Understanding Light Color

By Sally Gillie

Color temperatures thermometer showing a model with the color she would see herself at with a Lighted Mirror by Electric Mirror

Color temperatures thermometer showing a model with the color she would see herself at with a Lighted Mirror by Electric Mirror

Electric Mirror uses CRI 85 or higher T5 fluorescent lamps in our Lighted Mirrors at 3,000 Kelvin which gives the most optimum and natural light color. The result of this are fantastic products that are better and more similar to natural daylight than any of our competitors.

Lighting Sources and Color
Understanding light quality can be a challenge, especially with the variety of light sources today. If you’ve swapped out a traditional incandescent bulb for one of the new long-lasting compact fluorescents, you may have noticed a difference in light color.

This is where the Kelvin scale comes into play.

Light Color and the Kelvin Scale
Kelvin is a unit of measurement used to describe the hue of a specific light source. This is not necessarily related to the heat output of the light source but rather the color of the light output. The higher the Kelvin value of the light source, the closer the light’s color output will be to actual sunlight, as this chart indicates.

Momentum Lighted Mirror and Makeup Mirror by Electric Mirror at the Chumash Hotel

Momentum Lighted Mirror and Makeup Mirror by Electric Mirror at the Chumash Hotel

Light output at 5,000K to 10,000K is at the high, bluer end of the scale and may seem overly bright for some indoor settings. Lower Kelvin temperatures in the 2,700K to 3,500K range cast a warmer, yellower-toned light. On the extreme low end, think of the orange-red glow of a match flame; the high end can be compared to a bright daylight sky.

Mid-range lighting from about 2700K to 3500K has been shown over time to be the preferred level of lighting for most homes, offices and public indoor spaces such as libraries and schools. Higher levels of more than 4,000K to 5,000K may be suitable for business display cases, or museums, where a brighter light may be useful.

Color Rendering Index

Integrity Lighted Mirror by Electric Mirror at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco

Integrity Lighted Mirror by Electric Mirror at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco

Another way to assess light quality is through the Color Rendering Index, or CRI. This measurement does not address the light itself, but how accurately a light source renders colors and shades of color to the human eye. The best source for rendering color is full daylight, which not only accurately reflects colors but also captures all of their subtle variations. A CRI rating of 100% is the highest rating and comparable to full sunlight. A low CRI rating of less than 20% will have very little color accuracy.

The average human eye is incredibly sensitive to color wavelengths and can discern many thousands of color variations. The visible light spectrum, through which we can see all light and colors, is limited to those wavelengths in the spectrum that lie between ultrared (longer wavelengths) and ultraviolet light (shorter wavelengths).

Differences between CRI and the Kelvin Scale
It’s important to remember that the characteristics of light, as measured on the Kelvin scale and the CRI, are very different from each other.