How the Brightness of Color Affects Your Mood

The brightness of a color is the way that you perceive the relative lightness or darkness of that particular color. Scientists have shown that brightness in color can impact your mood in positive ways. Using bright colors strategically in your interior color scheme will energize and activate your rooms and bring an overall positive impact to your home.

What is Color Brightness?

Brightness of Color Mood

Bright colors appear to emit more light than dark colors. It is easy to confuse the brightness of a color with its lightness. One easy distinction is that brightness is a subjective measurement of the reflective light of a color. In contrast, we measure the lightness of a color by an objective standard using other colors like white as a reference.

Another term confused with color brightness is saturation. These are related terms, but they describe distinct qualities of color. Saturation describes the intensity or purity of a color rather than its perceived lightness. A brighter color may appear more saturated, and conversely, as you decrease the brightness of a color, it may appear less saturated.

The Effects of Bright Colors on Our Mood

Scientists have long studied the effect of color on our moods and behavior. Many of these studies have shown that the brightness of color can have a powerful impact on mood and alertness.

  • Bright colors impact mood and emotion – Certain scientific studies have shown that bright colors like red and yellow increase feelings of happiness and well-being.
  • Bright colors activate attention and memory – Other studies have shown that brightly colored displays are more likely to attract attention and increase the chances of being remembered. This is why marketers use bright colors so often in advertising.
  • Bright colors improve task performance – Studies have shown that bright colors improve performance in tasks that require a high level of attention.
  • Bright colors stimulate hunger and the appetite – Some studies have demonstrated that bright colors increase appetite. That is why bright colored food packaging is common in commercial enterprises.
  • Bright colors can lead to overstimulation – Some studies have demonstrated that excessive use of bright colors can produce visual and mental fatigue through overstimulation.

Measuring a Color’s Brightness

Scientists and color experts have complicated mathematical methods and color models for measuring brightness, but there are also practical ways to measure the way that a physical color reflects light.

Light Reflectance Value

This is a numerical value that paint companies assign to each individual paint on a scale from 0-100. Paint colors with LRV numbers close to 100 are highly reflective, while those closer to 0 are less reflective. Use this number to help determine the brightness of a color. While this is not a strictly accurate representation of a color’s brightness, it is a useful number because it is easy to understand and compare.

Visual Assessment

As anyone who has worked to describe a color to someone else knows, the way we see color is subjective. The perceived brightness of one particular color might seem more than to another person or in relation to another color. It is important to compare one color to others to determine their brightness. It is also important to understand how the lighting in a particular room can impact the perceived brightness of a particular color.


There are also software tools that can help you determine the brightness of a color as well as how the color will appear in your space. These include color management software that will convert the color into values analyzed by a standardized color space, like the CIELAB color space. Or, you can use digital editing software like Adobe Photoshop. Just select a color in an image and then use the software’s color measurement tools to measure the brightness of a color.

Using Color Brightness to Create Effective Spaces

Bright colors can bring new vibrancy and a modern look to your interior design. We have gathered some ways that designers use the brightness of color effectively.

Pair Bright Colors with a Light Neutral Foundation

Pair Bright Colors with a Light Neutral Foundation

Bright colors are intense and can create visual exhaustion if you use them in excess. Pair bright hues with a light neutral background to provide a soothing rest for your eyes. This living room design is effective because it pairs just a few bright color hues with neutral foundation pieces and white walls.

Use Bright Colors of the Same Hue

Same Huse Pillows

Create an exciting but monochromatic color scheme with bright hues of varying shades. This will help to mute the intensity of the bold colors in the design and balance them with soothing shades of the same family. Always layer in plenty of texture to help create depth in the design.

Use Bright Colors in Dark Spaces

Bright colors for dark spaces

One of the most valuable qualities of bright colors is that they appear to glow from within. Use this feature to your advantage by painting a bright color in a space that gets little to no light.

Pair Complementary Bright Hues

Complementary pair hues

Bright colors look stunning with their complementary hues: blue and oranges, reds and greens, and yellows and purples. These pairings combine one warm color with a cool color to provide balance. Use this combination to your advantage by combining one bright, vibrant hue with a soothing version of the other color.

Use Bright Colors to Amplify Small Spaces

Brightness of Color Mood

Don’t just reserve bright colors for large spaces. Instead, maximize the potential of a small space by adding bright wallpaper, floor tile, and wall art. This helps the space look planned and valued.

Moody Earth Tones with Bright Colors

Moody Earth Tones

Dark backgrounds help bright colors to stand out. Consider combining deep, cool earth tones like blue, green, and brown with just a few bright colored elements. This is unexpected but an all the more interesting color combination that will heighten the visual appeal of the room.

Use Bright Colors in a Kid’s Room

Bright Colors for Kids room

Children have endless amounts of energy, which is why bright colors in their spaces is the ideal combination. Be careful not to take this idea overboard and create too much visual stimulation, but with the right amount of neutrals, bright color accents will create a room with creative energy.

Bright Colors Outdoors

Bright Colors Outdoors

Sunlight washes out the visual intensity of color. Use bright colors outdoors to create an outdoor display with high impact.