Recently a reader wrote and asked if I would explain what the LRV number was on the paint strip samples and wondered how to use that number when selecting a paint color.
The definition of Light Reflectance Value (LRV) is the total quantity of visible and useable light reflected by a surface in all directions and at all wavelengths when illuminated by a light source.(source) What does that mean?? Simply, it means the LRV number is to be used as a guideline for predicting how light or dark a color will look and feel once up on the walls.
LRV is a measurement that tells you how much light a color reflects, and also how much it absorbs. LRV runs on a scale from 0% to 100%. Zero assumed to be an absolute black and 100% being an assumed perfectly reflective white.
LRV is frequently included either on the back of the paint chips or is included in the color index in the back of the fan deck as Benjamin Moore does:
Keeping in mind that LRV runs on a scale of 0% to 100%, 50% would be a mid-value paint color. Fifty percent LRV is a commonly used guideline for residential interior wall colors. Below the mid-point of 50%, and you know the color will tend to be darker absorbing more light than it will reflect back into the room:
Colors with LRV higher than 50% will be lighter and will reflect more light back into the room than is absorbed.
Looking at the fan deck, you would think that the colors on the top have a higher LRV than the darkest color on the strip. That is correct:
The LRV numbers for this Benjamin Moore strip, from top to bottom, is 80.2, 67.6, 51.2, 32.3, 16.6, 12.0 9.6. The top color Candy Stripe, has a high number, closer to 100, so it will be lighter on the walls and will be more reflective. The bottom color on the strip is Candy Cane Red with a LRV number of 9.6. Meaning, it will be a dark color on the wall, with minimum light reflection. Here is a great example:
The colors from top to bottom are Benjamin Moore 2087-70 Elephant Pink, 2079-60 Pink Cherub, 2079-40 Springtime Bloom, 2079-30 Peony and 2079-10 Candy Cane Red. Beautifully demonstrated high to low LRV.
(Springtime Bloom) source
LRV is also used by lighting designers to calculate the number and type of light fixtures needed to give a certain amount of light for interior spaces. They use this LRV number as data to help figure out how many lights and types of lighting that will be needed in the room. The lower the LRV paint number, the more lights that will be needed in the space.
Well I hope I have helped explain what LRV stands for and how it can be useful when choosing a paint color. Another good tip to remember is to be sure that the LRV values are close in number when painting adjacent rooms so there will be good color flow.
Lori Sawaya, Color Expert and Strategist has a great video that helps explain LRV –here.
Benjamin Moore offers a free online class-Paint Color & Lighting—An Online Color Theory Class if you want to learn even more!
If you need help choosing paint colors for your home, contact me today.