CRI LED Lighting: What it is and Why it’s Important


Have you ever had trouble discerning black and navy blue under your lights? The problem is not with your eyes but with low CRI.CRI is a term you’re likely to come across when shopping for new lights. CRI is an acronym for Color Rendering Index. In short, you should consider it if you want to upgrade your space’s lighting. But, the question here is: What is CRI LED Lighting? This article will show crucial points about CRI in LED lighting and why it’s necessary.

What does CRI Mean in LED Lighting?

The color rendering index is not the same as the color temperature. Color temperature determines the coolness and warmth of light. Though it’s necessary, a bulb color temperature depends more on your preference.

In contrast, CRI plays a much more significant role in the space you’re illuminating. And it handles how accurately artificial lights will render natural colors. Also, it uses a scale of 1 to 100 for evaluating an object’s color rendition and accuracy under various lights compared to how it looks under natural light (sunlight).

Sunlight illuminating the living room

Sunlight illuminating the living room

Generally, the higher the CRI, the better the color rendition. Sunlight and incandescent lights have perfect CRI scores (100), making them lighting benchmarks. Also, suitable LEDs have an 80 or more CRI, while excellent ones have 90.

How Important is CRI in Lighting?

Color rendition can make a difference in any space, from your office to your home. For example, bulbs with CRI below 80 give a washed-out hue effect as it illuminates. Further, objects will look dull and drab, while people may show pale skin tones.

Dull and pale colors

Dull and pale colors

More importantly, lamps with CRI above 80 make your environment look vibrant. Also, they make the colors of objects they illuminate pop. In short, they enhance your space’s design.

Interestingly, this also applies to people. High CRI numbers give the skin a prosperous and healthy tone. 

Also, color-critical applications and environments always require high CRI ratings. Why? It helps to increase visual appeal, color accuracy, and presentation.

CRI wasn’t so crucial in the incandescent era. And it’s because these lighting types always delivered impressive color rendering. But these days, LEDs are becoming popular alternatives with lower CRI numbers.

But, generally, LEDs offer better CRI than fluorescents. In addition, modern LEDs can provide nearly perfect natural colors with high CRI values. So, it’s crucial to consider CRI before replacing or upgrading your LED bulbs.

Testing for CRI

You can only carry out a CRI test with special machinery designed for the purpose. While testing, the machine will divide the lamp’s light spectrum into eight R values (colors).

Interestingly, there are fifteen measurements (R1 to R15), but the CRI test utilizes the first eight. Then, the test gives the lamp a score for each tested color. These values depend on how the lamp renders the paint, compared to how it looks under excellent light sources.

Fortunately, most manufacturers now offer CRI ratings on their products, making it easier to determine color rendering quality. However, CRI is not the only value that determines light quality.

What is a good CRI for LED Light?

LED Light

LED Light

We recommend opting for a CRI of over 90 when purchasing white LED lights. However, in some cases, an 85 CRI value would suffice. See a quick explanation of the CRI ranges below:

CRI Below 80: LEDs that fall within this range have poor color rendering. Colors may look desaturated and sometimes unidentifiable. And it may not differentiate similar colors.

CRI 80-90: LEDs in this range offer good color rendering. Also, it allows you to see most colors, but they won’t be fully saturated.

CRI 90-95: LEDs with this value offer excellent color rendering, making colors vibrant and easy to differentiate.

CRI 95-100: LEDs under this category have near-perfect color rending. Hence, all the colors will look natural and fully saturated.

80 CRI vs. 90 CRI: Which is Better?

Typically, you’ll find that most products have 80 CRI, especially standard or basic lamps. 80 CRI is like the benchmark for LEDs. And it’s good enough to render most colors without looking dull.

However, most subtle colors with deep red components don’t render well under 80 CRI. Further, they may appear unnatural and pale. Regardless, we recommend using 80 CRI in areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

80 CRI is also appropriate for applications where you prioritize efficiency and cost. And it meets the minimum quality requirements for color rendering.

On the other hand, products with 90 CRI are more premium. Also, there’s a noticeable difference between 80 and 90 CRI as the latter provides fantastic color rendering. So, we recommend using 90 CRI areas where you’ll spend most of your time (living room, bedroom, and dining area).

Most objects will look normal under 90 CRI. And if you’re not sensitive to appearance, anything above 90 CRI won’t look different.

Color Rendering vs. Efficiency

LED lamps with high CRI values have a slight disadvantage. Usually, more CRI means less efficiency.

However, most manufacturers counter this problem by adding various colors to the LED. This strategy allows for effective color rendering while maintaining efficiency.

But, if efficiency is a priority, you may want to consider getting bulbs with 80 to 85 CRI ranges.

Final Thoughts

CRI LED lighting is essential in determining how your illumination processes colors. Additionally, CRI uses numerical values to show the accuracy of a light source’s color rendering.

80 CRI is the essential requirement for most homes and commercial lighting applications. However, more color-sensitive applications require values starting from 90 CRI. Such applications where you might need high CRI lights include printing industries, art galleries, hospitals, textile factories, and paint shops.

Other areas that require improved aesthetics, like retail stores and photography studios, also need high CRI values. 

Do you have any questions? Be sure to contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.

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