LRV – You may have noticed these three letters before; on the back of a paint color strip or noticed an entire column dedicated to them on the precious few square inches of space available on the index of paint fandecks.  What do those letters stand for?  What does the LRV number mean and how is it used?
It is really pretty simple and if you read on, you will learn that paying attention to a color’s LRV can prevent poor wall color selections by helping you determine and evaluate certain characteristics of a color before you even buy a sample.
What does it mean?
LRV is an acronym that stands for Light Reflectance Value. As mentioned, the LRV of a color can be found on the back of most color chips and on the index of all major brands’ fandecks.  Value is often confused with the term intensity.  Intensity deals with the brightness or dullness of a color, how clear or muted a color is. Value is an important term used in color and it speaks strictly to the lightness or darkness of a color.

What is it?
LRV is a measurement that tells you how much light a color reflects, and conversely how much it absorbs.  LRV runs on a scale from 0% to 100%. Zero being absolute black and 100 being a bright white or even a bright yellow.

Professionals use that number.  How?
Color consultants, architects, and designers use LRV data in several stages of color planning and specifying.  Just one example is vinyl siding. If you paint vinyl siding with a color that has too low of an LRV, that absorbs too much light and energy and thus retains too much heat, the siding will warp and get wavy.

There are paint products on the market now that give a wider choice of colors for painting all colors of vinyl siding because of their formulations.  However, if you do not use one of those specially formulated products, you have to choose a paint color that is within in the same LRV range as the original color of the vinyl siding in order to avoid warping.

What does LRV mean to a homeowner, how can they use it?
Starting out fresh with your color planning, LRV provides a reference as to how light or dark a color could look and feel once up on all the walls in a room. Fifty percent, on that 0% to 100% scale, is a mid-tone and 50% LRV is the recommended guideline for residential interior wall colors.

Below the mid-point of 50%, and you know that the color will tend to be darker.  It will absorb more light than it will reflect back into the room making a good lighting plan to go with your new color choice a priority as well.

Colors with LRV higher than 50, and you know that the color will be lighter, reflecting more light back into the room than it absorbs.

Paying attention to, and keeping note of, the LRV of the colors that work well in your house creates benchmarks to go by for future color selections.

What are the precautions of relying on LRV for choosing wall colors?
It is true that LRV communicates a lot about a potential wall color, possibly provides even more of a sense of the color than those very small color chips – and we all know the issues with relying on just the small color chips.

The LRV number is an accurate measurement.  A reliable piece of data – it is one of the few things about a color that is a known consistent factor.  No matter from what direction the natural light enters a room, no matter what reflection of color you get from the other elements in the room, no matter what other conditions exist that will affect the context in which the wall color is experienced, the LRV is the LRV.  However….

LRV can be misleading when it comes to yellows. Yellow is the most reflective color in the spectrum and the more area it covers it grows more intense exponentially. People err when choosing yellow more than any other color. They end up with a Lemon Chiffon that borders on needing eye protection to enter the room when they really were going for a soft Buttercream.  If choosing a yellow, being mindful of its intensity, how bright or dull the color is, would be a more prominent consideration than the LRV.

What should you remember about LRV?
LRV is a guideline.  A point of reference in predicting how light or dark a color will look and feel once up on the walls.  It is not a set standard by which to choose colors rather an indicator to help you make your best guess; and choosing wall colors is all about guessing.

No one can predict how a color will feel once it is up on all the walls. I don’t care who it is, designer, professional color designer, architect, or your next-door neighbor… they guess. The difference is some people are better guessers than others are. What makes some people better wall color guessers than others is a matter of knowledge, taste, and experience — and in that order.   With your new knowledge and clearer understanding of LRV, you are one-step closer to expertly choosing wall colors that are pleasing and appropriate for the inherent lighting and chosen design style of interior spaces.