The Color of Light & CCT
Color choice is a powerful decision. When you examine the science of color and explore Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) you can better determine how to choose light color for each space. Color can be used to evoke certain moods, boost your work with task lighting and define a space.
Color theory involves a lot of components we could not cover in the length of one blog. Instead, we will examine warm vs. cool light to define those descriptions, explain Correlated Color Temperature (CCT), and also what type of moods you can evoke when you choose cool or warm lights in your unique lighting applications.
The Color of Objects and CRI
Sunlight appears as white light to the human eye. Ledmundo’s equivalent color temperature is 5000K Daylight, which equates to the quality of light seen outside during the middle of a sunny day. Remember that white light is not truly white, it is a combination of all colors in the Visible Spectrum.
The wavelengths of colors – and everything else on the Electromagnetic Spectrum – are either absorbed by objects or reflected/transmitted by them. For instance, a red shirt appears red, because it absorbs every wavelength except red. The red wavelength of light is reflected away from the object and transmitted to your eyes. View a white piece of paper and you see every color of the visible spectrum. A black table absorbs all the colors and reflects none of them.
This complex process is regulated in our eyes by the retina with its two types of photoreceptors: cones and rods. Cones detect color. Rods see black, white, and gray. Cone photoreceptors require light to detect color. You experience this shift when viewing a dark room at dusk. It is hard to distinguish color. You may see things in a gray scale in that scenario, instead of recognizing natural or accurate color.
Color Rendering Index (CRI) indicates the faithful reproduction of an object’s color when under that light source versus when viewed under a natural light source. In this measurement, 100 is shown as the closest to natural or sunlight quality.
When you are searching for lighting with a high CRI (on a scale of 0-100), you want light bulbs that produce accurate color rendering. LED lights in the CRI 80 to CRI 89 range produce accurate color rendering and are considered good. CRI 90+ light bulbs have excellent color rendering ability. Sunco’s LED light bulbs feature a high CRI ranging from CRI 80 to CRI 95. In contrast, fluorescent bulbs produce an unnatural light quality and range in low numbers on the CRI scale.
High CRI also allows the textures of items to stand out as it delivers clear definition. This makes high CRI LED light bulbs ideal for retail, restaurants, patios, dining rooms, and other places where accurate color representation is important.
What is Warm Light vs. Cool Light?
Let’s define warm and cool colors.
Warm Light – Red, amber, orange, and yellow are the warmer colors of the Visible Spectrum.
Cool Light – Green, blue, violet and purple are the cooler colors.
Ledmundo’s color temperatures include warmer colors under 3000K (Warm White), which appears yellow. Color tends to shift to cool when you reach 4000K (Cool White). The cool 6000K (Daylight Deluxe) appears silver in nature to our eyes.
In general, lower color temperatures provide a warmer look and higher color temperatures deliver a cooler look. Now that you understand the definition of warm and cool colors, we can examine the appearance of light, regarding its warmth or coolness.
Recognizing Color Temperatures in the World
In our not so distant past, homes were lit with candles or the flames from a fireplace. In contrast to heated metal, the warm tone of candlelight falls at around 2200K. That temperature looks a bit counter intuitive from we expect when we think of temperature ranges. The higher temperatures are not reds, they are blue? Correct. Remember, we are examining how heating can change the color and appearance of an object, not its actual temperature.
You can also look at this in a very simplistic view. Fire is warm/red/amber and water or ice is cool/cold/blue/white. In contrast, when you examine black body radiation and CCT, blue/white is hotter (higher temp) and red/amber hues are cooler (lower temps).
That candlelight color temperature of around 2200K makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?
Ledmundo’s 2200K (Amber Glow) color temperature is considered warm. A warm color and hue in a room can set a certain mood. You wouldn’t want intimate and warm lighting in a space where tasks were performed, like in an office or factory. You would want light that helps energize or invigorate people.
Due to the scattering of light through Earth’s atmosphere. you can easily examine color temperatures in the world around you.
Morning Sun – 2000K to 3000K
Midday (around noon to 1 p.m.) – daylight color temperature range of 5000K to 6000K
Evening Sun – less than 2000K
Switching gears back to color science, remember that the colorful objects in a room can also balance out the lighting color temperature you choose. A room with bright white light can be more welcoming when you toss in warmer colors in your furniture, wall paint, and artwork choices. Contrasting these provides humans with a sense of balance. Also note that cooler colors can help make a smaller room appear to be larger.
Weather can also play a part. If you live in humid regions, you might prefer a cooler color temperature inside, while those in colder regions might desire a warmer color palette in their homes.
Light can create a mood and define room ambiance. Next time you look at advertising photos, examine the type of lighting the photographer used in their image. You can see the warm and cool tones of a room and examine how it makes you feel, what mood it evokes.