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In today’s world, we use lighting as more than just a way to alleviate darkness. The design, atmosphere, and functionality that light creates has become more and more important.

When exploring lighting design and the effects it has on your interior, the colour temperature of light plays a crucial role. Not only does it determine how your space looks, but also impacts the way you and others feel.

In this article, we explore the colour temperature of light, illuminate the difference between warm and cold lighting, and explain where/when different temperatures should be applied within lighting design.

The colour temperature of light

When talking about the colour temperature of light, we’re referring to the warmth and coldness of light. Warmer light appears yellow, while cooler light is a white/blue colour.

The colour temperature of light is ranked on a scale, known as the Kelvin scale. The warmer the colour, the lower the temperature. As an example, candles burn with a colour temperature of around 2000 degrees Kelvin (k), which is an orange/yellow colour, while daylight is typically around 5500 to 6500k, known as daylight white.

Colour display plays a huge part in lighting too. This measures how well we’re able to see colours under a certain type of light. The value of colour display is measured using a colour rendering index (CRI), with a scale between 1 and 100 Ra. A perfect colour display score would be 100 Ra (which is natural daylight) with 80 Ra typically being seen for most environments. However, for places where lighting is extremely important, the norm is around 90 Ra. This would typically be seen in art galleries, museums, clothing stores, and further places alike.

Warm light vs cold light. Where to use

The colour temperature of your light should be chosen based on where and why you need it. This can be determined during the lighting design process.

For example, warm light at around 2700 to 3000k is ideal for your home. The almost yellow glow helps to create a warm, cosy, and friendly atmosphere for you and your family to relax in. However, this is not the optimal lighting choice for productivity. Warm light creates a lot of contrast, meaning your eyes must work to adapt, which becomes tiring. Therefore, for an office or other working environments, we recommend using cooler lighting between 3500 and 5500k.

Here’s a breakdown of typical light bulb colour temperatures and their source:

  • 1800k - Candle Flame, sunset/sunrise
  • 2400k – Standard incandescent lamps
  • 2550k – Soft white incandescent lamps
  • 2700k – Soft white compact fluorescent and LED lamps
  • 3000k – Warm white compact fluorescent and LED lamps
  • 3200k – Studio lamps/photofloods
  • 5000k – Tubular fluorescent lamps or cool white/daylight compact fluorescent lamps 
  • 5500-6500k – Daylight, overcast, electronic flash
  • 6500-9500k – LCD or CRT screen
  • 15,000-27,000k – Clear blue poleward sky

How colour temperature affects your interior

When choosing the colour temperature of your space, you need to consider the finishes and colour palette used with your interior design. Reds, oranges and yellows look stunning when illuminated with warm white light (3000k). Whereas blues and greys can look clean and crisp under cool white light (4000k).

For kitchen and bathroom areas, practicality is important. This can be achieved with plenty of cool light available to mimic natural daylight. On top of this, kitchens and bathrooms are generally white, and with the use of cool light a clean and sterile fell can be created.

Colour temperatures should not be mixed within a room. Once you’ve decided on the look and feel you’re going to create, and what’s required for maximum practicality, stick with the same colour temperature bulbs.

Lighting design consultants

To ensure your lighting project goes as smoothly as possible, we recommend you seek advice from an experienced lighting design consultant. At Hampshire Light, we have over 20 years of experience supplying superior lighting design schemes for prime residential and luxury hospitality projects. We understand the science and art behind lighting and can source any fixture require required to enhance the look of your space. For more information on the colour temperature of light, or if you’d like to arrange a complimentary design consultation, contact us at Hampshire light today, we'd be more than happy to help.

Want to learn more about lighting design?

Download our lighting design brochure
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