The so-called bi-spectral method retrieves cloud optical thickness (τ) and cloud droplet effective radius (re) simultaneously from a pair of cloud reflectance observations, one in a visible or near infrared (VIS/NIR) band and the other in a shortwave-infrared (SWIR) band. A cloudy pixel is usually assumed to be horizontally homogeneous in the retrieval. Ignoring sub-pixel variations of cloud reflectances can lead to a significant bias in the retrieved τ and re. In this study, we use the Taylor expansion of a two-variable function to understand and quantify the impacts of sub-pixel variances of VIS/NIR and SWIR cloud reflectances and their covariance on the τ and re retrievals. This framework takes into account the fact that the retrievals are determined by both VIS/NIR and SWIR band observations in a mutually dependent way. In comparison with previous studies, it provides a more comprehensive understanding of how sub-pixel cloud reflectance variations impact the τ and re retrievals based on the bi-spectral method. In particular, our framework provides a mathematical explanation of how the sub-pixel variation in VIS/NIR band influences the re retrieval and why it can sometimes outweigh the influence of variations in the SWIR band and dominate the error in re retrievals, leading to a potential contribution of positive bias to the re retrieval.