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What is CRI in Lighting and Why is It So Important?

Last updated on February 22, 2022

When looking for lights and light bulbs, it’s common to come across the abbreviation CRI, which is frequently followed by a number.

CRI is an acronym for Colour Rendering Index. It’s an important feature to learn about if you’re interested in improving the appearance of your house or workplace.

Palette, textures, and finishing are all significant factors when it comes to designing any interior.

Illumination also plays an extremely critical role. High CRI lighting can accentuate colors, make textures stand out, and provide depth to coatings.

The color rendering index of lighting fixtures can transform colors and shapes into a vivid palette of textures and elements.

What is CRI in lighting?

When choosing the correct lighting for your project, color rendering index and color temperature go side by side. Though, they should not be confused with one another.

The color temperature of lighting is measured in Kelvin and indicates how warm or cold the color of lighting is.

Warmer temperatures give off a yellow hue and are recommended for spaces with a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere, such as cafes.

On the other hand, moderate or colder temperatures give off a bluish hue. They are more suitable for work environments in offices, commercial, and factory contexts.

The color temperature is crucial. Still, this choice is often the product of personal preferences and the location to be illuminated.

CRI, on the other side, relies much less on aesthetic and effect factors. It indicates a light source’s ability to expose the objects’ true colors in contrast to a natural light source. For example, the sun filtering in through your windows.

So what exactly is CRI?

Simply, it’s the measurement of illumination and how it impacts color perception.

The measurement is a number between 0 and 100 and indicates how effectively a lighting product displays an object’s color. The closest the number is to 100, the richer or more accurate the colors will appear in its light.

Alternatively, the smaller the CRI value, the more unnatural the colors will appear.

This is of the utmost importance for spaces reliant on true color output like photography studios and galleries.

But CRI is also important and has a significant impact on you and your house too. It is always advisable to select lights that could brighten your settings. They produce a light effect that comes as close as possible to the appearance in a natural context.

The CRI is measured by how well a source of light reflects eight pastel tones, from R1 to R8. According to the concept, if light can represent these colors accurately, it can reflect other colors brilliantly.

LED lights have become increasingly popular lately, due to their energy efficiency and high light output. When it comes to CRI, most LED lights fall within a measure of 80 and 90 on the scale. Their ultimate result is a lighter environment with a more realistic and precise light projection.

That is why LED lights are better suited for indoor spaces than fluorescent lights, which can produce an artificial aesthetic.

Why is CRI that important?

This feature is an important aspect in almost any environment. A bulb with a low CRI will render everything that it lights in the space a lifeless, washed-out tone.

This results in dreary, dull colors in things and ultimately a dull setting and environment. Low CRI lights showcase people in the office or at home as pale-skinned and with lifeless eyes.

Higher CRI lights can give the visual scene created a truly rich depth. This can reflect very well in the features of people the light is shining upon.

People in a high CRI light will have a truer skin color and a more dazzling, healthier appearance.

For color-sensitive devices and situations where aesthetic quality, representation, and color reproduction are essential to operation and profitability, a high CRI rating is especially important.

What is the CRI index?

The Colour Rendering Index estimates a light source’s ability to precisely recreate the colors of the thing it lights, as compared to the same object being lit by a natural light source.

This relatively simple explanation hides behind it a very broad science of light, eye anatomy, and visual perception.

What is CRI

CRI chart by https://www.lumens.com/

CRI is scored on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 representing the maximum level of proficiency.

Since it is represented as a singular, measurable value, CRI is a very useful measurement. CRI levels of 90 or higher are considered excellent, while values less than 80 are rated as poor.

There are only two types of light: natural and artificial. The color accuracy of artificial lighting, including LED and fluorescent bulbs, is a critical factor in most circumstances.

We do not have much control when it comes to natural lighting. So, synthetic lights are usually our main concern as manufacturers strive to make them flawless. CRI is a metric for measuring synthetic white sources of light.

This metric analyses and characterizes an item’s reflected shade under artificial lighting.

Sunlight, for example, is a blend of all of the tones of the visible light spectrum. The color of the light itself is neutral. Instead, the shades it reflects define the color of the item in the light.

Whenever we apply a synthetic source of light, such as a LED light, we try to replicate the tones of natural sunlight so that everything appears as it would in natural light.

CRI tries to clarify this effect by determining the color reproduction of a range of items when exposed to a light source.

How to choose the right CRI?

The accepted standard for good color representation in most residential and industrial lighting settings is 80 CRI.

90 CRI and higher can be a useful starting level for settings where color representation is crucial for the activities performed indoors or can improve the appearance of the space or objects within.

This CRI spectrum is commonly referred to as “high CRI” lighting.

Clinics, textile manufacturing, printing facilities, and painting workshops are examples of industries that require a CRI of 90 for practical purposes of business functionality.

Luxury hotels and large retailers, mansions, and photography or film companies are also among the settings where better appearances are beneficial.

Munazza Umar

Munazza holds a degree in electrical engineering. She loves writing about energy efficiency, energy hacks, and environmental sustainability.

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