Common Colour Temperatures

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Common Colour Temperatures

What are colour temperatures and why are they important? Colour temperature is the amount of light a bulb emits. Basically, you can divide ‘light’ into bright light or not bright light. Obviously that definition is over-simplified, but colour can still be a personal experience, and there are more than two types of light. Well, how much light you expect from a lighting product depends on your taste, need, and the lighting product itself.

When people think about buying a light, they also consider the size and shape of the shade, and indeed the type of bulb you want in the lighting product. But how do you know which colour temperature to choose from?

What is colour temperature or CCT?

Some experts in the lighting industry occasionally refer to colour temperature as CCT, or Common Colour Temperature – they are the same thing. The common colour temperatures are displayed on a table that shows how bright lights from light bulbs shine. The table also displays light from yellow light, which is considered soft light, through to white light considered bright, to blue light.

Knowing Kelvins, and the lighting scale, will help you to make informed decisions on what type of lamp to buy

This standard of light measure is measured in Kelvins. So, as you move across the scale from low to high, the Kelvins increase from 2000 Kelvins to 6500, and therefore the energy requirements increase.

However, you do not need to be an expert on Kelvins and the amounts involved in light bulb emissions of light. Knowing Kelvins, and the lighting scale, will help you to make informed decisions on what type of lamp to buy and which type of bulb. For example, ceiling lights tend to shower more light across a room than a floor lamp achieves. Why is this?

Because of the way ceiling lights are designed, they splash light further at both 90- and 40-degree angles. Some ceiling lights that do not have traditional shades, such as steampunk, geometric lights or chandeliers, provide more light in a room. Comparing these with floor lamps that have shades, floor lights tend to wash light up and down in corner areas or where you position a free-standing lamp.

A modern ceiling light can wash light in different directions, often from above.

A free standing floor lamp washes light above and below at a smaller angle.

Warm light sources have a lower colour temperature (2000-3000K) and display light across the spectrum of orange, red, and deeper yellow. It is no coincidence that the light from a stove or log burner is inviting, the colour of fire itself invites warmth. You must only imagine the relief that fire gave to early humans, huddled together around a fire in a dark place. That is why we associated orange light with warmth, and protection – it is ingrained in our DNA, over generations and generations.

It is also important to mention that this same spectrum, used to measure light, is also similarly used to measure time in cosmology. For example, the oldest stars in the Universe are Red Dwarves; they have been burning for so long their white-hot temperatures have long died off. This is the slow ember of a dying light – but it still conveys warmth and cosiness.

Cool light sources have higher colour temperatures, more than 4000K. These types of lights have more light in the blue light range – this reminds us of the sky on a very clear, crisp, blue morning. You can emulate this light in any room, especially a room with a lighter décor of blues and white. Returning to the point above about cosmology, some of the brightest stars in the Universe radiate blue light. We associated blue lights with safety, alertness, openness, awareness. Again, it makes sense that Emergency Services use blue lights.

In fact, colour changing lights also use ‘blue’ to help support awareness and create reassurance.

Which type of colour temperature are you trying to achieve?

  1. Think about mood. Mood lighting is one of the most important aspects of lighting for your home. If affects our well-being and mental health. What is the atmosphere you want to create? Are you buying a lamp for a lounge or bedroom?

Look at the table to give you some ideas.

  1. What is the décor of your room? Do you want to highlight parts of the room? Wall colour can help to accentuate the type of lighting you choose. For example, a lighter pastel colour such as light blue or green works well with cool light.
  2. Remember, your taste and requirements are subjective. There is no right or wrong choice. A floor lamp with a large shade containing a gold interior and a warm bulb such as the Camden Brushed Chrome, provides warmth. It can work equally well with a blue, brown, or white wall. It is what YOU want to convey – impressing friends, romantic lighting, having a party, cosy or comforting, functional?

Product lighting ideas for colour temperature

If you navigate to any of our products, for example, the Willow Light Wood tripod floor lamp, or the Mini Angus Copper Geometric table lamp, you’ll often see suggested bulb choices. These bulbs are often the choice between cool and warm. As you would expect, this choice depends on your requirement – do you want warmer light or brighter light?

One other option that might give you the best of both worlds is to install a dimmer switch and choose a dimmable light bulb. Dimmable bulbs are available as candle, pear and globe, and as both bayonet and screw types (BC/B22 and ES/E27 respectively).

You’ll be able to adjust the light gradient from white to warm immediately in an area where you want darker tones for the evening time.

The guidelines above are exactly that – guidelines. Only you know what you need and what your preferences are. Each lamp has its own unique identity and coupled with the right bulb, will provide a different experience room to room.