What is Color Temperature? How To Choose?

(Last Updated On: November 27, 2023)

Color temperature is a crucial aspect of lighting that significantly creates a space’s desired atmosphere and mood. When it comes to LED lights, choosing the right color temperature is essential to enhance the look and feel of a room. This post will explore the color temperature and how to select the correct color temperature for your LED lights.

Table of Contents

Understanding Color Temperature

If you’re buying lights, you may have come across the words “color temperature” and not been quite sure what it means or what the numbers you’ve seen that end in “K” (3000K, etc.) indicate.

Despite the use of the word “temperature”—and the fact that “color temperature” is measured in Kelvins, a unit of thermodynamic temperature—”color temperature” does not indicate how much heat an LED lamp will emit. Instead, it describes the color quality of the white light a lamp will put out. (Note that “color temperature” doesn’t apply to colored light: red, blue, green, etc. Only white light.)

White light is often labeled “warm,” “natural” (or “neutral”), “cool,” or “daylight” (also called “cool”). Warmer whites have an amber quality; colder whites appear more bluish. Natural or neutral, whites lean neither amber nor blue; they come across as “white.” Cold white lights more closely mimic actual sunlight. This is why they’re also referred to as “daylight” white.

So, sometimes when you see “color temperature,” it references these labels—warm, cool, etc. Other times it may reference a specific number. So what do the numbers mean, and how do they correlate to the labels?

Color Temperature By the Numbers

The Kelvin (K) is the unit of measurement used for color temperature and provides a more precise assessment of the white quality of a light source. The lower the number in Kelvins, the warmer the light; the higher the number, the cooler. For example, a light source with a color temperature of 2700K will emit a warm and cozy light, while a light source with a color temperature of 6500K will emit a bright and energizing light.

color temperature

A light with a color temperature of 2400K will appear much warmer than a light rated at 6000K. Natural or neutral white light falls between warm and cold, in the 3500K to 4400K range.

From a Technical Perspective

The discrepancy between the actual temperature of color temperature and the terminology used to describe it is a common source of confusion, especially among photographers and in other fields where the illumination color is referenced. The reason why color temperature goes from “warm” (yellow) to “cool” (blue) despite the actual temperature going from low to high is due to the way our minds associate colors with temperature.

Humans naturally associate blue with cooling things like snow, ice, and water. When we see a light source emitting blue light, our brains associate it with a relaxed and refreshing atmosphere. On the other hand, the color yellow is associated with warm subjects like fire, the sun, and heat. When we see a light source emitting yellow, our brains associate it with a warm and cozy atmosphere.

This association is why “cool” is correlated with bluer colors, and “warm” is associated with shades of yellow. Despite the actual temperature of color temperature going from low to high, the terminology used to describe it goes from warm (yellow) to cool (blue) to reflect how our minds associate colors with temperature.

Although a blue flame burns higher than red or yellow flames, the temperature difference is negligible. Despite this, our minds associate the blue flame with being cool and the red flame with being hot, so the terminology used to describe color temperature operates in the opposite direction of the Kelvin numbers.

For example, a light source with a high color temperature of 6500K is considered “cool” and is associated with blue light. In comparison, a light source with a low color temperature of 2700K is considered “warm” and is associated with a yellow light. This association is why “cool blue” and “red hot” are closely similar to the Kelvin numbers operating in the opposite direction.

Importance of Understanding Color Temperature

The hue of the light can affect how you feel, perceive the area, and even perform specific tasks. For example, choosing the right color temperature is critical to creating the desired atmosphere in your home, workplace, or other space.

For example, warm yellow hues (2700K-3000K) are ideal for creating a relaxing and cozy atmosphere, making them a popular choice for living rooms, bedrooms, and other areas where relaxation is desired. On the other hand, cool blue hues (5000K-6500K) are ideal for creating a bright and energetic atmosphere, making them a popular choice for kitchens, offices, and other areas where productivity is desired.

In addition, color temperature can also affect the color of objects in space. For example, lights with a warm yellow hue make colors appear more generous and inviting, while lamps with a cool blue hue make colors appear more relaxed and vivid. Understanding color temperature and choosing the right shade for your space can help you create the perfect mood and atmosphere, whether you want to relax, work, or entertain.

How to Choose the Right Color Temperature

A decade ago, the options for color temperature were limited, so it was not a significant consideration when purchasing a light bulb. This is because traditional incandescent and halogen light bulbs typically emit a warm white light, making the choice of color temperature less important. However, with the advent of LED lighting, there is now a more comprehensive range of color temperature options available, making it more crucial to consider when purchasing lighting.

However, with the expanded range of color temperature options available today, choosing the right color for your needs is now possible. For example, when purchasing a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), linear fluorescent (gas-discharge lamp), or light-emitting diode (LED) light bulb, you have the option to select the color temperature that aligns with the lighting requirements of the area or the intended use. This allows for greater customization and control over the ambiance and atmosphere of a space.

