January 9, 2017

Solar Shades: How To Choose Between Light and Dark Fabrics

Center aligned design element

Some Things You Should Know First

We have found in our years of experience a very common question that is raised—when to use a light fabric versus a dark fabric when choosing solar shades. In some cases we have found that the fabric desired and chosen had the reverse effect once installed, leaving the consumer disappointed and now forced to live with this decision for years to come or until deciding to ultimately purchase new shades.

Key Factors to Consider When Selecting Your Solar Shade Fabric

Sun Control: Sun control is the biggest reason shades are needed for windows. Everyone wants to protect their beautiful new floors, furniture, and art from the very harmful UV rays the sun generates.

Insulation: Everyone would like to cut their heating and cooling bills. Choosing the right type of shades can help. A great option to consider is an exterior operated shade. No window treatments mounted on the inside of a window can compare to an outside shade which stops the heat before it enters your home.

Privacy: While providing great sun control and insulation, solar shades will only provide a minor level of privacy. Please be aware that at night there can be some view through into the home depending on the opacity of your chosen fabric. For example, a 1% opacity fabric will provide more privacy than a 5% opacity, but will decrease the level of view through during the day. See “A Bit About Openness Factor” below.


  • Solar shades not only offer great sun control and insulation, but also provide the great benefit of being able to maintain your view of the outdoors.
  • If maintaining your view is a priority the right fabric will make a big difference.
  • A lighter fabric, better reflects the sun’s heat, but also brightens the room and blurs the view.
  • A darker fabric will absorb the heat and glare providing a much more comfortable feel to the eye. Instead of walking in and having to put on sunglasses you can actually look and enjoy the crisp views without squinting.

Enhancing Your View

We had a client recently that contacted us to repair their existing motorized shades. Upon entering their home we were struck with the incredible view of the ocean as the home was right on the cliffs of the Mendocino coast.


Unfortunately this beautiful view was completely muted and foggy when the light colored shades were down.

We suggested replacing all the fabric bands with a fabric of the same opacity, but switching to a darker color. Their initial reaction was hesitant, as they loved their view and wanted to accentuate the look, but were concerned about the effect a darker fabric would have on the room. We sent them a few large fabric samples to hang up and see for themselves.

They agreed and hesitantly decided to proceed with the swap out of fabrics. The day prior to the installation they reached out to us once again feeling that they made a terrible mistake and were second guessing the conversion. We assured their satisfaction and requested that they wait until seeing an installed shade before making the final decision.

Once installed the homeowner called ecstatic and could not believe this was the same home and LOVED the new look.


A Bit About “Openness Factor”

Screen shades, also referred to as solar shades, are designed to maximize sunlight and your view to the outside while preserving privacy. Openness refers to the tightness of the fabric weave, directly reflecting the amount of light let through—also called the “openness factor”.

Lower openness factors resulting from tightly woven fabrics block more of the view. Although solar shades with tighter weaves are perfect for rooms that get a lot of direct sun, it’s important to consider the amount of view that you want to maintain. The higher the openness factor, the looser the fabric weave and the less shade it offers.

A shade with an openness factor of 3%-5% blocks more sun and more privacy but it will also allow less view through. 5% in a white fabric would be equivalent to a 3% in black fabric as far as seeing through it. White fabric can make the view blurry, while black fabric tends to make the view more crisp.

For homeowners who desire a clear view, a 3% openness factor facing west is the most popular choice. If you base your fabric choice on having a nice view that you want to enhance, we suggest a dark fabric with a 3% or 5% openness factor. This applies to both interior or exterior shades.

Speak With A Design Consultant

Center aligned design element

Let One of our experienced designers help you find the perfect solution for your home