To understand the relationship between colour and light, one must understand what light is and what colour is.
Light is energy, composed of electromagnetic frequencies, visible to the human eye. Light has many sources, but for the purposes of an interior designer, the most important sources are the sun (natural light), light bulbs (electric) and flames.
Colour is basically shattered light. Each colour of the spectrum exists on its own wavelength or frequency, which together, make up white light, as we know it. Sir Isaac Newton first showed this when he shone a beam of white light through a glass prism, which resulted in a display of the colour spectrum on the other side of that prism - individual rays of colour in a consistent order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
Knowing this helps us to understand that when there is no light, there can be no colour – which is the basic relationship between colour and light. This can help us to understand occurrences in our own lives where this relationship is obvious. For example, on a dreary cloudy day, the colours in our surroundings also appear dreary and dull, much less vibrant than on a bright, sunny day. Just as when the lights are out, we cannot distinguish between colours and consequently, objects as well. The reason for this requires one more bit of information. Yes, we’ve established that when there is no light, there is no colour - when there is light, we can see colour. But why? That is because every surface that comes in contact with light manipulates that light somehow. It breaks it, or absorbs it to varying degrees, which results in different visual experiences. Darker objects absorb more light, which results in us seeing a darker colour compared to a lighter item that absorbs less light.
Understanding what can change and manipulate the properties of colour is the basis of colour science and theory. Because so much of an interior designers job is dealing with colour and colour schemes, it is important they understand this science, at least fundamentally. Colour has a way of evoking a feeling and has a big impact on someone’s senses and mood. The designer’s job is to create and plan all aspects of a space in order to establish a desired mood or feeling. Is it a relaxed space, is it a space where production matters – like a work space, is it a space where there will be lots of activity? All these spaces serve different functions and they should be designed accordingly. Lighting plays a big role in this task and since colour is affected by light and can look different in different light, it is important that the designer consider the lighting and light sources of a space before choosing on a colour scheme. Otherwise they could end up with something very different that they had originally planned – which needless to say, would be terrible. For these reasons, when deciding on colours, it is vital that the designer considers lighting.