tone versus natural light.

Here is a good video example of how the light can affect the colour:

My advice when choosing a colour is not to worry about how dark the colour is. Darker shades can add a sense of coziness to a room.

Consider if its possible to add more lighting, if not through the main room lights, then through changing the type of bulb, or by adding lamps or accent lighting.