Warm White vs. Soft White: Low Color Temperature Mood Lights


Since the invention of the incandescent light bulb, lighting has changed dramatically, giving us different options. With these options came the color temperature quality variable that impacts mood. People usually pick high or low-color temperature bulbs, but there are differences within the low-range category. Warm and soft white temperatures are the typical options in the low range, but they can be confusing. We have looked at warm white vs. soft white in detail to draw a clear line between the two. Take a look!

What is White Light?

White light combines all the colors in the visible spectrum. However, the light color can vary depending on its temperature. Measured in degrees Kelvin (K), the color temperature refers to how cool or warm the light appears.

A white light bulb

A white light bulb

For instance, candles produce a yellowish 1800-2000K light while regular light bulbs produce about 2700K. Sunlight on an overcast day is about 4000K, and all these are part of the white light spectrum. In summary, white light consists of soft white, warm white, cool white, and daylight white.

Soft White vs. Warm White: Lighting’s Effect on Mood

Light affects how we feel. If you’ve heard of mood lighting, you know it refers to a dimly lit area that creates a romantic setting. Consider the color temperature in such a setting. It is usually yellow and cozier like candle lighting or crackling fire, not fluorescent white.

Research on the effects light causes determined that light is the most vital cue for regulating several physiological and biochemical processes.

For instance, cooler/higher color temperature lighting is better for office environments because it keeps employees productive and alert. The same light color temperature or one that is excessively blue can impede sleep.

Different lighting profiles in a sitting space

Different lighting profiles in a sitting space

On the other hand, warm light tends to make people feel comfortable and chilled. Some phone brands have a night mode or blue light filter that blocks blue-white to keep you more relaxed while using the device.

LED Soft White vs. Warm White

LEDs are versatile light sources because they offer different white light types to suit multiple user requirements. Each light type has a unique white color tone defined by a specific color temperature, although some manufacturers can describe them differently.

The most typically used terms are soft white and warm white. While some might interchange them, the two are very different. Here is a simple definition to compare the two plus cool and daylight lighting.

Soft White

Soft white lighting has a color temperature between 2700K and 3000K, which induces a feeling of warmth, creating a cozy space. Halogen and incandescent bulbs provide soft white light at about 2700K and 2850K, respectively. The bulb color becomes warmer when dimming the incandescent/halogen bulb, dipping to around 2200K to produce an orange glow.

A comparison between soft, warm, cool, and daylight.

A comparison between soft, warm, cool, and daylight.

Warm White

Warm white bulbs cover the 3000K to 4000K range, producing a yellowish-white glow. They are ideal for bathrooms and kitchens. 

Cool White

Cool bulbs have a color temperature between 4000K and 5000K. They contain more blue light and are better suited for offices/workspaces.

Daylight White

Cooler bulbs provide daylight white/cooler lighting that contains blue tones. This light is ideal for medical exam areas, museums, galleries, jewelry stores, etc.

Direct Comparison of Soft White vs. Bright White vs. Daylight Lights

Although there are recommendations for the application areas of different color temperatures, ultimately, selection depends on personal preference. Soft white light is more relaxing, but you might prefer cool or daylight white light. Therefore, we have compared the following light bulb temperatures to help you decide which option suits you best.

Selecting the Proper Light Temperature

As stated earlier, the best light temperature depends on personal preference, but this general guide should help you pick the best bulb for each room.

Living Areas, Dining Rooms, and Kitchens

The best color temperature for these spaces is soft/warm light ranging from 2700K to 3500K. Ideally, kitchens, dining rooms, and living areas should be relaxing and comfortable. Alternatively, you can install a dimmer switch to lower the brightness of high-color temperature bulbs.

Living and dining area lighting

Living and dining area lighting

A nice trick you should try is to install a blue filter for your TV at night. This component will help you get a good night’s sleep after binge-watching. You can remove it if watching during the day to improve the viewing experience.


Like living areas, bedrooms don’t require cool temperature lights. Soft or warm white bulbs giving out about 3000K are ideal for such spaces, including incandescent bulbs. However, vanities should have cooler bulbs to give better contrast.

Bedroom Lighting

Bedroom Lighting


3500-5000K warm-to-cool lights are ideal for bathrooms. However, you can pick warmer lights, but those higher than 5000K are not the best. For makeup tables, however, the blue undertones in cooler bulbs give better contrast and make the chrome fixtures pop.

Bathroom lighting

Bathroom Lighting

Garages and Office Spaces

Working spaces require cooler 4000-6500K fixtures because they will make you feel more energetic to help you get the job done faster.

Office space lighting

Office space lighting

Instead of going through the hustle of buying different bulb types, you can purchase a smart bulb. This unit can change the lighting quality on the go, but there is a catch. It is expensive.

How to Choose Between Soft White and Daylight Bulbs

Consider the following six factors when selecting between soft white and daylight bulbs.

Room’s Function

A room can have different functions, and each should have a specific color temperature range to suit the purpose. For instance, your bedroom or bathroom could have soft white lights but feature daylight bulbs around the vanity. However, living areas with one function should have the same color temperature lights.

Warm White vs Soft White: Room’s Mood

Think about the feeling you want for each room. Daylight bulbs give a more energetic mood, while soft white lights provide a warm and cozy feel. 

Room Size

It is possible to calculate the amount of light required in a room if you know its square footage and foot-candle measurements. A foot-candle is the amount of light needed to saturate a square foot using a single lumen.

Warm White vs Soft White: Paint Color

Soft white bulbs enhance earth tones, neutrals, or other warm tones. On the other hand, daylight bulbs make cool paint colors like blue and green pop.

A room with earth-tone colors

Warm White vs Soft White: Type of Lights

You can use different light types, such as overhead, portable, stationary, wall sconces, etc. Each of these requires a specific type of bulb to match the fixture’s function. Detailed tasks like studying or drawing art require daylight bulbs but chilled tasks like watching TV require soft white lights. In a nutshell, the bulb type should match the room’s function.

Wall sconces

Wall sconces

Warm White vs Soft White: Incandescent vs. LED

Even though they consume more energy, incandescent bulbs are traditionally the best option for soft or warm white light.

Incandescent bulbs

Incandescent bulbs

Some LED bulbs can produce something close to this, but incandescent lights provide a better warm white ambiance. LEDs are better at creating daylight white light, and most people prefer them because they are energy efficient and highly durable.


As you can see, there is a thin line between soft white and warm white light. Distinguishing between the two using your naked eye is challenging, so it is better to rely on the manufacturer’s label to pick the best bulb for each space. That’s it for this article. If you have any questions or comments, leave a message, and we’ll get back to you asap.

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