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Light and Color

Choosing Lighting with Color in Mind is an Important Decision.

You can make appropriate lighting choices that consider light and color in your home!


Important Information

Color Rendering Index:

Describes the way light makes colored objects look.

A scale from 0 (very poor) to 100 (excellent).

  • For example, incandescent (97-100 CRI) has an excellent color rendering index!


Color Temperature:

Described the way the light source appears.

A scale from 2700 (warmer) to 6000 (cooler).

  • For example, the color temperature of incandescent light is warm, about 2700 degrees kelvin. Other sources are cooler. Some fluorescent lights are about 4000 degrees kelvin.



  • Carefully read the package before you purchase the bulb. The package will tell you the color rendering index and color temperature.
  • Be sure to purchase light bulbs from a reputable manufacturer.
  • Spending a little extra time at the store can save you aggravation when you get home!


When Thinking of Light and Color, Consider...


  • Different light sources may affect colors. For example, the same color might look different when viewed under incandescent and compact fluorescent lights.

Color Critical Areas:

  • Lighting affects color. Color critical areas include dining rooms, family rooms, bathrooms, closets, bedrooms, laundry rooms, craft and hobby areas, and places where art is displayed.

Initial Cost:

  • How much will the light cost when you first buy it?


  • Dimming might change the color of some lights. For example, dimming incandescent lights makes the light appear more orange.


  • Lighting can produce warm or cool atmospheres. For color sensitive activities, such as applying make-up and selecting fabrics, consider warm light.
  • The color of daylight varies at different times of the day, across seasons, and in geographic locations.

Approximate ranges for color rendering index and color temperature for common home interiors light sources

    Color Rendering Index Color Temperature (K)
  Compact Fluorescent 70-82 2500-6000
  Incandescent 97-100 2500-3000
  Light emitting diode 70-90 2700-4200
  (Linear) fluorescent 52-90 3000-6500
  Tungsten halogen 97-100 2800-3000
  Xenon 95 2800-6000


Lighting can ... 

• Create a cohesive “warm” or  “cool” look in your home

• Make skin tones look more natural

• Help you closely match colors (for dressing, sewing, arts and crafts, or laundry)

• Enhance colors in your home


Consider how the color rendering index and the color temperature affect your home.


Color Rendering Index (CRI)

Specific types of light sources create different effects on colored objects in your home.


Color Temperature

Specific types of light sources create different cool and warm atmospheres in your home. 


Different colored light bulbs.



Illuminating Engineering Society Color Committee. (1992). Color and illumination. 

New York: Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.


Holtzschue, L. (2002). Understanding color: An introduction for designers (2nd 

ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.


Karlen, M., & Benya, J. (2004). Lighting design basics. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley 

& Sons.


Williams, B. (2000). Light Sources for Architectural Lighting. Professional Lighting 

Resources. Retrieved November 22, 2011, from


Winchip, S. M. (2008). Fundamentals of lighting. New York: Fairchild 




Paulette Hebert, Ph.D.


Design, Housing & Merchandising


Gina Peek, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Extension Specialist

Housing & Consumer


Mihyun Kang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Design, Housing & Merchandising



Barbara Denney
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service


Brenda Miller
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service


Emma Rose Moore

Oklahoma Consumer, Member Oklahoma Home and Community Education (OHCE)


Pamela Turner, Ph.D.

University of Georgia


Graphic Design:

Sylvia Chaney


Text Layout:

Jessy Kramp

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