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Guide to Light Color Temperature and Kelvin

Light bulbs have been around for a long time, but with recent advances in bulb technology, the specifics are no longer as simple as they once were. It’s not just about bulb types and wattage anymore. Technological advances have made LED light bulbs the way of the future, as incandescent bulbs continue to be phased out. Understanding kelvin, and therefore color temperature is integral to achieve the best light for your application.


Kelvin and Color Temperature Basics


Let’s start by gaining a basic understanding for these terms. Light produces different hues, which can be differentiated by “warmer” and “cooler”. Color temperature is the spectrum of the differences in color appearances relative to the “warmth” or “coolness” of white light. Color temperature is measured in kelvin (K). It may seem opposite of how you typically think of temperature, but the lower the color temperature, the warmer the light. The higher the color temperature, the cooler the light. Imagine this: if you had three pendants, each using a bulb of differing color temperatures, you would easily be able to see the difference.


So what does that mean for you and your application? See the list below for the best applications for different temperatures.


  • – 2700K – Produces a warm, cozy light that is ideal for living rooms and bedrooms. This is similar to what is produced by a standard incandescent bulb.
  • – 3000K – Produces a relaxing light that is also great for living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.
  • – 3500K – Produces a friendly, clean light that is suitable for kitchens and bathrooms, where task lighting is needed.
  • – 4000K – Produces a clean, crisp light that is often found in garages and basements. This color temperature can be too harsh for home interiors.
  • – 5000K – Produces a very cool light that is best for commercial and industrial purposes.


The color temperature chart below helps you better visualize scale.


Color Temperature Chart


color temp Guide to Light Color Temperature and Kelvin*Note: The colors of the above scale are exaggerated and indicates the tint of the white light, and not an actual color produced.


How do you know the color temperature of your bulb? Just look on bulb packaging. That is where you will find wattage, lumens, color temperature and other important information.


It’s also important to understand how color temperature affects the surroundings. For example, red roses on a table will appear much more vibrant when illuminated with light that has color temperature of 2700K, compared to 3500K. The opposite is true for blue and green hues. These colors will look their best when illuminated by cooler color temperatures. For example, if your bedroom has white walls and a blue bedspread, you’ll want to choose a color temperature of 3000K instead of 2700K, even though both are recommended for bedrooms. This small difference  will truly make an impact on the atmosphere of your space.


Still unclear about which color temperature is right for your space? Our bulb specialists are here to guide you. Just send us an email at or give us a call at 888.602.7011. Once we learn more about your space and the purpose of your light, we will be able to help you choose the right color temperature.