How Important is LRV When Choosing A Paint Color?

March 21, 2013



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.


  1. I love this post, Kelly! So many times you choose a color in the store, thinking it is perfect. Then you get it home and try it on the walls and it just looks so different. Light makes all the difference, and natural vs. artificial light does too! That’s why it is so important to factor in the LRV. Thanks for this post! If it’s OK, I would like to repost it on my FB page- thanks!

  2. Kelly, that was an amazing explanation of “LRV”, an acronym I saw on my BM strips but never understood. I can see how it is an important factor in paint color choice, especially in rooms where the natural lighting changes a lot. Kudos for a great tutorial.

    Have other readers used the LRV scale in their paint color choice?

    • I think a lot of people are not sure what LRV was really for. I would like to know also- does anyone use LRV when determining your paint colors?

  3. Wow! This is so timely for me since I plan on painting a fairly dark newly remodeled den tomorrow. The fan deck is going to be very useful and I may change my original color choice thanks to your great tutorial!

  4. Well of course I was blown away by the beautiful light colored rooms you showed 😉 I’ve used the LRV as my ‘secondary jumping off point’ when I’m down to two colors and need the lightest one…especially if the two colors are very similar in undertone but from different paint companies. It makes a big least to me 🙂 Great article Kelly!

  5. Brilliant article. I didn’t realize that the LRV can even “shift” out of place, when going up or down the chips on a fan strip. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Kelly,

    First of all, let me say thank you for referencing my work and citing my Squidoo article so nicely. I appreciate that SO much! {air kisses}

    One tiny thing is I’m pretty sure Springtime Bloom 2079-40 has a LRV of 32.3, not 72.8.

    The numeric LRV data point runs sequentially and will align with a visual assessment of light to dark. In other words, if a color looks like it’s darker than another color, its LRV is indeed going to be a lower number.

    And, yes, I do use LRV on a regular basis. Every color choice is essentially a guess and LRV helps me be a better guesser.

    • Thank you Lori for writing. I wondered why that could possibly be out of order, and it was all because I wrote the wrong number down!. Well now it makes more sense that the LRV runs high to low the same as light to dark. Thanks Lori for straightening that out!

  7. Kelly, I have dove white cabinets and am looking for a bright , happy off white for an open floor plan kitchen/ living room. I get slot of natural light and want to try the off white trends.
    I’ve used Manchester tan, killing beige in the past, which I loved, but want a lighter look. Please help!!

  8. The color of the walls on the very top picture is amazing. Just a right tone. COuld yo tell me please, what is name and # of it in Sherin-Williams store grade. Thank you! Really appriciate your response.

  9. We just purchased a beach house. We have 20 windows in the small bungalow style cottage, however the bedrooms which are dark and on the Northside of the house . The former owner painted the rooms a blue gray, but the rooms are very dark. I want to lighten them up. I will be using an aqua bed quilt with some tan in one room and the other room will have a slip covered style sleeper sofa in white. I am not opposed to painting them both the same color. Any help with paint color would be greatly appreciated. The kitchen, dining area and porch which are all open into each other will be painted Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist.

    • Hi Mary Lou,

      It is really hard for me to help with selecting the best colors when I do not have photos of rooms to work with. If you wold like to work together, my online paint color selection help is $55.00 per color. If yo would like to work together, email me at [email protected].
      Thanks for writing!

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