A Lighting Specialists Guide To Colour Temperatures

When you’re lighting your home or workplace, the chances are that you never paid too much attention to colour temperature, yet as lighting specialists we know all too well what a key factor it is when choosing your lighting source. Here, we give you our expert insider’s guide into using the right lights to achieve the best effect in your space.

Colour Temperature – What Is It?

Lighting specialists will tell you that temperature and lighting have a special relationship, with colour temperature having a major impact on the way a white lighting source appears.

You’ll probably already be aware that light sources which appear warm have a yellowish tinge, and this means they have a lower colour temperature. You’ll also remember from using a Bunsen burner in high school science that the higher the temperature, the bluer the light. Colder-coloured light sources have a more bluish appearance, and their colour temperature is considerably higher. We measure the temperature of colours in degrees Kelvin, with 2000K representing the spectrum’s warmer end and 7000K representing the cool blue end.

In the winter, the lighting quality is different to that during the summer months because of the sun’s position. It’s also different at dawn and dusk when compared with midday. At midday, the light is bluer, while at dusk and dawn it takes on a redder appearance because the atmosphere blocks the wavelength of the colours of light. Since blue’s wavelength is shorter, it can be stopped by the atmosphere more easily.

These principles can be captured by lighting specialists when they’re working on lighting design for any given space.

Why Do Lighting Specialists Find Colour Temperature So Important?

When lighting specialists are trying to create the ideal mood and atmosphere in any space, selecting the most appropriate colour temperature couldn’t be more important. For example, a spa needs a peaceful, relaxing ambience with a warm glow while a classroom requires a more focused cold light so students can stay alert.

colour temperature no background
The use of cold or warm lighting has an enormous impact on our perception of the space as well as the atmosphere that is being created and this allows us to set a scene in any given space simply by changing the temperature of the light source.

It’s even possible to create multiple scenes in a single room through the use of different light sources so that even small rooms can become multifunctional, serving different purposes for different people and at different times.

Is Colour Rendering The Same Thing As Colour Temperature?

Colour rendering works hand in hand with colour temperature, but they aren’t the same thing. Colour temperature will give information about the light’s colour whereas the CRI or Colour Rendering Index tells us how well the light source is able to render colours. When lighting specialists design a space, both factors need to be taken into account.

So if, for instance, we need to enhance and highlight warm tones like gold, wood or bronze, warm lighting is best. Whereas silver, green or blue finishes are better enhanced with colder lighting.

What Is Human Centric Lighting And How Does It Relate To Colour Temperature?

As lighting specialists, we need to understand the relationship that exists between well-being and lighting. The term used to describe this connection is Human Centric Lighting, and it is based on the human body’s natural circadian rhythms. This internal body clock keeps us in synchronisation with night and day’s natural cycles, ensuring that we’re energetic and alert during the daytime and relaxed and sleepy at night.

In ancient times, this all happened naturally for us since we used to live a primarily outdoors existence, working in the fields while the sun was up and going to bed when it went down. However, thanks to the invention of artificial lighting, these natural bodily rhythms have begun to go out of sync.

These days, we spend a lot of our time indoors where artificial lighting is prevalent. But lighting specialists are able to harness the power of artificial light to keep the internal clock properly synchronised by using the right colour temperatures.

The circadian system is actually especially sensitive to cool light that allows us to remain focused and alert and it’s less sensitive when it comes to warm light. Therefore, if an artificial lighting source has a high colour temperature of around 4000K to 5000K in the day then a low colour temperature of around 2600K to 3000K at night this helps to artificially recreate a natural progression of the day from the sun rising to it setting at night.

How Does This Work in Practice?

If a lighting specialist is working on the lighting in a bedroom, adding a light source that allows the occupant to wake up in the mornings to a warm, low and soft light that changes from red through yellow and into blue, will help to stimulate their pineal gland so they feel more alert and awake from the moment they open their eyes. Artificial light sources can also be positioned carefully to mimic the natural light of the evening hours so that the bedroom’s occupant naturally feels sleepy at the right times and becomes more prepared for a restful night’s sleep.

How Do Our Lighting Specialists Use Colour Temperature In Your Lighting Design?

No matter the size and scope of your lighting project, our lighting specialists can harness the power of colour temperature and colour rendering to help create the atmosphere and mood that you desire. Whether you’re seeking a romantic and relaxed ambience or a more dynamic and energetic vibe, we can select the most appropriate colour temperature for your light fittings to generate these emotions and feelings. We can also consider a number of attributes to ensure your lighting project achieves all its goals and requirements. These include:

  • The product design – are you looking for a decorative, linear or discreet light for your space?
  • The purpose of the light – do you need task lighting? Lighting accents? Or just a general glow?
  • The light output – we take into account the Lux, Lumens, CCT and CRI of each light source to ensure the perfect effect.
  • Beam shape and lensing – we look at whether an oval, flood, asymmetrical or narrow beam would be best for your specific needs.
  • The chip – we consider the chip used and how it is applied to the heat sink as part of your project.
  • The driver – this is vital for the circuit’s longevity and dimming performance of the lights.

Once we have taken all of the above into account, we can help you to create multiple scenes in a single space, whether large or small. Even in a small room we can still create several moods by using light sources that suit a variety of purposes. As an example, we can use bright, blue light for task lighting over your desk to stimulate your brain and keep you alert and functioning while you’re working, but add a warm, dim light by your armchair where you can relax and unwind at the end of the day in peace and calm.

In a larger, multi-functional space such as an open-plan layout, we can add even more differentiated lighting sources so that different areas can serve a variety of purposes from cooking and dining to working or watching TV, all through the clever use of lighting colours and temperatures.

Our designers will work closely with you to determine whether there are any specific materials and finishes that should be enhanced through the use of light and whether or not you’re keen to include human centric lighting elements in your design scheme. Thanks to our skill and expertise, we can select the most appropriate lighting sources and position them carefully so that they naturally enhance your body’s natural rhythms, create the perfect scene and atmosphere for each selected purpose, and beautifully highlight your room’s features without being obtrusive.

This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to use lighting specialists when devising any lighting project – we have the knowledge and expertise to ensure your space works to its maximum benefit!

Light is Life

Learn how light can lead to a better life at work, rest or play.

Feb 10, 2021 | Design