When purchasing lights, you now have the option to choose from a warm (yellowish), neutral (between warm and cool white), or excellent (bluish) bulb. Alternatively, if you opt for a bright LED light bulb, you can adjust the color temperature and other features using a smartphone app. This added level of control and customization allows you to create the perfect lighting environment for any space or activity.

Various aspects must be considered to choose the appropriate color temperature or RGB color-changing lights.

  • Firstly, it is essential to consider the type of room or space where the lighting will be located.
  • Secondly, it is important to determine the primary function of the lighting in that particular area.
  • Finally, considering these considerations, you can make an informed decision and select lighting that meets your specific needs and objectives.

In addition to the type of room and the purpose of the lighting, it is also important to assess the amount of natural light in the area and the desired ambiance. To make this selection process more accessible, some essential information about each color temperature is provided below. This information will help you select the most appropriate and ideal bulb or tube lighting.

A. Consider the Purpose of the Light

When choosing the right color temperature, it’s important to consider the purpose of the light. Different color temperatures can create different moods and atmospheres, so it’s important to choose the right hue based on the meaning of the light. For example, warm yellow hues (2700K-3000K) are ideal for creating a relaxing and cozy atmosphere, making them a popular choice for living rooms, bedrooms, and other areas where relaxation is desired. On the other hand, cool blue hues (5000K-6500K) are ideal for creating a bright and energetic atmosphere, making them a popular choice for kitchens, offices, and other areas where productivity is desired.

B. Choose the Right Light for the Room

When choosing lights, it’s also important to consider the size and style of the room. For example, a large room may benefit from a cooler color temperature to create a bright and airy atmosphere. A smaller space may benefit from a warmer color temperature to create a cozy and intimate atmosphere. Similarly, a room with a lot of natural light may benefit from a cooler color temperature to balance out the warm tones of the sun. Finally, a room with little natural light may benefit from a warmer color temperature to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

C. Match the Color Temperature with Your Decor

Another important factor to consider when choosing the right color temperature is your decor. The hue of the light can affect how your decor appears, so it’s important to select a color temperature that complements your style. For example, if your set is warm and inviting, a warm yellow hue may be the best choice, while a cool blue shade may be the best choice if your decor is modern and minimalistic. You can create a cohesive and stylish look in your space by matching the color temperature with your decor.

The Different Types of Color Temperatures

color temperature options

A simplified guide on what color Temperatures typically work best by application

Color Temperature Application
Less Than 2000K

A light color temperature light, similar to a candle, is ideal for areas that prefer a soft and ambient glow. While it is not commonly used, it can be an excellent choice for the correct setting.

Warm White (2700K-3000K)

Warm white (2700K-3000K) is a warm, inviting hue that creates a cozy, relaxing atmosphere. This type of color temperature is often used in living rooms, bedrooms, and other areas where relaxation is desired. It is also ideal for spaces with a lot of natural light, as it helps to balance out the warm tones of the sun.

Neutral White (3500K-4000K)

Neutral white (3500K-4000K) is a balanced hue that creates a natural and neutral atmosphere. This type of color temperature is often used in kitchens, offices, and other areas where productivity is desired. It is also ideal for spaces with a lot of natural light, as it helps balance out the sun’s cool tones.

Cool White (5000K-6500K)

Cool white (5000K-6500K) is a bright and energetic hue that creates a bright and airy atmosphere. This type of color temperature is often used in kitchens, offices, and other areas where productivity is desired. It is also ideal for spaces with little natural light, providing a bright and energizing atmosphere.

Conclusion

The selection of the appropriate color temperature for lighting is a critical factor to consider. For example, whether you are illuminating a living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, hotel room, hospital room, classroom, office, restaurant, jewelry store, shopping mall, or outdoor area, the color temperature of the light can significantly impact the ambiance and atmosphere of the space.

It is essential to consider not only the type of room but also the purpose of the lighting and the amount of natural light in the area. Considering these factors, you can choose the right color temperature to meet your needs and requirements. Whether you prefer warm, neutral, or cool light, there is a color temperature that can help you create the perfect atmosphere.

In addition, with the advent of intelligent LED lighting, you can now easily adjust the color temperature to suit your changing needs and preferences. For example, with the ability to control the lighting through a smartphone app, you have even greater control over the ambiance and atmosphere of a space.

In conclusion, understanding color temperature is critical in creating the perfect lighting environment for any space. By taking the time to consider your needs and make an informed decision, you can ensure that you choose lighting that will meet your specific requirements and help you achieve the perfect atmosphere.

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Hey there, I'm Michael

I’m from Upward Lighting. We are a professional Outdoor led lighting manufacture in China since 2009. We provide high quality led lighting products for indoor and outdoor projects.

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