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What is CRI & Why it’s Important in LED Lighting?

What is CRI & Why it’s Important in LED Lighting

Have you ever noticed the difference between your black and navy-colored socks under the old fluorescent lights? Or the color of your new clothes can't match the color under the lighting in the store? It could be that your current lighting source has a deficient CRI level.

CRI is the acronym for color rendering index, and you can usually see it when browsing some lighting bulbs and fixtures. Lower CRI values can indicate the unnatural color of your object illuminated by lighting products. So if you are seeking any method to make your home or pictures look true to life and more natural, you must read this blog.

In this blog, I'll unpack the CRI challenges about the CRI definition and what CRI ranges to choose from; also, you'll know why CRI is important to LED lighting.


What is Color Rendering Index?

CRI definition

In general terms, CRI measures a light source's ability to show object colors "realistically" or "naturally" under an artificial white light source compared with sunlight. 

Don't confuse CRI with CCT (color temperature)

CRI goes hand in hand with color temperature when you’re trying to pick the proper lighting for your application.

Color temperature (CCT) is used to suggest how warm or cool the lighting is, and CCT is measured in Kelvin (K). For instance, warmer, yellowish light with low color temperatures always produce a relaxing ambiance like in a restaurant. In contrast, cooler, white light with high color temperatures is perfect for tasks and workspaces.

CRI is independent of color temperature (CCT). These are two different things. For example, a 5000K (daylight color temperature) fluorescent light source could have a CRI of 75, but another 5000K fluorescent light source can have a CRI of 90.

CRI details

Color rendering index (CRI) is the prevalent industry standard for examining the color accuracy of lights. Specifically, CRI has 3 main points:

  • Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a score with a maximum of 100
  • Color Rendering Index (CRI) is used to measure artificial, white light sources
  • Color Rendering Index (CRI) measures and compares the reflected color of an object 

Simply put, CRI refers to how accurately your lighting fixtures show the objects or people under them. CRI uses a numerical scale from 0 to 100 to evaluate how lights render the color, with objects' high or low color accuracy. 

The higher the CRI value, the better the light fixture or bulb's color rendition.

Bulbs at the higher end of the scale can make a more accurate color rendering of the objects around it. In other words, you can apply bulbs with high CRI value in your house or shopping malls to make everything look vibrant and attractive.

It's evident for you to choose light bulbs that can make your surroundings and environment clear, bright, and as close to how they would appear under natural sunlight.

What is a Good CRI?

The color rendering index (CRI) is measured as a number between 0 and 100. All colors look the same at 0 value. On the contrary, a CRI of 100 shows the object's true colors.

For the best color rendering, use light bulbs with a CRI rating of 90+. Light bulbs with a 70 or less CRI rating will show a dull color. And bulbs with an 80+ CRI will be much more vibrant to the eye.

Now, it's obvious for you to choose your light bulbs. The rule is: the higher the CRI, the better the color rendering capacity and the better the color fidelity of your lighting objects.


What are the common & acceptable CRI values?

You should be aware of the fact that quality light improves mood and energy levels. On the contrary, poor light quality can contribute to depression, changes in appetite, and other body deficiencies. As one of the light quality measures, choosing a relatively high value of CRI will make your life much more vibrant.

CRI < 80: Under this light, the colors of your objects might look desaturated and unidentifiable. For instance, in the example we gave earlier, you won't be able to distinguish the color difference between black and navy-colored socks. As a result, 80 CRI is your general baseline for good color rendering for most indoor and commercial lighting applications.

CRI 80-90: It's quite a good color rendering, which can render most colors well. However, you may not be satisfied with the color rendered as you expected. 

CRI 90-95: For applications where color appearance is vital for the work being done inside, like the lighting in some museums and displaying area. When the most accurate color rendering is essential, 90+ CRI values are recommended. Because with 90+ CRI, nearly all colors 'pop' and are easily distinguishable by human eyes. So noticeably great lighting starts at a CRI of 90

CRI 95-100: As a rule, a CRI of 90+ is considered excellent and phenomenal. If you have a book light with CRI 95+, the book colors appear as they should---pictures come alive, looking true to life, and paintings show their true colors. 


Why CRI is Important in LED Lighting?

In the age of incandescent light bulbs, CRI wasn't popular when people did light sourcing, and CRI wasn't a vital measurement of light quality. That's because incandescent bulbs can deliver excellent color rendition. However, incandescent bulbs began to disappear from the lighting scene due to low energy efficiency. 

Initially, incandescent bulbs were replaced by fluorescent bulbs. Then LED bulbs became a welcome alternative to fluorescent ones. The notable advantages of LED bulbs are their high energy efficiency, longer life span, and, most importantly, no mercury component in LED light bulbs. 

LED bulbs are now gaining popularity worldwide due to their energy-efficient qualities and bright light production. Also, most LED lights can score about 80 to 90 CRI values. 

High CRI lighting can provide you with a much more natural and accurate output of light while rendering attractive and vibrant tones across the full-color spectrum. 

Suppose you choose proper LED lighting for your room, house, or workspace. Then you want to consider LED lighting with a high CRI.

For example, fruit and vegetables will look juicier and more appetizing when displayed under high CRI lights.


In the current marketplace, LEDs can boast CRIs into the high 90 range; one of the primary considerations of light quality is that if you choose LED lighting with CRI 90+, you can get nearly perfectly natural color.

For most businesses, CRI is crucial when choosing to light your places. Restaurants or shopping stores will use high CRI LED lighting to gain attractive natural colors. This will lead to more potential customers and boost sales because your places have better lighting effects than those with washed-out and dull colors.


High CRI examples for different lighting

Task Lighting: High CRI task lighting can boost your working productivity, especially in office spaces, workstations, or study rooms.

 HIgh CRI lighting in office places

Decorative Lighting: Decorative lighting products should catch people’s eyes and draw their attention with realistic and vibrant colors. For example, decorative lighting at your front entrances should have bright lights with a high CRI to invite people in.

 High CRI decorative lighting in shops

General Lighting: General lighting aims to create the ambiance of the space. If you want the area to be lit up enough, so your customer feels relaxed and comfortable, you can consider using some panel lighting and track lighting with high CRI to achieve your goal.

 High CRI general lighting in shops

LED Book Light: Choosing a suitable book reading light with a higher CRI rating allows you to get the most accurate color portrayal. Especially for your kids, the young learners and readers deserve a kids book light with high CRI to take care of their eyes and make them thoroughly enjoy their reading time.

 High CRI Kids reading light

In The End

Sourcing lighting isn't only about CRI values. There are also other factors to consider. But choosing the right and suitable LED lighting with a relatively high CRI value will help you to create an environment that is brighter, clearer, and filled with perfect colors.

Now it is clear that CRI measures how light affects how you see color. Understanding the importance of CRI in your lighting fixtures helps you improve your quality of light. We hope this blog post lets you know what CRI is and why crucial in LED lighting.

If you have any questions, please leave your comment below or feel free to contact us at

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