Light Reflection Value & Paint Colors

LVR, or (Light reflection value), is a number assigned to a paint color ranging from 1-100 to determine how much light is reflected or absorbed but does not consider the paint sheen. Lower numbers closer to 0 absorb more and reflect less light, while higher numbers closer to 100 reflect the most light. 

Knowing LVR helps recognize color intensity, similarities, and the correlation between the desired value and colors available. LVR values found in paint fan decks have little to do with hue or undertone. 

Getting familiar with LVR takes time and interest that most don’t have. We have divided light reflection values into categories, and we will explain how colors within the categories appear and offer considerations and color placement recommendations. 

Color Light Refection Value & Other Considerations

The most straightforward and widely accepted starting point for understanding light reflection value is to consider black a value of and white a value of 100. While it is a good starting point, it doesn’t offer the information needed to choose paint colors or explain what values between these numbers mean. 


LVR only accounts for how much light the paint color reflects. Other factors, such as paint sheen, will influence paint intensity. Glossy finishes create glare, which is often interpreted as reflection and makes the color look rich. 

The analogy we use is a wet road compared to a dry one. Each version of the road is considered black, but the dry road has a gray haze, and the wet, glossier finish will appear darker.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Lighting

Harsh, intense, or direct light limits our ability to see color, texture, or shapes. Outdoor lighting is more plentiful and will make paint colors appear lighter, so it’s best to choose one shade darker for outdoor colors. 

Indoor lighting can sometimes be intense, but blinds, curtains, and indoor light fixtures largely control light. While North, South, East, and West facing rooms are affected by natural light and alter colors differently, interior light is easier to manage, so color intensities are less affected indoors.

However, choose one shade lighter for darker rooms with little available light.

LRV Values 30-50

Light reflection values between thirty and fifty are considered medium colors. Medium colors are best for painting interior walls in common areas and other well-lit rooms. 

Medium-intensity colors include gray, beige, natural colors, and more.

LRV 50-80

Colors starting at fifty and above will reflect more light and are ideal for areas containing less available sunlight or, if you desire, a lighter color to open up the room. 


Colors with a 50 LRV are considered neutral colors in terms of intensity. Most will find variations with an LRV between 50 and 60 to be tweener colors, meaning not too light or dark, making it an excellent place to start if you are looking for a neutral paint color.

Colors between 60 and 75 start to open up, becoming more vibrant, and are ideal for even darker rooms. 

LRV 90 or Greater

Colors in or close to a 90 LVR are popular in home design. However, colors close to 90 LVR also start to lose hue and undertones. Light colors are often more challenging to distinguish, so it’s essential to first view them under indirect natural light that is not intense. 

Light colors are heavily influenced by indoor lighting. Incandescent and fluorescent lighting alter light paint colors. Incandescent light will make the color appear yellow, orange, or brown. In contrast, fluorescent lighting will make colors appear blue, green, or violet.

Dark Colors

Dark paint colors start at an LRV of 30 and become more intense in the lower 20s. Paint colors between 30 and 20 are viewed as dark, and you will start to see a drastic change in vibrance, mood, and intensity.   

Ultra Deep & Dark Colors

The light reflection of dark and ultra-deep paint color starts at 20, going down to 10 or 12. Paint companies will refer to these colors as deep or ultra-deep base colors and are best for accentuating interior areas of intent, such as accent walls and movie theaters. 

Outdoor surfaces like shutters, doors, and downspouts are perfect for dark colors.

These colors are undeniably dark and rich and often require additional painting measures. Making a dark paint color appear consistent on an interior requires a high-performing paint. Flashing is an uneven paint sheen due to heavy paint pigment, and picture framing or banding shows different colors and textures between brushed and rolled areas.

Darker outdoor colors suffer from surfactant leaching and show brush marks due to the paint drying fast in warm conditions.

Colors that are Considered Versions of Black

Any color close to 12 or 10 is ultra-deep and exceptionally dark. Light reflection values of 8 and 4 are often hard to distinguish and are comparable to black.

Colors below 10 are best used outdoors and for accents, as they overbear pairing or close-by colors. 

For colors with values of or less, undertones are hard to distinguish, making the color comparable to black, especially indoors or in under-light areas. 

Paint Color Bases

Sherwin-Williams paint bases range from extra white to deep, ultra-deep, real red, yellow, and high-reflective. These bases are unavailable in some paint lines, so your color choice may require upgraded paint. 


Identifying the base your color requires is another way of determining how the paint will perform. Extra White bases have more pigment, making the color less subject to fade and cover better. 

Deep bases have less pigment and often leave room in the bucket for additional colorant. Ultra-deep is a translucent base used for the darkest colors. 

Benjamin Moore and other brands have various bases to mix paint colors, and knowing which base is needed will help you create realistic expectations for how the color will apply.


Knowing that a light reflection of 0 is black and white is 100 is an excellent initial reference. However, the values are useless unless you paint black or white colors. 

Now that you better understand the numbers in between, you can use the light reflection value to determine the intensity without needing to be familiar with a paint color fan. 

The next time your color consultant or interior decorator tries to sound fancy using an LVR reference, you will already be prepared and understand what these numerical values mean. 

Contact us today for your next exterior or interior painting project in Raleigh, NC today!

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