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What is color temperature (Kelvin)?

Lighting plays a crucial role in creating the right atmosphere and ambiance in a room. One of the most important aspects of lighting is color temperature, measured in Kelvin (K). But what does color temperature really mean and how does it affect our perception of light? In this article, we dive deeper into the meaning of color temperature in lighting, the different light colors and how to make the right choices for different applications in a lighting plan.

Introduction to color temperature

Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K) and refers to the color of light emitted by a light source. Although the word “temperature” is used, it actually has nothing to do with heat. Instead, it is about the visual effect of light on our perception. In short, it determines whether the light appears warm, neutral or cool.

Kelvin (K) scale.

The Kelvin scale runs from warm and cozy tones with lower Kelvin values to cooler and brighter tones with higher values. For example, light with a low Kelvin value of about 2700K has a warm, yellowish glow, similar to traditional incandescent bulbs. At the other end of the spectrum, light sources with high Kelvin values, such as 6500K, have a cool, bluish hue, similar to daylight. Understanding what each point on this scale represents is essential when choosing the right lighting for any room.

Kelvin scale color temperature

Creating the right atmosphere

The color temperature of lighting can contribute significantly to the atmosphere and feel of a room. Imagine hosting a nice dinner party at a restaurant. Warm light with a low Kelvin value will create an inviting and cozy atmosphere. On the other hand, a modern office space can benefit from bright white light with a higher Kelvin value, which can promote concentration and alertness. If you turn this around you have an atmosphere-less restaurant and a soporific office, which is obviously not what you want.

How do you use different light colors?

The choice of color temperature depends on the specific application of a room and the desired effect of the lighting Here are some examples:

Cool daylight (4500K+)

Fixtures with higher Kelvin values, such as 5000K or higher, are often used in factories, sports halls or warehouses. The bright, bluish light can promote alertness and productivity. These light colors mimic natural daylight and promote an active attitude. However, such a high Kelvin value is not chosen in every factory, sports hall or warehouse. In many cases, 4000K lighting is still used here. Cool daylight is always recommended for outdoor lighting and lighting for site security purposes.

Bumaco Belgium Lixero Outdoor

Bright white (3100K – 4500K)

Luminaires with Kelvin values between 3100K and 4500K are considered neutral and are suitable for many different environments. They offer a balance between warmth and brightness. Lighting with this color temperature can be found in all kinds of businesses, from retail stores to offices or healthcare facilities. When it comes to light output, there is very little difference between 3000K and 4000K, although it often seems that 4000K gives more light. This is because 4000K is a bright light color.

Warm light (<3000K)

Lighting with lower Kelvin values, such as 2200K to 3000K, are often used in residential spaces. They create a cozy and comfortable atmosphere similar to traditional incandescent lamps. In this, the most common light color is 2700K. But for an extra warm atmosphere and color, 2200K can be chosen, which is similar to the color temperature of a candle. In catering establishments, the use of dim lighting is ideal, so it is easy to switch between color temperatures. This way you add more atmosphere to your restaurant, bar or hotel in one action.

Arkoslight shot light Lixero


Color temperature and human perception

The relationship between color temperature and human emotions is profound. Research has shown that cooler light can lower cortisol levels, which can help reduce stress. On the other hand, warmer light can promote a sense of well-being and help with relaxation. Wondering how color temperature affects our biological rhythms? You’ll read about it in this article: How does lighting affect your biological clock?

Advice on color temperature?

The color temperature of lighting is a powerful tool that can transform the experience of a space. When choosing the right color temperature, it is important to consider the function of the room, the desired feel and aesthetics. A thoughtful choice in color temperature can bring a room to life and create the desired atmosphere. We are happy to help you find the right color temperature for your project. Get a free consultation from one of our lighting experts!

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Maurice Arons