Color Temperature

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Color temperature is a term that is commonly referenced by photographers and lighting professionals, but it is all Greek to the general public. As consumers move away from incandescent lamps, they need to have at least a basic understanding of the Color Temperature metric. Have you seen the new lighting facts labels?

Lighting Facts two labels together

In these labels, "Color Temperature" is called out as "Light Appearance" or "Light Color." This gives you a relative understanding of color temperature, but by looking at these documents, you might be inclined to select a lamp with a color temperature of 4500K, because it looks white in the diagram. And if you do might be disappointed.

As a point of reference, you should know that an incandescent lamp is around 2700K, and that while “Daylight” sounds pleasant, at 6500K it is actually quite blue in comparison to most common indoor light sources. In the photo below, the compact fluorescent lamp on the left is 2700K and the 4' tubes on the right are 6500K daylight lamps.

Garage lights image

If you’ve never noticed before, take a look out the window now. Can you see the contrast between the color of your indoor sources and the daylight?


Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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