CRI and How Lighting Affects Colour

Lighting has a huge effect on the colour of your home. Too much can wash everything out and too little will result in a darker, less vibrant look. To help you better understand how lighting affects colour, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about the colour rendering index (CRI).


What is the colour rendering index?

The Colour Rendering Index or CRI is a scale that rates how realistic an object appears to the human eye because of the light source used. 

CRI scores an artificial white light on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 referring to the ‘perfect’ daylight and 0 showing completely indistinct colours. 

Higher scoring lights reveal the more subtle colours of an object. In other words, in natural daylight, we see things exactly as they are. Not all light sources can offer that same CRI.

One of the most common examples is the apple. It might look dull and dark under a low scoring CRI light. But under a high scoring CRI light, the apple will look fresher with more of its shades visible to the eye. 



What is a good colour rendering index score?

Well…it depends.

It can be easy to assume that having a higher colour rendering index score is always better and if you’re doing a photoshoot or something similar then it absolutely is. 

However, not every situation and every home needs to look as natural as possible. You might choose to focus on brighter or dimmer lighting instead.

But, that still doesn’t answer the question. What’s a good colour rendering index score?

It all comes down to your home and your décor. If you have a rustic, natural appeal then you’ll want as close to 100 as possible. But if your dream is clean and contemporary then this might actually look out of place. 

However, from now on, we’ll assume that a higher CRI score is better. 


Lights with Great CRI Scores

It’s not as simple as saying one light type has a high colour rendering score and the other doesn’t. Still, there are some fairly simple generalisations that we can make. 

Fluorescent bulbs 

Fluorescent bulbs are commonly seen as too neutral or cool in colour. But recent advances have helped their designs improve greatly and they can give decent CRI that ranges from around 50 to 85.

LED lights

Modern LED bulbs beat fluorescent lights every time and can boast scores that soar into the high 90s. LED bulbs are super adaptable and you get to pick how warm or cold the light is. 

Incandescent lights

While incandescent lights have their own flaws including expensive and regular replacement, their CRI (which is often above 95) is quite impressive considering they were developed back in the 1800s. 

Halogen bulbs

Halogen bulbs shine with pure white light and are excellent at rendering colour. They have a CRI that is always close to 100.  


How does lighting affect colour?

There are a lot of things to think about here. Warm light will intensify colours while cooler hues will do the exact opposite. You also have to consider the amount of light. Colours are at their darkest in low light and as you increase the light, it will get closer to their true form.

There’s a fine line between realistic and washed out, which is exactly what your home will look like if there’s too much light. 


What does CRI mean for your home?

All this talk of the colour rendering index and how light affects colour can be a little overwhelming. 

There’s a common misconception that lights with a CRI score of 100 will shine like the sun inside your home. This is wrong as CRI only rates a light against a similar light of the same colour temperature. 


Importance of Lighting

We’ve spoken a lot about lighting and its ability to display colours. 

But how important is your lighting, actually?

Given its ability to transform the colours in a space, lighting’s pretty important. Not only is visibility important to keep you safe (e.g. while cooking in the kitchen) but the look and feel of your lighting influences your mood.

A bright and healthy-looking home has a positive impact on you and your productivity whereas a more gloomy setting provides the opposite. 

Okay, so even if the lighting is important, then what about the light’s CRI?

The importance of the colour rendering index depends on what your goals are. If you want to feel like you’re living in a natural space, then go for a light with a higher CRI. But if that doesn’t bother you as much then it’s not worth stressing about. 



There’s a lot to consider when buying lights and its CRI score is just one of them. 

But don’t feel overwhelmed. Picking the right light is not an exact science and the best thing you can do is experiment with different light types in your home. 

Still have questions? Speak to one of our friendly experts at Ozlighting or browse our huge range of lights perfect for every home. Shop now