What is CRI in Lighting?

In layman terms the CRI, or Color Rendering Index, is a measure of how accurately the light source reproduces color versus that of natural light, essentially it is the fidelity of the light source. The insinuation in CRI values is that the higher the CRI the better the color reproducibility is going to appear to the human eye. It is important to note that CRI is independent of color temperature, which is typically measured in Kelvin while the CRI is measured on a scale of 0 to 100%, where 100% reproduces color the same as natural light.

In technical terms, the CRI is calculated from the differences in Chromaticity of 8 standard color samples when illuminated by a reference light source of the same CCT. Correlated Color Temperature (CCT), is a specification measured in Kelvins, indicating the light color produced by a radiating black body at a certain temperature. The smaller the difference between the source and reference across these samples leads to a higher CRI while a large difference will lead to a low CRI. (ref)

CRI Color rendering index comparison at 2700K

Choosing the Right CRI

We generally recommend high CRI light sources. Modern LED lighting typically offers 90+ CRI options which is satisfactory for most applications. It is worth noting that all incandescent and halogen light bulbs have a CRI close to 100%. They are excellent at rendering natural color. However, except for a few halogen lamps, most incandescent lighting produce a warm color temperature which makes them less than ideal for many applications.

Light sources with a CRI of 85 to 90 are considered good at color rendering for most residential and commercial applications. Fixtures with a CRI of 90+ are excellent at color rendering and should be used for tasks requiring the most accurate color discrimination. For example, ultra high CRI (95+) is most ideal for illuminating artwork and color sensitive items such as jewelry and even food.

Commercial and retail lighting can vary in CRI depending on the ambiance and functionality you are aiming for. For instance, in jewelry stores a ultra high CRI is needed along with a pure white color temperature to accurately (and beautifully) display gold and diamond products. While at a nightclub or lounge the more muted lighting of low CRI sources may create a dampened ambiance that the establishment is after.



CRI Color Rendering index explained by Brand Lighting

When Does CRI Matter the Most?

Since CRI measures how well colors are represented it is an important metric in most applications however some are more critical than others. Generally we discuss CRI in regards to color temperatures that are similar to daylight however the standard extends to temperatures outside this range as well. CRI applies to indoor as well as outdoor lighting.

Indoors a high CRI light source is most desirable for artwork, architectural features, closets, work areas and especially for decors that use a lot of color. Any decor that that celebrates color is going to need a high CRI source in order to accurately view the decor. With a low CRI such decorative spaces will look washed out or the colors may seem inaccurate. Modern monochromatic interiors and exteriors can also benefit from high CRI lighting. Although less pronounced in monochromatic decors, the purity of light in high CRI sources will make the contrast of contemporary decor more pronounced and crisp.

Outdoors a high CRI landscape light will showcase your gardens and landscape features with greater fidelity. Pathway and garden path lights with a low CRI may be useful in contemporary exteriors where a more muted aesthetic may be desirable. As with indoor lighting, the exterior light sources CRI will dictate how crisp the colors are reproduced so it is safe to go with the higher rated products.

High CRI Products

Below you will find links to some of the highest CRI (CRI of 90+) products available from Brand Lighting online. There are still many products which do not have their CRI expressly stated so please check the specification sheet for details. Please keep in mind this only represents a small fraction of the high CRI lighting we offer so if you do not see what you need simply call, chat, or email with one of our friendly lighting professionals. We are here to help you find the right light from specification to delivery, no matter the size of your project. From large commercial installations to small home remodels, our team of lighting experts has helps thousands of trade professionals and homeowners find the best lighting.

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